A new school year has brought new leadership to Emerson College Los Angeles, President M. Lee Pelton announced in a campus wide email.
Three years after Kevin Bright led the college to the west coast, administrators have chosen Allison Sampson, an LA nonprofit director and consultant with more than 20 years of experience, to direct the satellite campus as vice president and executive director, Pelton said.
“I’m not an administrator; I’m a television producer,” Bright said of his decision to leave. “I want to do a lot of other stuff, so that's what I’m going to focus on instead.”
Nearly three decades after he graduated from Emerson, Bright, 62, returned to his alma mater to serve on the board of trustees in 2003, he said. In the interim, he worked in the television industry, including as an executive producer for the hit show Friends.
Although the decision to construct ELA predated his presidency, Pelton said he collaborated with Bright, who joined the faculty as an artist-in-residence in 2006, and others to develop the program. Bright also worked with administrators, Pelton included, to find someone to lead the west coast campus, he said.
When the search ended, however, Pelton said the committee wasn’t happy with any of the candidates. That’s when Bright volunteered to be considered, Pelton said. Bright accepted the position in 2013, according to Beacon archives.
“I had developed a big commitment to the college over the years,” Bright said, “and as a board member that voted positively for the LA center, I felt obligated to see that it succeeded.”
Beyond hiring staff and further developing the program, Bright said he encouraged Emerson students to commit to community service and internships, opened the center to alumni and the Los Angeles community, and worked to promote the center.
“It’s almost like starting a small college from scratch,” Pelton said of launching ELA.
But two years later, in the summer of 2015, Bright said he felt his nearly 10-year tenure at Emerson had gone on long enough. Pelton said he and Bright decided then to assemble a committee to find a new ELA director. The nationwide search began last fall, he said.
Once the candidate pool narrowed this June, he said the team recognized one applicant “that appeared clearly superior to the others”: Sampson.
Since 2010, Allison Sampson, 60, served as the senior vice president of advancement and external affairs at the Colburn School, a performing arts institution in downtown LA, according to her website. She also founded the Colburn Foundation, a classical music grant organization, where she now serves on the board.
So when the opportunity was presented in February, she said that Emerson’s impact and potential to grow in Hollywood drew her to apply.
“I did a lot of community engagement work, I did a lot of work with young and emerging artists, and I’ve worked in job development and fundraising,” Sampson said. “[Emerson] felt like the logical next step.”
Although he was not on the search committee, Bright was the first to meet Sampson once the school initiated the hiring process, Pelton said.
Sampson said she and Bright spoke about the expansion, the opportunities Hollywood Boulevard provides, and challenges the campus has faced and anticipates.
Since her hire, Sampson has traveled between LA and Boston to work with school officials to better understand the responsibilities of her new role, she said.
Although Bright said he plans to work with organizations he’s neglected as director of ELA, Sampson said she is hoping to keep him engaged with the college.
“What’s so great about Kevin—that I don't have—is his reputation in the field,” she said. “It’s iconic to have Kevin as a director; we want to keep him involved.”