FAQ: Stephens College Conservatory for the Performing Arts
What is a conservatory?
A conservatory is a school centered on the fine arts, with an intensive focus on skills, professional training and immersive experience in the creative and performing arts.
Will students in the Conservatory earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree?
Yes. All students enrolled in the Conservatory (both women and men) will complete 120 college credits — including courses in their major, courses required by our general education requirements, and elective courses — and will be awarded a B.F.A.
Is the Conservatory a non-credit certificate program?
No. The Conservatory is not a certificate program. It will offer the same courses and curriculum currently offered in each major (Acting, Musical Theatre, Costume Design, and Technical Theatre + Stage Management), taught by the same faculty, for the same number of credits.
How will general education and elective courses work for Conservatory students?
The Conservatory faculty, like the faculty in the Women’s College, will develop and adopt a general education curriculum that will offer a breadth of learning opportunities to expand students’ knowledge base and gain intellectual and practical skills. All students, whether in the Women’s College or the Conservatory, will continue to have access to a rich array of electives and major courses.
Will students in the Conservatory be able to participate in extracurricular activities?
Yes. Students in the Conservatory will enjoy the same array of extracurricular activities available to all Stephens students, including participation in and recognition from The Ten Ideals. The only exception is competitive athletics: No Conservatory student will have the opportunity to participate in competitive athletics, while students in the Women’s College will continue to enjoy that opportunity. Our analysis shows that very few students in the Performing Arts programs participate in athletics; their competition and performance schedules too often conflict.
What happens to students in the future who need athletics scholarships in order to attend Stephens?
Consistent with Title IX requirements, the College will provide all students with equivalent access to financial aid, whether they are in a program with or without competitive athletics.
Will students in the Conservatory have access to Student Services?
Yes. Conservatory students will have access to the same services available to all Stephens students, including the Hugh Stephens Library, Student Success Center and Counseling Center.
When will the Conservatory launch?
In Fall 2022. There will be no changes to the College’s admissions policies or organizational structure for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Does this mean Stephens College is going co-ed?
No. Stephens College is simply returning to its former structure as a single college with two distinct organizational units: The Women’s College, which enrolls 80 percent of all Stephens students, will continue to admit only women, and the Conservatory for the Performing Arts (which will include BFA programs in Musical Theatre, Acting, Costume Design, and Technical Theatre + Stage Management), will admit students of any gender.
Why would Stephens College return to that structure and tradition?
Stephens College remains deeply committed to the power and impact of women’s education. At the same time, it recognizes that having only women in its Performing Arts programs is limiting — to them as artists and creators, to the range of scripts the program can choose to perform and produce, and to our graduates’ professional preparation. While 80 percent of the College’s academic programs will continue to offer the uniquely empowering and supportive learning experience of a Women’s College, the Conservatory will provide an immersive pre-professional program that includes students of any gender in its classrooms and on its stages.
Does that mean there will be men in all of the College’s undergraduate classes?
No. There will be no male-identifying students in the Women’s College’s classes.
Can a student transfer from the Women’s College to the Conservatory? Or from the Conservatory to the Women’s College?
Students interested in transferring would need to withdraw from their currently enrolled program and apply for admission to the other unit (the process will be streamlined and easy, and all credits will of course transfer). Students wishing to transfer into either academic unit/program will need to meet its unique admissions requirements. All students are required to audition for acceptance into the Conservatory program. Men are not allowed to apply to or enroll in the Women’s College.
Will there be men living in the campus residence halls?
Yes. The College will develop a plan that provides all undergraduate students the same range of housing choices. Housing assignments within each building will be segregated by sex/gender for all students.
Will Stephens offer men’s athletics?
No. No Conservatory student will have the option of participating in competitive athletics; all students in the Women’s College will continue to have the opportunity to do so.
What about the transition? Will current students who are athletes be able to continue as performing arts majors? Will Gen Ed credits transfer to the Conservatory? What if a student in the Performing Arts doesn’t want to attend classes with men?
When academic programs are revised, students always have the option of choosing to remain in the academic program/curriculum that was in place when they enrolled at Stephens College. Consistent with that commitment, the College will provide all current students the choice to remain in the Women’s College to complete their degrees and to continue to have the opportunity to compete as athletes.
Stephens remains one Stephens College. Students in the Performing Arts who will become part of the Conservatory will retain all of their earned credits; they may have new courses in their degrees and in Gen Ed to choose from going forward, but all of their coursework will remain fully credited.
How will the Theatre program bring men to its stages in the coming year, before the Conservatory launches?
The College is establishing a post-baccalaureate Fellowship program in which eight to ten recent grads from universities and colleges around the country will audition for various roles in our 2021-2022 Okoboji and Macklanburg seasons and will spend a full Fellowship year at Stephens, first at Okoboji and then in Columbia. The Fellows will live in one of our residence halls, just as our guest actors have lived on campus in the past.
Is this a final plan? Has the decision been made?
The Board of Trustees of Stephens College has voted unanimously in support of this new organizational structure. The Administration held three open meetings with the faculty: those whose programs will become part of the Conservatory, those whose programs will remain in the Women’s College, and an open meeting of the full faculty. They have expressed overwhelming support and enthusiasm. The Administration met in three open forums to discuss the plan with students, who have also expressed overwhelming support and enthusiasm. The College in early February sent an email and a version of this FAQ to all alumnae for whom it has current email addresses; to all current students, and to their parents/guardians. This expanded version of the FAQ responds to some confusion and misunderstanding about the Conservatory shared on social media.
The proposal must be reviewed by the Higher Learning Commission, our accrediting agency; it’s our hope that its Board will consider the proposal in June 2021. Again, the College would not launch the Conservatory until Fall 2022.
Updated Aug. 10, 2021