July 01, 2008

Merrill-Fink named director of Honors Program

by Andrea Hahn

Merrill Fink

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Lori Merrill-Fink, associate professor in the Department of Theater, is the new director of the Honors Program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, effective June 17.

The appointment requires ratification by the SIU Board of Trustees.

The Honors Program at SIUC is for students with a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Students in the program must take at least one honors course or seminar a semester and, those pursuing the “Honors Degree” option, must also prepare a senior honors project or thesis. Among the benefits of Honors Program participation are honors designation on transcripts, access to specialized and graduate level courses and such perks as first choice in University Housing and early registration.

James S. Allen, director of the Core Curriculum, history professor and Merrill-Fink’s predecessor as director of the Honors Program, noted that a search committee selected Merrill-Fink from a pool of “two dozen very good applicants” after a national search.

“The search committee agreed that Professor Merrill-Fink is the most qualified person for the job,” he said. “She has been responsible for the day-to-day operations of the University Honors Program for the past two years, a job she has handled exceptionally well. So she has the experience, the expertise and the commitment to strengthen the program. Under her capable direction, Honors at SIUC will soon be nationally recognized.”

“I am delighted to be serving the University in such a capacity, and am looking forward to further enhancing the Honors Program,” Merrill-Fink said.

She was the associate director of the SIUC Honors Program beginning in July 2006. She was the director of Outreach and Summer Programs for the theater department from 2000 to 2002 and served as chair of the department in 2002 and in 1999. She was also the managing director of the McLeod Summer Playhouse in 1999. At present, she is on the executive council of the all-discipline honor society Phi Kappa Phi. She is also a member of the Faculty Senate, where she serves on the Undergraduate Education Policies Committee. She served as secretary of the Fine Arts Activity Fee Committee from 2004 to 2007, and served on search committees for the associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management and director of Shryock and Arena promotions.

As a teacher, Merrill-Fink specializes in acting, musical theater, movement, “subtle energy,” period styles, theater dance, dialects and directing. She twice received Women’s Studies Juried Competition awards for further study. The Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival Symposium selected her for a special acting class with Master Teacher Uta Hagen, one of the founders of the influential HB Studio in New York City. At SIUC, Merrill-Fink received an Undergraduate Teaching Enhancement Award in 2005, and an Outstanding Educator Award from the Undergraduate Student Government before that. In 1990, she won her college’s Great Teacher Award. Besides teaching in the Department of Theater, she also teaches honors seminars and courses.

Merrill-Fink remains active as a theater professional. In fact, she reprised a popular role as the lead in “Always, Patsy Cline” with the McLeod Summer Playhouse this season. Other recent credits include director and choreographer of “Beauty and the Beast” with Carbondale Community Arts as part of the McLeod Summer Playhouse outreach, movement coach for a production of “Macbeth” at the Trama Theatre in Chicago, twice as guest director and choreographer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she also served as invited soloist and master teacher, and director and choreographer for “Forever Plaid” at the Clinton Showboat Theater in Clinton, Iowa. She is called on as an adjudicator for such settings as the American College Theater Festival Regionals and the Egyptian Forensics League.

For more information about the SIUC Honors Program, visit www.siu.edu/~honors/.