2021 Student Respondent Blog Post: Yifan Xu

by Lee Ann Adams

The AAAE Student Committee crafted multiple points of student engagement throughout the 2021 Virtual Conference based on student interests and feedback. For the first time ever, we invited our Student Members to serve as Student Respondents at conference sessions related to their own personal research or interests to ignite deeper conversation and dialogue among practitioners, educators and students. In this series of blog posts, we’ll hear from some of our 2021 Student Respondents on their experience at the 2021 Virtual Conference: REIMAGINE/RECONNECT/RENEW


Yifan Xu
PhD candidate, Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy
The Ohio State University
[email protected]

When I was formally introduced and acknowledged as a student respondent for the two sessions in the AAAE 2021 virtual conference, I sensed the attention and interests from AAAE educators and practitioners to student members. To be honest, I was not expecting so much spotlight, particularly in online Zoom meetings. I was then given the privilege as the first one to comment on each session. I also sit on the Student Respondent Panel to share my experience directly with other AAAE members and to brainstorm future opportunities that the association could facilitate effective and meaningful student engagement activities. Both paper and panel sessions in AAAE 2021 were super relevant to the current development and needs in the arts and culture sector. They offer in-depth investigations into the most important issues concerned by the field, such as post-pandemic planning and discussions about equity, diversity, and inclusion. As a student respondent, the active engagement with the larger professional arts administration community made me a part of the conversation happening in the field and inspired me with novel field practices and scholarly research.

Taking the two sessions I responded to as an example. They both observed how the field adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2020. Meg Friedman and David McGraw introduced me not only the changes in the workforce during and after the pandemic but the innovative collaboration between an arts industry analyst and a university professor, in The People and the Process: An Academic/Consultant Collaboration on a Performing Arts Study. Professor Jeffrey Apruzzese discussed The Relationship of Fans and Performers in Music and The Arts Post Covid by envisioning the potential of Livestream in changing the music industry business model post-pandemic. Attending the two sessions reassured me of the importance and timeliness of my dissertation research on the resilience of arts and festival organizations. I was also inspired to initiate a collaboration with Mark Cardwell, the CEO at the Ohio Marketing Association, and planned to present some post-Covid arts marketing ideas at National Arts Marketing Project Conference 2021.

This is my first year being an active AAAE student member to re-connect with people in the field, after two years of diverting all my time and efforts to my dissertation research. There is nothing more important than feeling valued as future arts management leaders by the community. The experiences as AAAE 2021 student respondents were invaluable and worthwhile to me as they made me feel this way. As one of the first group of student respondents for the AAAE conference in its history, I felt not only heard by other AAAE members, but also by the association’s leadership. Similar to me, other student respondents in the Student Respondent Panel also suggested they benefited from professional development and networking opportunities offered by AAAE 2021, beyond department settings. I would sincerely advocate the continuation of this student respondent initiative and also look forward to future AAAE student engagement activities in the forms of mentorship, workshops, student panels, and networking events.

Yifan Xu is currently a PhD candidate in Arts Administration, Education and Policy. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in cultural industry management from Tongji University in Shanghai, China in 2012 and received her master’s degree from AAEP in Arts Policy and Administration in 2015. After working at World Peaces and with the King Arts Complex as a social media marketing manager for a year, Yifan decided to return to AAEP in 2016 for the PhD program. She passed her candidacy exam in Feburary 2020.

Yifan has been actively involved in the scholarly field since 2017 by attending the Society, Technology, Policy, and Arts annual conferences and The Ohio State University Hayes Forum. She has also been actively engaged with local communities and the Ohio State campus by being a member of TEDxOhioStateUniversity, a leader of International Family Union at Ohio State and a founding member of the Columbus Marketing Association. Yifan was the 2018 International Festivals and Events Association’s Arts Festival Legacy Scholarship recipient and The Ohio State University Council of Graduate Students 2018 Career Development Grant recipient.

With her background in the cultural industry, social media marketing, and cultural policy, she developed growing interests in the interdisciplinary exploration of arts and cultural events. Particularly, her dissertation research focuses on the dynamics involved in the creation of international performing arts festivals to leverage impacts of governments’ cultural policy agendas, professional fields’ norms and conventions, and the public’s expectations from the festival legitimacy perspective. Previously studying in Shanghai for seven years, she had experiences with the booming event sector and creative industries in the city. As such, her dissertation gives an in-depth investigation of China Shanghai International Arts Festival’s 21-years’ operation as a case of the resilience of International Performing Arts Festivals.