Texas Southern University dean’s life experiences drive her desire to make a difference in the world

Dr. Dianne Jemison-Pollard
Dr. Dianne Jemison-Pollard (TSU)

Dr. Dianne Jemison-Pollard holds a near and dear place in the heart of Texas Southern University. Jemison-Pollard’s infectious spirit and creative successes have opened many doors and allowed her to partake in numerous opportunities around the world as well as on the university’s campus.

With more than 40 years of service at TSU, Jemison-Pollard currently serves as the Dean of the Thomas F. Freeman Honors College and professor of Theatre in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts.

Raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana during the Civil Rights era, Pollard has always been exposed to knowing how to deal with people from different walks of life. Her father, Rev. Theodore Judson Jemison, instilled in her at a very young age the importance of being kind and sharing love despite the racial unrest at the time.

“My father, Reverend Jemison, led the first bus boycott in Louisiana in 1953, two years before the nationally known bus boycott with Rosa Parks. He helped me, because instead of spewing hate, in which he could have, he never did. There were times when my mother had a knife to her neck when she opened the door or when the Klu Klux Klan were burning crosses. My dad never was a hateful person; therefore, I just grew up that way,” Pollard said.

She tells how her artistry as a director has helped her move accordingly in life with a job having to deal with all kinds of people.

“As a stage director, you have to know and understand people,” Jemison-Pollard said. “Sometimes people say, ‘Every actor is alike.’ I’ve learned that you don’t do that. Everyone is an individual. People appreciate you more when you meet them where they are. Don’t go in with preset notions.”

As her kind and loving spirit stands out on its own, Pollard’s intellect in theatre allowed for her to accumulate numerous accolades for her hard work as well. Pollard has four degrees including a B.A. in Speech and Drama, M.A. in Communications, and an M.F.A. in Directing. She is an award-winning university stage director who has directed more than 50 productions from Greek and Shakespeare to contemporary theatre, musicals and children’s theatre. In addition, she has written 18 religious pageants which have been produced in different places around the world.

While Pollard is a theatre arts scholar, she decided to go back to school to receive her doctorate degree in Counseling at Texas Southern University. Pollard’s dissertation, “The Use of Music to Improve Social Skills Development in Children Diagnosed with Autism,” was curated and dedicated to her daughter, Celeste, after seeking answers on what helped children with autism.