Robert Tenges Appointed Assistant Provost

Photo: Phil Dembinski (BFA '08)
Former Executive Director of Sherwood Community Music School appointed Assistant Provost of Continuing and Community Education.

Robert Tenges, former Executive Director of Sherwood Community Music School, was appointed Assistant Provost for Continuing and Community Education (CCE) on March 16. The new office will bring together management of Columbia College’s current children and teen pre-college programs, as well as add adult professional and continuing education initiatives. In addition to Sherwood, programs under CCE will include the High School Summer Institute (HSSI) and ArtStart, Columbia’s visual, media, and performing arts summer camp for students entering grades 2-10.

“We can help support these programs so that they’re mission-critical, and make sure there’s a single way to engage with them,” says Tenges. “We can also make CCE a singular destination for the city of Chicago.”

Tenges began his career at Columbia College in 2013 at Sherwood where he instantly noticed the need to push for a centralization of current programs, as well as a place to foster and create new ones. “We needed program manager roles for a big project,” Tenges says. “The CCE is that project.”

With more than 12 years of experience in arts education and community engagement, Tenges is also an established playwright. His most recent play, Whatever, opened to positive reviews at Chicago’s Side Project Theatre Company in July 2015. Before his appointment at Sherwood, he served as the Director of Education and Programming at the Old Town School of Folk Music, where he led efforts to expand children’s course offerings in dance, visual arts, and musical theatre.

Tenges advocates for faculty maintaining a creative career while teaching. “We have a responsibility to model what it is to work in the arts. Often an artist’s living is cobbled together, remaining active in the field while teaching. What’s good for the field is good for the institution.”

Another significant priority of the CCE will include implementing an intuitive registration process that makes taking a class or signing up for a program quick and accessible, especially for adult education. “Say I’m a hobbyist and I want to take a dance class,” Tenges says. “There should be a short amount of time and effort between wanting to take the class and registering for it. We want to uncomplicate the process. I’d like to see us lift the veil there.”

Tenges is enthusiastic about the curriculum in these programs reflecting an authentic Columbia College experience, as well as its mission. “It means staying in perpetual conversations with our academic departments.”

Above all, the assistant provost emphasizes the importance of recruitment through credit-bearing programs for teens. He views the CCE as a critical contributor to fostering new relationships with young people and garnering new audiences. “I’m excited by the notion of expanding the canvas of what it means to be a Columbia College student,” he says. “And I’m excited to make sure our programs are utterly unique to the city of Chicago.”