GW Announces New Corcoran Director

Lauren Onkey, currently the senior director of NPR Music, will lead the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design.

April 7, 2021

Lauren Onkey

Lauren Onkey is the new director of the Corcoran School. (Photo: Maria Luz Bravo)

The George Washington University announced Thursday that longtime educator, scholar, producer and museum professional Lauren Onkey will serve as the next director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, part of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. She will begin her role on July 12.

Dr. Onkey most recently served as senior director at NPR Music, where she led a team of journalists, critics and media makers and provided the editorial vision in creating innovative cross-platform music journalism. She has more than two decades of experience, ranging from directing the NPR Music team to developing and managing award-winning education and community programs as the vice president of education and public programming at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

“Lauren Onkey brings to the Corcoran an impressive breadth of hands-on experience in the arts and cultural studies, paired with considerable scholarly achievement in her field,” Provost M. Brian Blake said. “Her proven commitment to innovation and diversity make her a perfect fit for GW's diverse and vibrant community of scholars. She will be a tremendous asset to the Corcoran’s students and faculty.”

During her tenure at NPR, Dr. Onkey worked with NPR's newsroom and member station network to expand the impact of NPR Music and continue positioning public radio as an essential force in music. Her portfolio included the Tiny Desk concert series, which now comprises more than 900 concerts viewed a collective 2 billion times on YouTube.

“The arts are one important way we define ourselves—how we argue, grow, find truths and bridge divides,” Dr. Onkey said. “The combination of departments that the Corcoran and GW bring together across so many diverse fields of art and study is unique and powerful, particularly in the context of GW students’ tradition of community engagement. I’m excited about the opportunity to invest in creative and cultural partnerships that leverage the Corcoran’s diversity of thought, expertise and experience.”

At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum from 2008 to 2015, Dr. Onkey led divisions such as education, library and archives, community programs and visitor services to provide programs, classes and visitor experiences that engaged a broad audience in the history and significance of rock and roll music.

At the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, which provides civically-engaged humanities education to a large and diverse population of community college students, Dr. Onkey led the creation of curriculum and programming and developed strong community partnerships that provided students with opportunities for experiential learning.

Dr. Onkey also spent 14 years teaching at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., specializing in popular music studies and postcolonial literature. Over the course of her career, she has published many articles in literary studies, popular music studies, women's studies and pedagogy.

Kym Rice, who has served as interim director of the Corcoran since 2019, will remain as an adviser to the director.

“We thank Kym for her leadership as interim director these past two years,” Dr. Blake said. “She provided strong and steady leadership for our students, faculty members and staff.”