Perpich News

Update on Scholars of Distinction for 2020-2021

November 2, 2020

The Minnesota Scholars of Distinction Award Program has nurtured and recognized distinguished achievement by highly motivated, self-directed students since 2005. During the 2020-2021 school year, the program will pause for a review of the leadership, mathematics, science, social studies, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and theater arts awards. During this time, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and Perpich Center for Arts Education will examine criteria, access, and opportunity for each category. Additional awards will also be considered for program expansion. Students with an interest in the award are encouraged to visit this page in June of 2021 to review updated information.

We know that this announcement will be met with a mix of emotion, especially disappointment. We have already heard about juniors eager to begin the process, and seniors who had waited until this year to apply or were hoping to apply for a second year. We see you, we hear you, and we share in your feelings. We have been so proud of the growing statewide roster of honorees that have been recognized by this program throughout the years, including those who made a very successful pivot to virtual showcase presentations in the midst of last year’s shift to distance learning.

This academic year will serve as a time for evaluation of Scholars of Distinction, with an eye towards ensuring equity across all of its programs and increasing access and opportunity. While we feel pride in the increased numbers of theater candidates in recent years, the diversity of schools and students that have been represented, and the ways in which we have continued to adapt our criteria based on responses from evaluators and participants alike, we know that there is great opportunity for continued revision and growth. Scholars of Distinction in Theater Arts has been one of the few opportunities for students to be recognized for exceptional individual achievement in this vital component of arts education. So, we look forward to the future of the program, and to expansion, including our hope to pilot Dramaturgy as another area within the Theater Arts Award.

We thank you for your interest in and support of the initiative – past, present, and future. If you have comments or questions about the pause of the program for 2020-2021 or the Scholars of Distinction program as a whole, please contact our colleagues at MDE – Wendy Behrens and Doug Paulson (

If you have comments or questions about the Theater Arts program specifically, or would like a more detailed description of the history and context of the program, please reach out to us at our contact info below. You can also find more information about the program on our website here. We look forward to keeping you apprised of the program’s evolution and wish you all the best in the meantime.

Co-Directors of the Scholars of Distinction in Theater Arts
Gretchen Heath ( and Stephanie Lein Walseth (