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Week of June 11, 2012

Staff Spotlight

Performer, world traveler a helping hand to student organizations

If it’s true that the destination is secondary to the journey, then Mark Haviland has done pretty well for himself.

Haviland, a program manager with the Center for Campus Involvement, also is the manager of the Student Theatre Arts Complex — a preproduction facility on South Campus — helping students prepare theatrical productions.

Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography.

The complex has three rehearsal rooms; it also has space to build sets and props and to design and store costumes. Occasionally, theatre or film students will use the facility, but primarily it is utilized by many of the university student organizations.

“At 99 percent of universities, student groups use the theatre school to rehearse and build their shows,” he says, adding that there just isn’t enough space at the Walgreen Drama Center to accommodate the many student organizations at U-M.

“They have all this culture here, and they need a place for it,” he says.

That’s where Haviland comes in, assisting the students in any way possible. He helps them organize the various stages of preproduction and is available as a resource and an adviser if they need help. But his road to Michigan took him in a few different directions along the way.

Haviland graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in theatre. He has acted and directed some throughout his career, but generally has been too busy. Out of school, he was hired by Walt Disney World in Florida, working with animatronic figures at Epcot. He operated a robot in live shows, but says it was more entertainment and technology than theatre.

“It was a journey, and I enjoyed it, but it ultimately wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he says.

From there, he and a few colleagues formed The Robot Works, a special effects company. Haviland’s job was to travel the world, teaching people how to operate the robots. He spent time in Turkey, Korea, India, China and Portugal. He liked to research the culture and says he always felt like a guest in the countries he visited.

Eventually, it became too much, though. Tired of all the travel, Haviland decided to move back to the Detroit area (he grew up in Birmingham) to be with his family. He has a daughter from a previous marriage who is attending Flagler College in Florida. He and his current wife have two daughters in middle and high school.

“It was really fascinating, a lot of fun,” he says of his job at Robot Works. “I got to travel the world, but I had to get back to my family, and I wanted to get back to theatre.”

Haviland also has a master’s degree in student affairs and administration, and says that even while he was working for Disney and Robot Works, he saw himself someday working on a college campus.

“That blend (of theatre and student affairs) is ideal to my position because I’m working with students who aren’t necessarily theatre majors but want to produce theatre,” he says.

The experiences of his previous jobs have served him well in his current position. For example, because Robot Works was such a small company, he had to “wear a lot of hats” and learned to be resourceful, which helps when he has students with low budgets coming to him looking for supplies.

That challenge of making things work based on the wishes of directors, audiences and financial constraints is a welcome one, though.

“I enjoy what I’m doing,” Haviland says, adding he really enjoys working with students to produce a show. “I have a real ‘show-must-go-on’ mentality. It will happen … I’m a cheerleader.”

The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at



Mark Haviland, program manager, Center for Campus Involvement, on working with students to produce a show: “I have a real ‘show-must-go-on’ mentality. It will happen … I’m a cheerleader.”


Orson Welles New Acquisitions exhibit, Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, Special Collections Library, through June.

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