DR. DENISE DAVIS-COTTON, the Director of the USF Center for PAInT, is a Milken Foundation internationally recognized educator, Michiganian of the Year, Crain’s Forty under Forty Recipient, and Past President of Arts Schools Network. She served as the as Founder and First Principal of Detroit School of Arts (DSA), earning meritorious awards and recognitions for her historic contributions to the city’s education and the cultural renaissance. She wrote the new school concept and curriculum and served as the school’s First Principal for 18 years, building a 126 million-dollar site on the grounds of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, comprised of state-of-the art facilities.
She also received two Keys to the City of Montgomery (Alabama), the Congressional Record Recognition by the 106th Congress, and she is recognized as a Distinguished Alumni – Alabama State University. Her work as the arts integration specialist is represented in the work she provides for schools in districts across the state of Florida. She lead the writing of the Circus Arts Curriculum for Booker Middle School magnet and Sarasota High School with Circus Arts Conservatory. This curriculum is the only one of its kind in the nation.
From 2008 – 2010, she served as the National President of Arts Schools Network, an international national organization of elementary through university arts school leaders advancing the arts in education and continues to serve on the board. She also serves on the Board of Governors for Distinctive Schools and The Florida Association of Arts Educators. She is passionate and dedicated to promoting equity and access in arts education. She hails from Montgomery, Alabama and is dedicated to promoting achievement through Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.) initiatives. Thus, providing a balanced intellectual sphere that includes divergent thinking and creativity.
Her lifetime commitment for more than 45 years is to arts education and educational equality. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in English and Theater from Alabama State University (B.S), where she was the first Theater major and a Charter member of Alpha Psi Omega Dramatics Fraternity, where she was the leading actress in the university’s dramatics guild. She obtained a master’s degree in Speech communications from the University of Montevallo, where she was the only African-American on the university’s award-winning Forensics team, concentrating on dramatic interpretation of literary work. She obtained her Education Specialist Certificate and Doctoral Degree in Education Administration and Supervision, with a cognate in Curriculum and Instruction from Wayne State University.