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FromStephens masthead

June 2017 

A Legacy of Excellence

Celebrating 60 years of professional theatre at Okoboji Summer Theatre

OST 2017 Company

The 2017 Okoboji Summer Theatre Company


Okoboji Summer TheatreFor six decades, Stephens theatre students have made the trek to Okoboji Summer Theatre (OST) in Spirit Lake, Iowa, where they eat, sleep and breathe theatre.

The professional theatre, which kicked off its 60th anniversary season with “The World Goes ’Round” last week, is a fixture of the Stephens theatre program, which is ranked No. 6 in the nation by The Princeton Review. 

For 10 weeks, students in their second and final summer of the B.F.A. program work alongside professional guest actors, directors, choreographers and designers—under the supervision of theatre arts faculty and staff—to produce nine mainstage productions and four children’s theatre productions at ’Boji.

“OST has ensured its survival for 60 years with the outstanding quality of the performances, the diversity of its offerings and a dedicated audience that loves the theatre,” said Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, OST artistic director and dean of the Stephens School of Performing Arts.

This summer’s season titled “An Enduring Gem,” will feature such shows as the farce “The Nerd,” Ernest Thompson’s “On Golden Pond,” and the musicals “Footloose” and “South Pacific.”

For the season schedule, tickets and more, click here


Academic Innovation

Stephens M.Ed. in Counseling Program seeks CACREP accreditation, adds new Addictions Counseling track

counseling student

For those interested in a career as a counselor, there’s no better time to take advantage of the M.Ed. in Counseling Program at Stephens College.

Stephens is preparing to apply for accreditation with the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)—a designation that will open more jobs to Stephens graduates and streamline the licensure process, making professional mobility easier from state to state.

“Stephens already has a very strong counselor education program, and gaining CACREP accreditation will only make it better,” said Dr. Gina Sanders, M.Ed. in Counseling director and psychologist. “CACREP requires an ongoing assessment and continuous improvement process so there is a great deal of accountability to constantly adjust our program delivery to improve student-learning outcomes and satisfaction.”

The accreditation will also make room for a new track in Addictions Counseling, a field the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to grow by more than 22 percent over the next decade. The names of the program’s existing three tracks will also be revised:

  • School Counseling will continue to be called School Counseling.
  • Marriage and Family Therapy will be called Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling.
  • Licensed Professional Counselor will be called Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

“Addictions, either substance abuse and/or behavioral additions—like gambling and  internet addiction—are at an all-time high in our nation, and often co-exist with other mental health disorders,” Sanders said. “Up until now our counseling program has not had a place in the curriculum for a really strong focus in this area. 

“Since we are already making changes to our existing curriculum, we felt it would be a good time to evaluate if we could provide training in the area of addictions for those who would like to specialize in this area.” 

In addition, CACREP requires a full-time faculty to full-time student ratio of 1:12, which means Stephens will be hiring several new full-time faculty members. Dr. Kristen Langellier will join the counseling faculty this fall with two more full-time faculty members expected to join the program by Fall 2019, Sanders said. 

Ultimately, getting CACREP accreditation is about quality.

CACREP is the organization that accredits counselor education programs across the country. Programs accredited by CACREP are considered the gold standard in counselor training.

Many large employers such as the Veterans Health Administration and Tricare, the VA’s outpatient health insurance organization, require counselors to be graduates from CACREP-accredited institutions. Beginning in 2022, the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential will only be available to those who have graduated from a CACREP program.

Since CACREP accreditation will require some adjustments to the curriculum, Stephens is implementing those changes effective Fall 2017. All the CACREP tracks will require 60 credits, and most students are expected to graduate from the program in two to three years.

Applying for accreditation can take up to 24 months or longer in some cases. During this application period, Stephens will continue to offer its existing curriculum (for student enrolled before Fall 2017) as well as the new, CACREP-aligned curriculum for students who enroll Fall 2017 or later. CACREP states that students who graduate within 18 months of an institution being granted CACREP accreditation and have completed the required CACREP-aligned curriculum are considered graduates of a CACREP-accredited program.


A Vibrant Campus

CoMo Girls Rock! provides place to build self-esteem, find voice

CoMo Girls Rock! 

CoMo Girls Rock! campers design logos for their bands’ T-shirts.


This isn’t your typical summer camp—and that’s exactly what participants loved about CoMo Girls Rock!, which took place on the Stephens College campus earlier this month.

Here is where 24 campers built self-esteem and found their voices through unique programming that combined music education and performance, empowerment and social justice workshops, positive role models, and collaboration and leadership skill building.

Throughout the week, campers, who were grades 7-12, learned an instrument, started a band and wrote an original song.

Now in its fifth year, the camp culminated in a live rock show, featuring performances of the campers’ original songs, at The Blue Note in downtown Columbia.

Luci Cook, one of the camp’s organizers, said 40 volunteers who ran the camp provided mentorship and facilitated a space where campers could be themselves.

“Every day there was a theme such as ‘Rockin’ Together,’ and the day’s activities and workshops supported that theme,” Cook said.

Each day campers attended instrument instruction, band practice and two workshops, among other surprise activities like dance parties, open mic and karaoke. Among the camp workshops were discussions about sexism in advertising, self-love and songwriting. 

Campers had the opportunity to learn guitar, drums, bass or keyboard, or to focus on vocals. After forming a band with up to five fellow campers, they then named the band and designed a logo, which was stamped onto a camp T-shirt and worn during the live performance.

High schoolers Alexis Harper and Lauren Stokes, both of Columbia, were members of a band they dubbed Deep Sea Veins. Harper learned drums while Stokes worked to master guitar. While designing a logo for their band, the teenagers took a risk with their band T-shirts by slicing off the sleeves and adding a V-neck. Stokes even cut fringe into the bottom of her shirt. 

“I love all the opportunities to be creative and learn new things about the world,” Stokes said about the camp.

Cook said CoMo Girls Rock! is part of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance, which supports dozens of similar camps with the same mission around the world. The alliance values diversity of age, race, economic status, gender expression, size, physical ability, developmental ability, musical interests, learning styles, nationality, religion, thought, citizenship status and sexual orientation.


Student Success

Vocal Performance student explores business side of music in Las Vegas

Dana Degnan and Wayne Newton

Dana Degnan ’17 with Wayne Newton in Las Vegas.


Perhaps it’s fate that Dana Degnan ’17 is interning with Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas this summer, learning the ropes of arts administration from the best in the business while rubbing elbows with the likes of Wayne Newton and Donny and Marie Osmond. 

After all, as the daughter of an accomplished jazz musician, she grew up being lulled by the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, the first lady of song, and Frank Sinatra. 

Vegas is the perfect place for Degnan, a vocal performance major at Stephens College, to explore her professional ambitions.

“I have never done anything like this in my life,” she said. “But I have really enjoyed the experience because it has reaffirmed that this is what I want to do. I hope that in the coming years, I can have a successful career in entertainment.”

That’s the whole idea behind the second-summer apprenticeships tailored specifically for each student majoring in vocal performance in the Stephens vocal arts-music program. Students in the three-year, two-summer degree program spend at least 300 hours, during the summer after their second year, expanding their musical horizons through traineeships unique to their professional interests. 

vocal arts studentsBesides Degnan, three other vocal performance majors are participating in summer apprenticeships. Rachel Cornell ’18 (pictured top) is exploring the business of jazz at the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series in Columbia while Emma Wicks ’18 (pictured middle) is learning how to be a freelance singer, songwriter and performer in the Okoboji (Iowa) area. Finally, Lauren Harmon ’18 (pictured bottom), who’s interested in classical music and musicology, is attending an Alexander Technique workshop in North Carolina and taking part in Summer Singers at Mizzou and La Traviata by Verde with the Missouri Symphony Society.

The students are among the first cohort in the vocal arts-music program. Last summer, the students explored their craft in a Summer Music Institute in which they engaged in hands-on performances with guest artists, including country singer Candy Coburn and Show Me Opera’s Christine Seitz, and faculty who are practicing professional musicians.

Rusty Elder, program coordinator and instructor, and Tom Andes, an instructor, wanted to enhance their students’ musical repertoires during their second summer by providing them with apprenticeships unique to their interests and talents.

“What is wonderful about our music program is we can actually know every one of our students,” Andes said.

Degnan, who is from Villa Park, Ill., decided to pursue a career in the music industry after she won a spot on “The American Idol Experience” at Walt Disney World while on a family trip. Though she still enjoys singing and performing, Degnan would prefer a career on the business side of the music industry.

“I’ve learned during my apprenticeship at Caesars that working in the entertainment business is just as exhausting and rewarding as working in the performing arts,” she said. “Both sides work extremely hard; it’s just a different kind of work.” 

At Caesars Entertainment, Degnan has been paired with the vice president of entertainment operations and has worked on creating new and exciting shows on the Las Vegas strip, where Caesars owns nine properties. She also works on projects, fills out paperwork and often comes in at night to assist or shadow employees working on shows.

“I think most of my family and friends expected I would be meeting and working with famous people every day,” she said. “That’s only a small part of the work. What I’m really learning is how to make sure that celebrities’ or performers’ showrooms are perfect for them and how to get more people in to see them.” 

Before interning in Vegas, Degnan had planned to work in Chicago after graduation. Now, she’s eyeing a career in Las Vegas.

Cornell, who is from Columbia, has been impressed with the jazz musicians she’s researching for the upcoming “We Always Swing” Jazz Series. Among her duties are writing biographies about the artists for the jazz series’ brochure, and what she’s discovering is inspiring her to consider singing professionally.

“Reading how they made it makes the business seem possible,” Cornell said. “A lot of these jazz musicians have a few things in common: They put themselves out there, they practiced, networked and actually played to build up a following.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned, “ she added, “is procrastinating will get me nothing.”

Wicks, who grew up in Spencer, Iowa, where she began teaching herself piano chords at the age of 8, isn’t sure being a professional performer is her true calling. 

“Music is not the only thing that I wake up every day wanting to work on,” she said. “I am an artist in so many different aspects: drawing, writing, video production and editing, photography, editing, music production, fashion and really just about anything creative.”

Still, this summer’s experience as a solo musician has opened her eyes to the possibility and what it would take to build a music career. She’s learning to haul her own equipment, collaborate with other musicians, promote herself online and with business cards, record her own music and write set lists.

She even had a chance to perform at a show along with Nashville star Shawn Mayer.

“It was kind of crazy, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re a live performer,” said Wicks, who added most of her performances have been on a much smaller scale.

“Still, I’ve learned through playing these small gigs that nothing is truly a small experience,” she said. “In fact, all these experiences added together have made me much better in such a short amount of time.” 


Outstanding Faculty

Hedge ensures STI students receive ‘training of a lifetime’

Lamby HedgeNow in her fifth year as artistic director of the Summer Theatre Institute (STI), Lamby Hedge has transformed the program into a fast-paced, six-week experience that immerses students in the types of physical theatre that contemporary actors are expected to know to be competitive in the business. 

By the end of the summer, the soon-to-be-second-year students have received state-of-the-art training from top-notch guest artists in the areas of commedia dell’arte (classic clowning), stage combat, devised theatre (collaborative creation), advanced improvisation and musical theatre performance. 

And if that wasn’t enough, each training session culminates in a fully staged show. 

“It’s a one-of-a-kind program,” said Hedge, an associate professor of theatre at Stephens. “We have compressed an entire semester into six intense weeks. The students learn so much and grow so quickly that by the time they are done with STI, they are ready to come back for year two in the fall, more focused and ready to face intermediate work.”

When she took over as artistic director of STI, Hedge examined the theatre curriculum, looking for ways the summer program could better serve the students. Since Stephens didn’t have an active component to its curriculum, she decided to focus on providing students with the types of rigorous physical training they would be expected to know as professional actors. 

In addition to the physical theatre training, classes are also taught in technical theatre and theatre design, costuming, public relations and theatre management.

“Students spend 35 to 40 hours with each guest, which is a dream scenario if you are an artist,” Hedge said.

The newly acquired skills are quickly put into practice during the five stage productions that feature a rotating roster of students, who serve as actors, singers, dancers, stage managers, designers, technicians, crew members, front-of-house staff and more.

“On every project, the students are working with a practitioner in the field, a professional who practices what he or she preaches,” Hedge said. “The students are getting a training of a lifetime.”

She also said each student ends the summer with an invaluable list of professional contacts.

Beyond Stephens magazine cover

Watch for our
new magazine

In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of OST, we’ve spotlighted Okoboji Summer Theatre (OST) on the cover of our Spring/Summer 2017 Beyond Stephens alumnae magazine. Watch your mail for the special issue, featuring our “60 Years of Magic” story, as well as the latest campus news, updates from fellow alumnae and more. Or read it now here.

In addition, we’ve collected reflections and memories from OST theatre alumnae and alumni, as well as past and present faculty and staff. Read here.

students in library

Give to Stephens today

Please consider making a gift to Stephens by June 30, 2017, the end of our fiscal year. Donate here or contact the Office of Institutional Advancement and Initiatives at (573) 876-7110 or [email protected].

Alumnae Leaders Weekend

Join us this fall

Save the date for the Stephens Alumnae Leaders Weekend, which will be held from Oct. 6-8. The weekend will be filled with expert speakers, interactive workshops, discussions and professional networking. For more information, please contact Kalei Holder, Annual Fund and Alumnae Engagement, at [email protected].

Suite Dreams logo

Consider a gift
to Suite Dreams

Stephens has launched a Suite Dreams campaign that allows you to adopt a residence hall room for $3,000 and support the purchase of new furniture for a current student. Learn more here or contact the Office of Institutional Advancement and Initiatives at (573) 876-7110 or [email protected].


In last month’s From Stephens issue, the position held by Kerry Brocher ’82, winner of the Jean Clinton Roeschlaub ’44 Alumnae Service Award, was incorrect. She works as a part-time brand ambassador for Randa Accessories, a division of Market Connect Group based in Bloomfield, N.J. In addition, the accompanying photo misidentified the woman with Brocker. Diane Hunter Robertson ’86 was pictured. We apologize for the errors.

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