By Becky Russell, Special to Northeast Ledger
Belhaven professor Cynthia Newland has been honored with the 2009 Higher Education Award from the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education. Mrs.Newland is an associate professor of dance and Chair of the Dance Department at the school. She has traveled extensively both nationally and internationally as a teacher, choreographer, and performer.
President of the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education, Dr. Penny K.Wallin, said the award was given in recognition of Newland’s service to improve the role of arts in the community.
“It is clear that her passion for art and for teaching has provided the energy to develop exceptional programs. Such commitment and dedication to the greater good of arts in our state deserves to recognized and celebrated,” said Wallin.
Colleagues and students alike use two words to describe Newland: passion and devotion. They say she is devoted to her faith, her family, and friends and she is passionate about letting all persons in every walk of life experience the art of dance.
“She has such passion to see the arts flourish throughout the community. Her faith is certainly what leads her in the direction she goes, because her relationship with the Lord is so dear to her. Her calling is to share her faith through dance,” said Laura Morton, Associate Professor of Dance at Belhaven.
President of Belhaven College, Dr. Roger Parrott, said, “Cynthia is a model for excellence in every way. Her efforts have helped advance Belhaven into the elite group of 25 institutions in America which are accredited in all four of the arts. We are blessed to have her at Belhaven, and Mississippi is a better place because of her,” said Parrott.
As a little girl growing up in Virginia, Newland’s first memories of dance involved her family.
“I started dancing when I started walking. I remember when I was 3 or 4 years old my grandmother would put me up on the dining room table. She would clap her hands and sing and I would dance for her. I was in dance classes by age 4 and have danced ever since,” said Newland.
While in high school Newland began helping teach the classes and soon became an instructor. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from George Mason University and her Master of Fine Arts from Arizona State University.
“I love to learn and I love to pass along with passion what God has brought into my life. The art form of dance allows us to have a full bodily expression of praise, adoration and acknowledgement of who God is and it is a beautiful tool of communication,” said Newland.
“I think some of the reason dance touches us is because it is so personal, because God is personal and He cares so deeply and intimately for us,” said Newland.
Students say Newland imparts wisdom, love and instruction.
“She has such a heart for students and always gives encouraging words. She constantly reminds us that we are precious to God. I am impressed with how much she gives of herself to the department, the community and her family,” said Leah Martin, a junior from Laurel.
DeMarcus Suggs is a junior from Charlotte North Carolina and said Newland has impacted his life and the community.
“I don’t think the community knows how devoted she is to everyone around her. She cares so much for her students and her colleagues and is a mentor to many people,” said Suggs.
The 46-year–old Newland is married with three children. Her husband, Douglas Eltzroth oversees the chapel at Belhaven and is an adjunct teacher of worship and the arts.
“My goal is to continue to model excellence,” said Newland. “I want to be known as a person who loves God deeply.”
The award will be presented to Mrs. Newland on April 2 at the Mississippi State University Riley Center for Performing Arts in Meridian.