Michael Mansfield, undergraduate advisor, retires after 21 years of 'life-changing discussions'

July 1, 2023

Having worked with thousands of students over 21 years with the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS), undergraduate advisor and lecturer Michael Mansfield retired from UC Berkeley at the end of June.

Of his collaborations with the TDPS community, he said: “I am most grateful for these years of life-changing discussions—of dreaming and making things possible together. I was so proud of our work, and even when we failed, proud of how we did the deeper work that we needed.”

Read on for some of Michael Mansfield's highlights and favorite memories from his years with TDPS. (Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

What brought him to TDPS:

"I have been teaching and making theater and dances with students of all ages since 1976. I felt I would be a great advisor for TDPS students—I just didn't know why yet. But I soon discovered that I was hired here to learn why. My skills as a teaching artist, youth worker, learning designer, and cultural worker would all be put to good use."

Changes over the years:

"Over my 21 years here, we changed from the Department of Dramatic Art and Dance to the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies. We went from 45 students (majors and minors) when I arrived to roughly 300 students in 2023. I moved my advising office from Dwinelle Annex to Zellerbach Hall to Evans Hall to Hearst Field Annex to where we are now, Dwinelle Hall."

One of his enduring accomplishments:

"My interactive theater class in TDPS turned into Berkeley Interactive Theater, a social justice theater company grounded in the pedagogy of Augusto Boal. Sixteen years later, Berkeley Interactive Theater is still doing workshops and trainings for universities, medical institutions, and special events across California’s educational worlds. We’ve danced in a film about DNA, done voiceovers for children’s educational programs, and been extras in a movie in San Francisco."

His advice for students:

"Each semester is different—treat them that way. What will nourish you now? Challenge you now? Change you now? Don’t forget that required coursework is just the starting point of any study."

"The people you work with will teach you and remind you to be a life-long adult learner. Practice again and again that vital ensemble and company spirit that will carry you as an artist, an activist, and an academic into your life and best work."

Michael Mansfield, Undergraduate Advisor
Michael Mansfield, right, performed in the TDPS production of "From the Field to the Table"

As a champion of students' creative work, Michael Mansfield attended hundreds of performances during his time with TDPS. He even performed alongside students in the 2013 production of "From the Field to the Table" by Urban Bush Women.