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Cal State LA names new dean for the College of Arts and Letters

August 21, 2018

Linda Essig focuses on arts enterprise and entrepreneurship


By Margie Low | Cal State LA News Service

Linda Essig sees a crucial link between the technological advances of the 21st century and the study of arts and humanities. 

“Twenty-first century skills are the skills learned in the humanities and the arts: critical thinking, idea generation, working in collaborative groups and multi-faceted communication,” said Essig, the new dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Cal State LA. “Studies have shown that employers seek the skills learned in arts and humanities.”

Essig hopes to foster appreciation for the arts and humanities, as well as a love for lifelong learning, in students throughout the university.

Cal State LA is a premier public university located in the heart of Los Angeles. The university is ranked number one in the nation for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is committed to engagement, service, and the public good.

“As dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Cal State LA, I have the opportunity to both live my values and realize my professional true love,” said Essig, who resides in the University Hills neighborhood near Cal State LA. “The values of the university—that higher education is a tool for social equity and mobility—align clearly with the values I try to live daily.”

The College of Arts and Letters is a diverse and vibrant community committed to providing a distinctive liberal arts education to all Cal State LA students.

One of Essig’s priorities is to implement a shared vision that advances student success as well as the mission of the college and the university. She plans to develop university-based arts enterprises and entrepreneurship opportunities that focus on social impact and public good—and help students learn. She is also interested in building partnerships both within the college and across various colleges in the university.

Essig, who began her tenure on July 1, 2018, brings to Cal State LA many years of experience in arts education and academic administration.

“I worked full time as a freelance lighting designer for several years [in New York], but then I realized I had something valuable to say to others about lighting design,” Essig said. “I took my first teaching job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and soon after became head of the design programs in the Department of Theatre and Drama.”

During her tenure at UW-Madison, Essig found her niche in academic administration, which allowed her to advocate for education in the arts and humanities. Over the years, she has served in various leadership positions and has become a nationally recognized expert in arts administration and entrepreneurship.

She was the founding director for the School of Theatre and Film at Arizona State University and launched the award-winning Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship, which grew into a national model for university-based arts venture incubation.

While at ASU, Essig also served as director for the School of Theatre and Film and chair for the Department of Theatre, and has held the Evelyn Smith Professorship in Theatre. Most recently, she served as director of the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programs at Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU.

Essig earned a BFA in design and a MFA in design for stage and screen at New York University Tisch School of the Arts. She holds a Ph.D. in public administration and public policy from ASU. She sits on the board of directors of the Association for Arts Administration Educators.

Essig is the author of Lighting and the Design Idea, The Speed of Light, and The Arizona Arts Entrepreneur Toolkit, as well as dozens of scholarly publications, exhibitions and presentations. She is working on a book of connected essays that delves into the relationships between art, innovation, entrepreneurship and money.

Photo: Linda Essig, dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Cal State LA. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit