Weeks away from retirement, Jane Slusarski-Harris reminisces on 30 years of teaching dance at CSU

By Maddie Wright, Rocky Mountain Collegian – Reprinted with permission

Jane Slusarski-Harris posing in a rehearsal room

Jane Slusarski-Harris has been the Director of Dance at CSU since 1988. She has mentored 30 years of students through the dance department. Slusarski-Harris will retire at the end of this semester.

Colorado State University professor Jane Slusarski-Harris has spent 30 years on a stage she’s grown quite comfortable with: a classroom. The dance professor will retire after this semester, but not before reminiscing on her journey at CSU. 

Slusarski-Harris started dancing as a child. She graduated from CU with an MFA in 1988 and began teaching dance at CSU the following August. Slusarski-Harris said her last semester has been very busy; during the past 30 years she has been at CSU, Slusarski-Harris said it has not slowed down, but it has evolved. 

The dance program has been through its fair share of buildings, Slusarski-Harris said. The program was first apart of physical education in Ammons Hall, which Slusarski-Harris describes as one of the prettiest buildings on campus. Conversely, after her first 10 years teaching, the program moved to General Services, which Slusarski-Harris describes as one of the ugliest buildings on campus.

“We made it work,” Slusarski-Harris said. “It’s the people that are in the spaces that make things happen.” 

The dance program finally found its home at the University Center for the Arts, where it is currently housed. 

“Being part of the creation of the University Center of the Arts, that’s a big deal for me, just being able to be a part of that process,” Slusarski-Harris said.

Because the program moved around so much, there was ample opportunity for change within the department that Slusaski-Harris said she got to spearhead.

“Basically, she built this program 30 years ago from scratch,” said CSU dance professor Chung-Fu Chang.

For Slusarski-Harris, the top priority has always been the students and watching them learn and succeed from their audition to their capstone.

“The thing I’ll miss the most is working with students because they’re so exciting, (and) they’re so fresh,”Slusarski-Harris said. “I’m always like, ‘OK, you guys have to do this because you’re young, so do it now while you can.’”

Slusarski-Harris has been a part of a university in some capacity for her entire adult life; therefore, she describes her retirement as “finally graduating.” 

“I’m very much looking forward to seeing the direction that the dance program and the School of Music, Theater, and Dance goes in,” Slusarski-Harris said. “I mean, I’m sure there’ll be so many exciting things here. I’ll come back here, and sit in the audience and not worry about anything. (I’ll) not worry if the sound’s going to go on or if the curtains are going to open. Change is good (and) very important.”

Slusarski-Harris said her favorite thing about teaching at CSU is being apart of the changes students experience in their studies. 

“I think really seeing how the program has developed in terms of the curriculum we offer and how that has helped to educate and lay the foundation for students to be able to then be able to upon graduation be able to go on and have a successful career path,” Slusarski-Harris said. “Their years of education here prepared them to go out there and be kind individuals and creative individuals who can make a valuable contribution to society.”

Slusarski-Harris’ colleagues are appreciative of her contributions to CSU’s dance department.

“As she reflects on her time, I hope that she recognizes the huge impact she’s had on all of us as her colleagues, and on the community here and on the students,” said CSU dance professor Judy Bejarano. “And I hope that she really knows how much we love her.”

Collegian reporter Maddie Wright can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @maddierwright.