Alumnus Zac Trotter Scripts His Own Areas of Study in Online MIS Program

Zac Trotter with his wife, Tatem, and their daughter, Lucy.
Zac Trotter with his wife, Tatem, and their daughter, Lucy.

How’s this for a plot twist? Theatre instructor Zac Trotter went from having no intention of pursuing a career as an educator to becoming the top teacher at his school.

He was on the verge of taking up theatre directing in Chicago when an opportunity arose that had him reconsider his decision.

“This job at Cedar High School in Cedar City [Utah] opened. I took it, fell in love with it and decided to stay,” he said.

Now, Trotter is enrolled in the Master of Interdisciplinary Studies with a General Studies Learning Block online program at Southern Utah University (SUU). He is on track to graduate in December 2020.

“When I started looking for graduate programs, I wanted a theatre education degree,” he said. “There weren’t that many offered — especially online.”

However, Trotter found the ideal master’s degree program that allowed him to tailor the degree to his needs at his alma mater. He is focusing on education and arts administration.

“The nice thing about this program is, they let me choose,” he said. “I knew professors who teach both disciplines. They said, ‘Take the classes that are going to benefit you.’

“The education class I took was Teaching Shakespeare, which is the most important type of theatre a kid can learn. The program felt like the right fit to get the type of education that would benefit me and my students.”

The results tell the tale. Trotter has helped resurrect the fine arts program, helping him win Cedar High’s 2019-20 Teacher of the Year Award.

“When I took the job, there were only 50 students taking the courses,” he said. “There were only two classes. They said, ‘Hey, we’ve talked about ending this program. We don’t know if there’s value in it. If you build it, we’ll add more classes.’

“I’ve always been competitive, so it was kind of like: Challenge accepted. Now we have seven classes in theatre and film with more than 200 students. In fact, the school is looking at hiring another part-time teacher because we have grown so big. It’s nice to make a difference.”

Much Ado About Something

Trotter grew up in Lehi, Utah, where his theatre teacher, Jan Hunsaker, who now teaches at Salem Hills High School, inspired him.

“I attribute my success in theatre and education to her,” he said. “She made a huge difference and helped me get into college. It’s cool to go from being a student to a peer with her. She pointed me in this direction.”

After attending a Shakespeare Festival at SUU, Trotter enrolled and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in directing and theatrical production in 2013. He was also the founding artistic director for Second Studio, a student theatre production organization.

“I saw that SUU had an interdisciplinary master’s degree and that would enable me to combine the arts administration program with education,” he said.

“I felt like that would be the best fit because a straight-up education degree doesn’t focus on the arts or tech. I was looking for something that could give me that foundation and help improve my teaching in my area.”

The flexibility of the online format helps Trotter plan schoolwork around his hectic schedule, which often includes fluctuating hours.

“I couldn’t do it if it wasn’t online — especially the arts admin aspect,” he said. “The faculty in the arts admin said, ‘We get that we’re dealing with working professionals.’

“They understand that we might be doing the lessons and the homework at 11 o’clock at night or on Saturdays. They have built the program to offer that, so it has been very manageable.”

So far, INDS 6000: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Research & Studies is Trotter’s favorite course in the master’s degree program.

“I thought it was wonderful,” he said. “It teaches you how to interview, to sell yourself and to make resumes and cover letters. I felt like that should be the first class that any student takes. It had life skills that are applicable anywhere.”

Adjusting to a virtual format was not difficult for Trotter, who took some online courses during his undergrad and after graduating.

“I took a weird path to becoming a teacher,” he said. “They hired me, then said, ‘Go get your teaching license.’ I spent a year getting my Alternative Route Licensure. Those classes were online.”

Love’s Labour’s Found

Trotter enjoys being able to earn a degree, hold down a job and still have time to spend with his wife, Tatem, and daughter, Lucy (3).

“I will probably walk in the commencement ceremony in Spring 2021,” he said. “My family and friends are excited for me. It’s hard to make it in this world without a master’s degree.”

Trotter, who enjoys playing volleyball and hockey when he has free time, believes the interdisciplinary studies degree program requires a thought-out approach to maximize the benefits. He is eager to continue applying what he is learning to the next act.

“The most important thing for this program is you’ve got to have a game plan going in,” he said. “You have to say, ‘This is the goal. This is what I need to get there. These are the classes I need to take.’

“To make it valuable, you have to know exactly the direction you’re going. It was nice to be able to pick the classes and focus on what I felt would be beneficial to me and my kids. I picked this degree so I could tailor it and be the best high school teacher possible.”

Learn more about Southern Utah University’s online Master of Interdisciplinary Studies program with a General Studies Block.

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