RACHEL SWENSON (Susan H. Fuhrman Endowed Scholarship Recipient, Research Assistant) is a licensed Idaho K-8 teacher serving as a dance teaching artist for Idaho Commission on the Arts and the Utah Arts Council as well as a dance specialist at Idaho Fine Arts Academy, a grades 6-12 public arts school of choice in West Ada School District. She teaches both the art-of-dance and as well as how to incorporate dance as an integrative learning tool through project-based choreography with students that focuses on connections to dance history, current events, life skills, environmental issues, as well as social issues.
Swenson is the co-director/co-founder of the Idaho Screendance Festival. She has performed professionally in various venues in Utah and was a guest performer for Ririe Woodbury Dance Company. She has also performed for choreographer Meghan Durham Wall for the Paradigm Dance Project, and for Jim Moreno's Proving Ground Dance Company. Performing the works of Hanya Holm and Alwin Nikolais have been highlights of her professional experience.
Throughout her career, Swenson has worked in many K-12 schools in Utah and Idaho, including as an Art Works for Kids teaching artist at Knowlton Elementary and William Penn Elementary schools in Utah; as a visual arts teacher at Christine Donnell School of the Arts in Idaho; and as a creative dance teacher for the Virginia Tanner Dance Arts in Education program at University of Utah.
Swenson has extensive experience providing professional development for educators, including Idaho’s Arts Powered Schools, West Ada School District, BYU Arts Partnerships, Utah Valley University, EduFest, the Utah State Office of Education, Dance and the Child International, Utah Arts Council’s Arts Networking Conferences, Artworks for Kids, Tanner Dance Program, Idaho Dance Education Organization, and the National Dance Education Organization.
She has been awarded over fifteen grants for dance education from Idaho Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Jeker Foundation, the Inukai Family Foundation, and VSA Idaho and is the recipient of the 2019 Teacher of the Year for Idaho Fine Arts Academy and the 2017 NDEO Executive Director's Award for Outstanding Advocacy.
In her commitment to advocating for equality in arts education in public and private schools, Swenson has been active in establishing and serving state and national organizations. She is the founding President and current Development Director of the Idaho Dance Education Organization and is the West Region Representative for the National Dance Education Organization, where she was also a contributing committee member for the NDEO “Priorities Pamphlet.” Swenson has also served on multiple committees for the State Board of Education and West Ada School District for arts education standards revisions and arts education textbook adoptions.
Swenson earned a B.F.A. in Modern Dance and an M.Ed. in Education from the University of Utah.
Swenson intends to pursue an Interdisciplinary specialization as a doctoral student within the Ed.D. Dance Education Program at Teachers College. Her research interests include cognitive processes in creativity, cultivating creativity, cultural hierarchy of arts education, dance literacy, and improving arts education leadership.