Month: May 2019


Institution Faculty/Staff of the Month

School: Western Oregon University Region: PACURH
Nominee: Sharon Oberst Nominator: Eva Batenhorst

On-Campus Population: 1500 Chapter Size: 20

Please explain the outstanding contributions of the nominee during the month of nomination

It is odd, in recognition, that we often do not realize a person’s impact on our campus until the realization of their inevitably retirement overcomes us. We feel the ever looming of their absence with more admirable thoughts then we gave while they were still here. This month marks the last month of Professor of Dance Sharon Oberst tenure at Western Oregon University and it is with a sad and grateful heart that we say goodbye and wish her the best in her future endeavors.

Sharon Oberst has been a professor of Dance at WOU for over thirty years and has held the department chair position for the past couple of years. With that duty, the month of May marks her busiest month of the year, and even more challenging as she is training the remaining faculty on the duties she is entrusting them with. Several milestones for the dance department reside in May, the most notable being our annual scholarship audition, Spring Dance Concert, Spring Informal Dance concert, Dance Banquet, and dance major evaluation meetings. All of these events Sharon has a huge role in organizing along with her busy course schedule. Many faculty members have noted, through their training processes with her, that they wonder how she is able to do it all and next year will be an immense transition year for the faculty as they work their way without their leader of 30 years. Cynthia Garner, a fellow Professor of Dance, says “Sharon always has the answer. She knows this campus backwards and upside down. If you need help or information, she is the person to go to. She has been an amazing supporter of her staff and advocate for the dance department.”

Along with organizing the Spring Dance Concert, the cumulative performance work of the dance department’s year, Sharon was tasked with creating a piece of choreography. She took an extra challenge by choreography a contemporary ballet entirely en pointe (on the dancer’s toes), which she described as a worthy last challenge for herself and her dancers. Hours upon hours of extra rehearsal time was poured into this dance and she was rewarded with one the most talked about dances of the evening. One dancer notes working with Sharon as a “chance of a lifetime to bring work alive on stage, a true honor to collaborate with a choreographer with such passion, intentionality, and tenacity.

Sharon is also unique in the way she touches her dancer’s lives. She takes a genuine interest in her students and will fight any battle for the good of them and their futures in the performing arts. It is so reassuring that we can always count on Sharon to challenge, support, and push us to the maximum of our potential. One of her advisees says “Sharon was the first faculty/staff member who believed in me and my dream of dancing for Disney and she fought to help me find my path to that career. It is her drive to help her students succeed that truly sets her apart from other faculty members. She believed in me when no one else would.”

Her mark at WOU has been made beyond the dance department and creative arts. The dancers threw her a retirement party at the end of June and professors from all departments on campus came to wish her farewell, each with personal notes on how she touched their lives. We thank her for what she was able to do for us and will do our best to uphold her love of dance in our creative futures.

Word Count: 597

Date of entry into database: 2019-06-06 00:07:16

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