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A message from Jennifer Throndsen, USBE Director of Teaching and Learning:

Welcome to the 2023-2024 School Year

We are so excited to be ushering back into a new school year. A new school year is a time of excitement, energy, and enthusiasm for all the educators, students, and families involved. After a rejuvenating summer, we are all ready to get back in our schools and communities to advance student learning across the content areas, but especially in the arts. USBE will be ready to support you along the year with your arts needs. Specifically, we have hired three new amazing personnel to provide ongoing support and resources to the arts across Utah. Please join me in welcoming this strong group of art leaders:

Dr. Laurie Baefsky, Arts Coordinator

Laurie will be returning to Utah after a decade in higher education leadership. She most recently served as dean of University of Montana’s College of the Arts and Media and was previously with University of Colorado Denver, where she was associate dean of research and strategic partnerships in their College of Arts & Media. Laurie’s early ties to Utah include serving as grants manager for the Utah Division of Arts & Museum in 2014 and founding director of Utah State University’s (USU) ArtsBridge program between 2007-11. This program connected university students with area schools and community organizations through arts-based interdisciplinary engaged learning initiatives. While at USU, it was her honor to serve as the professional development partner for northern Utah schools during the initial launch of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program between 2008-11.

For over 20 years, Laurie has incubated, developed, and led multiple arts integrated educational initiatives. She is committed to the critical role of arts in creating healthy, resilient communities, and is dedicated to elevating arts and culture as a core sector in an equitable society. Other enterprises include executive director of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) and ArtsEngine at the University of Michigan, 2014-18. On the national stage, from 2016-18, Laurie served as a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s report committee which issued the 2018 consensus report, Integration of the Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine with the Arts and Humanities at the Undergraduate and Graduate Level, as well as on the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Fundamental Role of the Arts and Humanities in Medical Education Integration Committee (2018-20).

Trained as a classical flutist and music educator, Laurie holds degrees in flute performance from Stony Brook University, University of Michigan, and California State University, Fullerton. She has appeared with the Minnesota Orchestra, Utah Symphony, was a 15-year member of the Virginia Symphony, and founding fellow with the New World Symphony. As a soloist and chamber music performer, appearances range from Symphony Space and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center to northern Morocco and Umbria, Italy. A native of Los Angeles, Laurie pursues interests in Baroque and contemporary performance practices, organic gardening, vegetarian cooking, hiking and cross-country skiing.

Jamie Workman, BTS Arts Specialist

I’m excited to introduce myself as the new USBE Fine Arts Specialist. I’m an educator specializing in cultivating connections and creativity in learning. With a background in visual arts and instructional support, I have a decade’s experience in Middle and High School visual arts teaching, coupled with three years as an Instructional Coach.

My journey began as an English teacher in South Korea, where my passion for teaching ignited, leading to a master’s degree from Westminster College upon returning to Utah. Throughout my tenure as a visual arts educator, I refined my skills, emphasizing artistic techniques and nurturing self-expression, creativity, and student connections. As I aim to contribute to Utah’s State Board of Education, I look forward to helping facilitate positive communication and support Arts education in Utah.

Elisabeth Bunker, K-12 Arts Specialist

I have a BFA in Painting and a Masters in Nonprofit Management. I taught secondary art for 10 years, most of that time in charter schools. I am a practicing artist with a studio who paints and exhibits regularly around SLC. You can see some of my public murals and artwork in South Salt Lake, Sugarhouse, along the Jordan River, and on Main Street in downtown. I am an artist at heart who fell into teaching and loved every moment of my time with students creating art.

In addition to the classroom, I have facilitated and taught multiple community art classes in a variety of settings and for all ages and abilities. I have also had the opportunity to travel in my art career, painting on the coast of Ireland this last fall and completing two teaching artist residencies in Bluff, Utah. I jumped at the opportunity to join the Teaching and Learning section and I am thrilled to be back in the arts. Working for USBE is a chance to make a meaningful impact for Utah students, improve systems, bring creativity, advocate for arts education and art educators, and access to the arts on a larger scale.

Living downtown, I love to try new restaurants and going out on the town to find some trouble. I enjoy riding my bike around the city, my animals, creating artwork, gardening, true crime, and nurturing my houseplants (I have over 100, and collect rare plants!)