Interlochen Center for the Arts names Esther Triggs Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Triggs will work with staff, faculty, students, and alumni to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across the institution.

Esther Triggs

Interlochen Center for the Arts announced today that Esther Triggs has been named Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In this role, Triggs will work with Interlochen administrators, faculty, students, campers, families, and alumni to advance DEI efforts in all aspects of the institution, encompassing Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen Arts Camp, Interlochen Online, Interlochen College of Creative Arts, Interlochen Public Radio, and Interlochen Presents.

Triggs was hired following a national search that included input from Interlochen faculty, students, and alumni. She will report directly to Camille Colatosti, provost of Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Tifini McClyde, associate vice president of human resources.

“The work associated with DEI is among Interlochen’s top priorities, and we are thrilled that Esther Triggs will join us in this critically important role,” said Trey Devey, president of Interlochen Center for the Arts. “With her expertise leading strategies that support diversity, equity, and inclusion in educational and arts organizations, Esther will be a key partner in helping Interlochen ensure that young artists from all backgrounds develop their potential as part of our supportive and inclusive community.”

“As someone who started out in theatre and continues to draw on theatre as a platform for change, I’m especially thrilled to join the Interlochen Center for the Arts community,” said Triggs. “Reflection, dialogue, and action are all needed to create transformation, and I can’t wait to initiate vital conversations with Interlochen students, faculty, and alumni to continue to build an institution that values all cultures, identities, and voices.”

Triggs joins Interlochen from the Journey Theatre Project (JTP), a nonprofit she cofounded in 2016 that works with educational, corporate, religious, and community organizations to build equitable and inclusive environments. While at JTP, Triggs created and led DEI initiatives to facilitate conversations with organizational partners on anti-racism, cultural competence, implicit bias, sexual harassment, leadership, and critical thinking.

Triggs concurrently served as a DEI consultant to the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, where her accomplishments include creating anti-racism workshops for all employees. Previously, Triggs served as a DEI consultant to The Co-op School, a preschool and K-8 school in Brooklyn, New York, where she led DEI professional development workshops and mentored staff on DEI issues. Prior to The Co-op School, Triggs served as assistant director at The City University of New York (CUNY) School of Professional Studies, where she supported teens in the creation of original works of theatre reflecting the world they inhabit. Her experience with arts communities also includes serving as a consultant to an interactive theatrical experience that explored social activism through comedy and storytelling.

Triggs holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre performance from Western Michigan University, a master’s degree in applied theatre from The CUNY School of Professional Studies, and a certificate in diversity and inclusion from Cornell University.

The position of associate director of diversity, equity and inclusion was created as one of many steps Interlochen has taken in recent years to foster a culture of belonging and achieve the goals of its Board of Trustees’ DEI Task Force. Measurable progress has been made in the areas of student and camper diversity, faculty and staff diversity, support systems, curriculum and community relationships.

Recent advances include increasing the domestic diversity of the Academy student body from 21% to 28% between 2015 and 2021, and increasing domestic diversity among students attending Interlochen Arts Camp from 22% to 28% between 2016 and 2019 (the most recent summer of normal Camp operations). 37% of the students who virtually attended last summer’s Interlochen Arts Camp were diverse. Notably, the number of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) faculty and staff has increased from 4.5% to 7.6% from 2018 to 2020.

Among several new DEI initiatives, all hiring managers completed bias training earlier this year, and staff positions were restructured to provide for both an Admission officer focused on multicultural recruitment, as well as a dedicated international student services manager. In the Arts Academy curriculum, new humanities courses focus on the literature and art of diverse communities, and works by BIPOC composers, playwrights, and filmmakers are increasingly studied and presented by students.

Additionally, Interlochen’s executive team recently initiated conversations with local leaders to emphasize the importance of DEI to Interlochen. This includes partnering with the area’s economic development agency to create a DEI summit and meeting with the sheriff of Grand Traverse County, Green Lake Township’s local community police officer, the head of Cherry Capital Airport, and representatives from the TSA.