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Week of June 20, 2011

Leija named UMS director of education and community engagement

The University Musical Society announces that Jim Leija has been named as the new director of education and community engagement, effective June 15.

Leija has been with UMS since 2008. He previously served as manager of new media and online initiatives (2010-11) and public relations manager (2008-09).

Photo courtesy UMS.

“During his time at UMS, every facet of our organization has benefited from Jim’s leadership, vision, and unique ability to connect the community with UMS programs in uncommon and engaging ways,” says UMS President Kenneth Fischer. “In addition to his role in the communications department of UMS, Jim has also garnered outside professional experience in curriculum development, consulting, and peer educating. He was a valuable member of the committee that developed the current UMS strategic plan. These activities, paired with his longstanding dedication to our organization, paint an inspiring picture for the future of UMS. I am confident that Jim Leija will continue to bring fresh insights and new approaches not only to our Education and Community Engagement activities, but to UMS as a whole.”

In the past two years Leija served as project manager for the UMS Lobby, a project created through an “Innovation Lab” grant awarded by EmcArts with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. He was a consultant and peer educator with Ann Arbor’s Nonprofit Enterprise at Work (NEW), serving a wide array of clients in the Southeast Michigan nonprofit sector.

Leija brings to this role teaching experience and a background in curriculum development in fields as diverse as theatre, art, sociology, women’s studies and American culture. He holds three degrees from U-M: a Bachelor of Arts in sociology, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre and a Master of Fine Arts in art and design.

“UMS and the university have enjoyed a long history of collaboration, and I look forward to deepening our relationship by continuing to develop rich and compelling opportunities with university faculty, students, and staff,” Leija says.

“As a lifelong artist and arts advocate, I am so thrilled to have this opportunity to do such meaningful work within a community that I love. One of the very special things about UMS is its enthusiastic and devoted network of partners and communities.  I look forward to reconnecting with this network, forming new community relationships, and collaborating to create compelling and inspiring experiences. I will ensure UMS programs are as inclusive and accessible as possible, embracing new technologies as helpful conduits to serve us in this pursuit. Together we will evolve and re-imagine UMS Education and Community Engagement programs for a rapidly changing world, and lay a strong foundation for generations to come.”

Recognized as an “emerging leader” by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (2009), Leija also was a Community of Scholars Fellow at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (2006) and has served as a grant review panelist for the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs.

In addition to his life as a performing arts administrator, workshop leader and peer educator, Leija also is a director, filmmaker and performance artist. His works have been seen at Dixon Place in New York City, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Performance Studies International Conference, as well as venues in Toronto and Chicago. His nonfiction essay “Dance or Die” was published in the anthology “Queer and Catholic” (Routledge Press, 2008). Leija is a Michigan native, and currently lives in Ann Arbor with his partner Aric Knuth, who is director of the New England Literature Program in the Department of English Language & Literature.



Carol Stepanchuk, community outreach coordinator, Center for Chinese Studies; education director, Development, Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments, on working in the Center for Chinese Studies: “One of the greatest benefits of my job is being able to stay contemporary with Chinese culture.”


Gifts of Art presents World Fiddling Show by Saline Fiddlers, noon-1 p.m. July 14, University Hospital Courtyard.

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