September 12, 2023

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Meet Sarah Wildes Arnett, 2023 VSU Presidential Excellence Award for Service Honoree

Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of Valdosta State University, recently honored Sarah Wildes Arnett with the 2023 Presidential Excellence Award for Service. 

VALDOSTA — Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of Valdosta State University, recently honored Sarah Wildes Arnett with the 2023 Presidential Excellence Award for Service.

The Presidential Excellence Award for Service recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated a strong and consistent commitment to service at VSU and to the community.

Arnett joined the faculty of VSU’s College of the Arts in 2012 and currently serves as professor of dance and interim head of the Department of Communication Arts.

VSU: What are your favorite classes to teach? What are your favorite research topics? 

Arnett: I am a studio-based practitioner in dance, and I love to be in the studio working with students on their artistry as performers, choreographers, and creators. My favorite courses to teach at VSU are Aerial Dance Arts, Choreography, and Dance Conditioning and Wellness. It is important to me for students to find their voice and what makes them feel powerful in their art.

My research is creative research.  I am a professional choreographer and performer. I am at my best when collaborating on performance projects like musicals, dance performance pieces, and dance films.  

VSU: Teaching, mentoring, performing, and choreographing are already full-time jobs. What motivates you to make time for service?  

Arnett: I see the impact that the service has on my students directly. As artists, we generally are giving of our time and protective of those we work. By serving in organizations like the American College Dance Association, I can give back to organizations that showed me that the arts can be a viable career choice. My motivation for serving within the VSU and Valdosta community comes down to a return on investment. I feel that if I buy in and show my peers, students, and the community that I am invested in VSU, then it gives them a reason to also be invested. 

VSU: As an artist, what does service look like to you?         

Arnett: This is a really hard question to answer because my service looks so different than many others. Yes, I’ve served on committees and more traditional looking service opportunities, but I also have worked as a recruiter, coordinated auditions, led workshops in the community, and advised student organizations. I’ve offered my professional services as a performer and master class instructor, and I’ve choreographed for fundraisers, all in an effort to raise funds, increase visibility for the arts, and enrich the community. I’m constantly in flux with service. My largest task this past year was serving as the chair of the Social Media Committee for the American College Dance Association, where I ran multiple fundraising campaign projects, coordinated student takeovers for 13 regional festivals, organized the marketing for the National College Dance Festival, and generated the public programs for the National Gala Concerts. I offer what I feel I can contribute when I see a need.  

VSU: What advice do you have for other faculty who want to make time for service?

Arnett:  Go where your heart leads you. It took me some time to understand why service is important and why I would want to give my time to something or someone without payment. I think it’s important to reflect and see what you have to offer and how those skills can enhance the community around you. I am where I am today because of the generosity and service of individuals that taught me. I hope that modeling service in this way can inspire my students to give back, be willing to collaborate, and be caring citizens in whatever they choose to do. Balance is always hard, but if you find things that mean something and where you can see the impact, it makes a huge difference.  

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