Storyteller, Performer and Professor Ada Cheng Named 2023-24 Lund Gill Chair
Ada Cheng is an excavator of stories.
As a facilitator of storytelling workshops, Cheng creates spaces to help ordinary people — often from marginalized groups — dig deep and tell their truths.
It’s an art she will bring to the classroom at Dominican University this fall.
Cheng, an adjunct professor who has taught courses in sociology and criminology at Dominican since 2019, has been named the 2023-24 Lund Gill chair within Rosary College of Arts and Sciences. In this role, Cheng will teach an honors course in scriptwriting. In the course, she will encourage students to use scriptwriting to express how concerns of the modern world manifest themselves in various aspects of their lives.
“I know our students are very observant and have thoughts and insights about the world,” Cheng said. “This class is a way to speak a different ‘language,’ to express what’s already in their heads.”
She is also interested in helping to create on-campus events and talks, she said.
In 2016, Cheng, a sociology researcher and professor, left a tenured teaching position at a Chicago university to pursue performance art. She leads workshops that help people tap into their inner stories, with a focus on amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ and people of color whose stories and perspectives are not often told.
She also appears in storytelling shows and solo performances; speaks to colleges, universities and organizations on topics of social justice, sexual assault, violence, and gender, among other issues; and has written articles, plays, and a memoir of her transition from professor to performer.
Cheng says she uses storytelling to highlight societal inequities, raise awareness of issues, and bring about healing.
“Regardless of what other people think, regardless of external validation, all of us should get to the point where we believe we deserve to be heard, we deserve to stand on a soap box and tell our stories,” she said.
“Ada always uses her work to highlight broader issues and has become a mentor for young people seeking to develop their voices and understand the forces that have shaped their lives,” said Michelle VanNatta, professor of criminology, who supported Cheng’s nomination for Lund-Gill chair.
Since 2006, the Lund-Gill chair has been selected annually to teach a course that addresses themes and issues that are at the heart of liberal arts and sciences. The position is named for former Dominican University President Sr. Candida Lund, OP, and former English professor Sr. Cyrille Gill, OP.
Previous Lund-Gill chairs have included actress and playwright Sandra Delgado (2022-23), poet and writer Ana Castillo (2014-15), and Nobel prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman (2006-07).