New Arts Faculty & Staff for 2016-2017 School Year

As the departments within the fine arts continue to change and develop, the needs of these departments also change. Several of our departments are proud to present new faculty and staff members – from Administrative Assistants, to Specialty Instructors, to added professors! Below you will see the list of these talented professionals who have joined or been promoted within the Belhaven Arts family.

Dr. Owen Rockwell has been named Specialty Instructor of Dance and Music, previously serving as an adjunct faculty member for several years at BU. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (BM, MM) and received his Doctor of Musical Arts in Percussion Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was formerly on the music faculty at Jackson State University and the New England Music Camp, and has worked as a freelance performer and music educator in Central Illinois, Nashville, Washington, D.C., and New York City. He also performs regularly as a percussionist with the Mississippi and Meridian Symphonies, as well as serving as the drummer for First Baptist Church of Madison and the Vibe Doctors jazz trio. Owen accompanies modern dance technique classes and provides leadership for the musicians in the Dance Department. He also teaches applied percussion, percussion ensemble, percussion methods, and popular music within the Music Department.

Dr. Rebecca Geihsler, a native of New Orleans, has served as an Adjunct Music Professor in Voice, Popular Music and Music History since 2009. This year, she has been named as Specialty Instructor in Music. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Centenary College of Louisiana, a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance and Doctor of Arts in Pedagogy from the University of Mississippi where she held a University Fellowship and an Assistantship in Opera. Dr. Geihsler has been a finalist in both State and Regional NATS Student Auditions and represented the University of Mississippi in performances at the National Opera Association Convention and the Midwest Opera Festival. She is a member of Pi Kappa Lamda and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Being superwoman, Dr. Geihsler not only teaches voice and music history at Belhaven, but also does Crossfit and takes care of her six children.

Mr. Christopher Phillips has named Specialty Instructor in Music. He is a native of Alabama, studied church music at Samford University in Birmingham, and continued there to complete his master’s in music education; both degrees included a vocal performance emphasis. Chris serves as Director of Worship at Lakeside Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brandon, MS and has been leading worship in local churches throughout the Southeast for the last 25 years. With energy and joy, Chris seeks to invite the people of God to exalt their Lord and Savior and to edify one another. One of his greatest passions is the cultivation of corporate worship that is deeply rooted in Scripture, covenantal focused, and wonderfully creative. As a teacher, Chris employs a student-focused, collaborative philosophy. He believes every classroom or rehearsal space should be an environment of joy and safety in which both talking and listening are equally valued. Chris’ genre of choice for page and screen is science fiction. His musical interests range from Bluegrass to Beethoven with an occasional dose of Mongolian Throat Singing. He practices moderate coffee snobbery. Chris continues teaching voice and worship arts, and will conduct both the Concert Choir and Chorale.

Mrs. Erin Scheiwe Rockwell has been named Associate Professor of Dance, previously serving as Specialty Instructor and prior to that as adjunct at BU.  Erin earned an MFA in Dance from California State University, Long Beach and a BA in Dance from St. Olaf University.  She obtained her comprehensive Pilates teacher training with dance specialization through Body Arts and Science International and taught Pilates and modern dance at CSULB. Her choreography has been presented nationally by several dance companies, schools, and festivals. Throughout her career, Rockwell’s interest in technology has inspired her to direct and edit several short dance films and to fuse screendance within her stage choreography. Erin is co-founder of Front Porch Dance, a Mississippi based contemporary dance company. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses including modern dance technique, improvisation, choreography, and dance-and-technology. Also, she and her husband Owen also had their first child, Isabella, this summer. Congratulations to the Rockwells!

Mrs. Elizabeth Sweatt has been named Specialty Instructor of Dance. She served as an adjunct in the Dance Department from 2010-2012. Elizabeth received her BFA in Dance from Belhaven University and performed professionally with Ballet San Antonio and TALK Dance Company. She recently returned to Jackson after living and teaching in Japan where her parents were missionaries. Elizabeth will teach ballet, pointe, and modern dance courses and will co-direct the BU Dance Ministry Ensemble. Come see the Dance Ministry Ensemble in concert on February 10 and 11. Welcome back, Elizabeth.

Ms. Mia Whitehead has been named Specialty Instructor of Dance, previously serving as an adjunct. Mia danced professionally with Ballet San Antonio, TALK Dance Company, and Front Porch Dance.  She also served as the dance instructor for the USA International Ballet Competition’s outreach program, CityDance, in Jackson for several years. Mia teaches ballet and pointe technique courses and co-directs the Dance Ministry Ensemble at Belhaven. Come see the Dance Ministry Ensemble in concert on February 10 and 11.

Ms. Amy Smith just completed her sixth year as Box Office Manager at New Stage Theatre. She now joins Belhaven as the Administrative Assistant for the Theatre, Graphic Design and Arts Administration department. She stage managed shows such as Almost, Maine and Five Women Wearing the Same Dress for New Stage’s Unframed Series, Rabbit Hole (2010 SETC Winner) for Actor’s Playhouse, and Die Fledermaus for Mississippi Opera. Amy also directed The Light in the Piazza for the Belhaven University Music Department. She recently played “Liddie” in the world premiere of Running Mates, written by Beth Kander and is a founding member of the Misfit Monkeys Improv Troupe. When not at the theatre, Smith is playing with her three Weimaraner dogs, Dutch, Lily Belle, and Batty, and is a member of Bellwether Church.  Amy loves returning to Belhaven, having such fond memories from when she was a theatre student here. She is enjoying getting to know the faculty in each of her departments and is looking forward to when the students return!

Hearty and well-deserved congratulations to all!

Creative Writing Department Chair Finishes Writing Project

Randy Smith, Chair of the Creative Writing Department, finished his 30/30 project with the Tupelo Press in February. This project consisted of 6-9 poets selected to participate in a poetry marathon – writing a poem a day every day of the month. Each poem was posted on the following website: The purpose behind the 30/30 Project was to bring attention to new poets and contemporary poetry.