Engagement Pixel Starkle Dream Up. Stephens College


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Stephens College welcomes new students to campus


Brianna Duncan and her parents drove 200 miles in the pouring rain last night to arrive in time for her first day at Stephens College this morning.

She had already tamped down one case of nervous hives on the long ride and was hoping her excitement about moving in would override her nerves.

“I’m so happy to be here!” Duncan said.

The Cape Girardeau, Mo., native is the first among her family’s four children to attend college. Her parents couldn’t be more proud or more certain that Stephens is the right fit for their daughter.

“We come from a very rural area, and we didn’t want her jumping into a major university where she might feel overwhelmed,” Amanda Duncan said. “Stephens is just the right size and has everything she needs.”

Roblee StaffDuncan, a pre-med major, is one of about 200 new students moving into their residence halls today. They will enjoy four days of orientation before classes begin next week. Faculty, staff and student volunteers were on hand to help unload cars and carry belongings to dorm rooms.

Amanda Debevec and her parents traveled 850 miles from their home in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Stephens was one of the few schools that offered a major in event and convention management. But the icing on the cake was the beauty of the campus and the people she met when she came to visit.

“I fell in love with Stephens,” she said.

It was Madelaine Manyx’s mom who first discovered Stephens online and thought a women’s college would be the perfect fit for her daughter. Once Manyx, a psychology major from St. Louis, toured the campus and learned more about the college, she was convinced her mom was right.

“I’m pretty excited to be here,” she said.

In Pillsbury Hall, Brittany Adams of Charleston, Mo., sat on her bed, clutching her Chihuahua/terrier mix named Lucky close to her chest. Her mom and grandma busied themselves, unloading boxes and putting away clothes.

“I’m pretty nervous about fitting in,” Adams said. “But I’m rooming with my best friends, and I have Lucky who will help me make friends.”

Adams said it was Stephens’ pet program that first attracted her to the college. Then, when she learned she could major in pre-vet, the decision to attend was easy.

Her mom, Traci Jaynes, is still getting used to the idea of her first child leaving home.

“I’m a bundle of nerves,” she said. “I’m feeling all kinds of emotions.”

Natalie Irlmeier of O’Fallon, Mo., was auditioning at the International Thespian Conference in St. Louis, when Rob Doyen, a theatre professor at Stephens, saw her and recommended the college.

Her parents are thrilled with their daughter’s choice. She’ll be majoring in musical theatre. Plus, Natalie’s older twin sisters will be starting their senior year at the University of Missouri and can keep an eye on her. 

“We’re so excited to have her here,” Sharon Irlmeier said. “This is a great fit for Natalie.”

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Stephens alumna Amy Bond ’92 to compete on Lifetime’s ‘Project Runway’


Amy Bond ’92 is one of 16 fashion designers who will compete on the 16th season of “Project Runway,” the popular, Emmy-Award winning reality television contest.

The season premieres at 7 p.m. CST, on Aug. 17, 2017, on Lifetime.

Bond, 46, isn’t the first Stephens alumna to appear on the show. Qristyl Frazier ’91 competed in season six in 2009 and made it through episode four of the competition. 

In an interview posted on the “Project Runway” website, Bond, who lives in Los Angeles, said she received an email inviting her to audition for the show. Although she has many years of experience, Bond said winning the competition requires more than sheer talent.

“We all have talent,” she said. “We wouldn’t have made it to the cast if we didn’t. Therefore, I don’t think it is a matter of discovering who “has it” and who doesn’t, but rather who can keep on task and on point. As an educator and seasoned professional, I have a thorough set of relevant skills and experiences to draw from and the maturity to implement them.”

After graduating form Stephens with a B.F.A. in Fashion Design, Bond worked as an assistant designer at St. Pucchi in L.A., before starting her own contemporary women’s clothing line in 1999. Eventually, she completed her M.F.A. in Fashion Design through the Academy of Art University’s online fashion program.

Bond has been a featured designer at many shows around Los Angeles and her previous residence of Las Vegas. She also showed at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York in 2012. She has taught for several schools, including The Art Institute of Las Vegas, Otis College of Art and Design in L.A. and Kadenze Inc., which brings together educators, artists and engineers from leading universities across the globe to provide online education in the fields of art and creative technology.

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Stephens’ theatre program ranked #6 in the nation for second consecutive year

The Stephens College theatre program has been ranked #6 in the nation for the second consecutive year, according to The Princeton Review

The ranking is part of the new “The Best 382 Colleges: 2018 Edition,” which names Stephens one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduates and places it among the “top 20” in several categories, including Quality of Life.

2018 princeton review“We’re proud to be included in this national list of the ‘best of the best’ of the nation’s colleges and universities,” said Dr. Dianne Lynch, president of Stephens College. “In particular, these rankings reflect Stephens College’s core mission: exceptional academic programs; the best overall college experience for every student—from residential life to access to the administration; positive relationships with our broader community; and a commitment to inclusion and diversity.”  

Stephens was the only local college to make any of the “top 20” lists.

For the first time, Stephens ranked #7 in Town-Gown Relations are Great, #16 for Lots of Race/Class Interaction and #17 in Best Quality of Life.

Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Performing Arts, said the Stephens theatre program consistently has been recognized in the Top 20 nationwide.

“Stephens has a rich history in the performing arts, and we value the significance of truly robust arts training,” she said. “The ranking indicates the standards of excellence embodied by our students, faculty and staff in performing arts. With more than 60 performance opportunities each year, more than 20 guest artists across all disciplines, and a thoughtful experiential curriculum, we develop students who are well prepared to make a contribution to the arts and the world upon graduation.”

Here’s how The Princeton Review work: It doesn’t rank the colleges from 1 to 382 in any category. Instead, it uses students’ ratings of their schools to compile 62 ranking lists of top 20 colleges in the book in various categories. The lists in this edition are entirely based on The Princeton Review’s survey of 137,000 students (358 per campus on average) attending the colleges. The 80-question survey asks students to rate their schools on several topics and report on their campus experiences at them. Topics range from their assessments of their professors as teachers to opinions about their school’s career services.

‘Your school’s inclusion in the book is solely due to our high opinion of your college’s outstanding academic programs,” said Robert Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review and author of the guide. “Your school’s appearance on any of the book’s ranking lists is solely due to what students we surveyed at your school reported to us about their opinions of and experiences at your school.”

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Seven Stephens College teams earn NAIA Scholar-Teams Distinction


Republished from the Stephens College Athletics website 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Stephens College Department of Athletics had seven of their eight varsity teams earn the distinction for Scholar-Teams for the 2016-17 academic year, as released by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Office on July 18.

"We are extremely proud of the Star athletics programs that were named NAIA Scholar-Teams," stated Athletic Director Adam Samson. "Our student-athletes had a phenomenal year academically and this recognition reinforces that. Day in, day out, these young women navigate through numerous life challenges all while displaying an excellence and dedication to both their studies and their sport."

The competitive dance team, after competing in the NAIA Nationals for the second consecutive year, finished with the highest cheer and dance GPA out of 34 eligible teams with a 3.53 GPA.

Softball placed fifth in their sport out of 124 eligible teams, finishing the year with a 3.61 GPA. Women's basketball tied for fifth place out of 49 with a 3.49 GPA.

Sporting a department high 3.67 GPA, the cross country team tied for 12thplace out of 130 teams.

Tennis finished in a three-way tie for 13th with their 3.58 GPA. Volleyball held a 3.44 GPA and fell 51ston the list out of 141 teams. Golf completed the year with a 3.13 GPA.

As a department, the Stars held a 3.38 GPA for the 2016-17 academic year. Individually, the Stars had 21 NAIA Scholar-Athletes in the academic year.

For a team to be considered for the NAIA Scholar-Team award, it must have a minimum 3.0 grade-point average (on a 4.0 scale) as defined by the institution. The team grade-point average includes all eligible varsity student-athletes through the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters. 

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Leadership Academy provides middle schoolers glimpse of college life


When 13-year-old Ferrah Reid arrived on the Stephens College campus last week, it was the farthest from home she had ever been without her parents and the first time she had flown in a plane.  

But the soon-to-be eighth grader from New York City was determined to leave her comfort zone behind and experience the possibilities of college life.

“I really wanted to do this because I knew it would benefit me and help me grow as a person,” Reid said. “Plus, it will look really good on a high school resume.”

Reid was among 10 middle-school girls from Girls Prep in the Lower East Side and the Bronx who spent a week at Stephens participating in the Public Prep Leadership Academy, now in its sixth year. Participants attended classes, visited the Equestrian Center, slept in a college dorm, and braved a ropes course at the University of Missouri, all while developing leadership skills and getting a glimpse at higher education.

team celebration girls prep

The students also traveled to St. Louis to visit the zoo and tour Busch Stadium with Stephens alumna Lindsey Weber ’08. They played Overwatch in Stephens’ new gaming room, ate S’mores around a bonfire and attended dinner with Stephens President Dianne Lynch.

“The idea is to put the girls in a new environment that might challenge them in new ways and help them discover who they are,” said Ali Kullman, director of high school admissions and college completion at Girls Prep.

To be selected for the Leadership Academy, students entered a competitive application process that involved putting together a resume and cover letter and writing an essay about what they hoped to learn from the experience. The Girls Prep students were expected to demonstrate how they would live out their core values of scholarship, merit, sisterhood and responsibility—values that closely align with Stephens’ Ten Ideals around which this summer’s academy was developed.

Reid said the experience has made her more empathetic toward others.

“I’ve also grown more responsible,” she said.

Sabrina Colon, 13, said the experience has revealed she is far more open to adventure than she ever imagined.

“I don’t usually leave the house much when I’m at home,” she said. “But I came all the way here, and I’m making friends and trying new things.”

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Students present medical cases during Grand Rounds

Physician assistants are trained to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses and provide treatment.

They must also know how to effectively work as a member of a healthcare team and to communicate patient cases to their attending physician.

Grand Rounds is a teaching tool used in the Stephens College Master of Physician Assistant Studies program that gives PA students an opportunity to practice those communication skills and work as part of a team while presenting medical cases to faculty members.

Melissa Lewis, a Stephens PA program staff member, said the importance of honing such skills is sometimes overlooked in PA education, but not at Stephens.

“The faculty for our PA program knew early on that they wanted additional emphasis on these important communications skills and therefore, we hold more Grand Rounds than most schools,” she said, adding that Stephens PA students generally participate in eight to 10 Grand Rounds a semester.

“In its essence,” Lewis said, “Grand Rounds represent a long tradition of teaching.”

The topic for each Grand Rounds is based on the medical cases presented to students during their Case Based Medicine Seminar. The instructor plays the role of a patient with an undiagnosed medical condition. Students then work as teams to take the patient’s medical history, to examine and treat the patient, order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays and ultimately, to make a diagnoses and treatment plan.

“The student then picks one of these cases to present during Grand Rounds,” Lewis said.

On this day, a team of six students presents a case involving a 62-year-old woman with progressive tremors. During the presentation, faculty members and other students sit in the audience and listen to the case. Later, they ask questions about the presentation.

Eric Johnson, director of the PA Studies program, said although Grand Rounds are part of the PA program, they are open to the entire Stephens community and the general public, and anyone in attendance is encouraged to ask the students questions.

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Camp Citizen Jane empowers young girls to tell their story


Libby Cleavinger couldn’t wait for Camp Citizen Jane.

The 15-year-old from Columbia had finally worked the girls-only film camp into her schedule this summer, and the experience was living up to everything she imagined it to be: fun, challenging and the perfect place to make new friends. 

“I think it’s amazing,” she said. “The environment is so encouraging and creative. You can bond over your love of filmmaking and over everything we’ve learned about the empowerment of women.

At the beginning of the week, I didn’t know anyone here. But now I consider everyone my friend.”

film student and campersCleavinger is one of 18 middle and high school girls who have converged on the Stephens College campus this week to spend five days learning how to tell their stories through film. Cleavinger’s older sister graduated in May from Stephens and had long encouraged her younger sibling to attend the film camp. 

“I’m excited to finally be here,” Cleavinger said.

Camp Citizen Jane, now in its eighth year, is designed to connect young women with the world of film. During their experience, campers have total access to Stephens’ film equipment, students and faculty.

“There is a little bit of media literacy work, lots of discussions about women in media and hands-on work to create a short film,” said Barbie Banks, director of the Citizen Jane Film Festival and the summer camp. 

During the week, campers explore the industry basics of filmmaking, which comprises screenwriting, directing, cinematography, lighting, sound and editing. They also discuss how girls and women are portrayed in life and media.

Eventually, the campers split into “production companies,” in which they learn the roles of director, cinematographer, sound mixing, lighting and in some cases, acting.

Once in their respective production companies, the campers create a narrative film as well as a PSA that will be shown at the Citizen Jane Film Festival, which runs Oct. 26-29. The PSAs will remind viewers to turn off their cell phones and to refrain from talking during the festival films.

“For their short films, each production team of campers is randomly assigned a genre, a line of dialogue, and a prop to make the creative process a little more interesting,” Banks said.

Cleavinger’s team scored a stuffed reindeer head as its prop. And like any creative production team, the campers cleverly wrote the prop into their script, making the stuffed reindeer head a treasured family heirloom that is stolen but then rescued by a brave heroine. Of course, there’s a ransom note and plenty of theatrics.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Fin Crowder, 15, of Columbia, who’s at camp for a second summer.

This is also the second summer Molly Murphy ’18, a digital filmmaking major at Stephens, has volunteered at the camp. This year, she is working with the youngest production team, a spirited group of 10-year-olds.

“It’s very rewarding,” Murphy said. “They’re really enthusiastic and all so creative.”

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Stephens College names vice president for finance and administration

Stephens College has named Timothy Klocko to the position of vice president for finance and administration. He replaces John Shipley, who had served as interim VPFA since October. 

Klocko, who began work on July 10, is back in familiar territory after having served at Stephens from 2001-09 as controller, and then vice president for finance and administration. He also served as interim president in June 2003.

“Tim brings to Stephens an outstanding background in higher education finance, business process redesign, investment, financial aid, strategic planning, human resources, facilities, dining services, auxiliary operations and risk management—plus, he knows and loves Stephens College,” said Stephens President Dianne Lynch. “Our colleagues who worked with Tim remember him as a great manager—of both people and processes—a team player, a creative problem solver who never loses his cool, and a man of his word.”

Klocko says he is happy to back on campus and looks forward to his new role as VPFA.

“Not only does it allow me to return to an institution that I love, but it also allows me to return to my roots geographically,” he said. “I’ve been inspired to return to Stephens because I admire the direction that Stephens is moving. Dianne Lynch has been focusing on moving Stephens in a strategic direction that will not only benefit the school in the near future but will also continue to carry Stephens into the future.”

Klocko previously served as vice president for finance and treasurer at Sweet Briar College. Prior to that, he worked for almost seven years at Thomas University in Thomasville, Ga., where he served as vice president for finance and administration, and later as senior vice president. Before his first stint at Stephens, Klocko worked for the Columbia Public School District and Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa, where he was controller as well as a professor of business administration. He also was an instructor at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Tarkio College in Tarkio, Missouri.

Klocko said that his experiences since leaving Stephens in 2009 have allowed him to see the inner workings of two other institutions and to better understand the complexities of higher education.

He holds an M.B.A. with an accounting emphasis and a B.S. in Accounting and Finance, both from Northwest Missouri State University. 

Klocko is joined by his wife of 36 years, Beverly. They have one child, Douglas, who just graduated from Brookwood School in Thomasville, Ga., and will be attending Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, in the fall.

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Equestrian overnight camp gives young riders immersive saddle seat experience

Gwyneth Hamrah got hooked on horses when she was 5.

A friend had invited Hamrah, now 16, to join her at a horse camp. The Columbia teenager has been riding ever since, often traveling across the country to participate in American Saddlebred competitions.

“I just really like working with the animals,” she said.

equestrian camper in barnHamrah is just the kind of young, experienced saddle seat rider Stephens College had in mind when it designed its Equestrian Overnight Experience: Saddleseat camp, now in its third year. Hamrah was among seven teenage girls from across the country who spent seven days last week immersed in riding, field trips and exploration of equestrian industry careers.

The campers, most of who knew each other from the horse show circuit, stayed in Tower Hall.

“All of the campers are serious show riders who are invested in the sport,” said Kelly Hulse, camp director and assistant professor of equestrian studies at Stephens. 

Many of the campers said they knew Hulse from the horse show circuit, which made working with her at camp even more fulfilling. They also enjoyed the opportunity to ride a wide variety of horses during the weeklong camp. 

“Kelly knows what we need to work on, and she also knows all the horses in the barn and can pair us with the horse best suited to helping us develop the skills we need,” said Kali Lachner, 16, from Omaha, Neb.

Lachner and Hamrah were among four riders who’ve participated in the overnight camp every year it’s been offered. Several are considering coming to Stephens once they graduate from high school.

“I love this camp because we get the chance to ride so many different horses,” Hamrah said. 

Camille Talkington, 15, from the greater Kansas City area, said she enjoys visiting professional horse farms and learning about the industry. 

“If you want to make this a career and make connections, camps like this help,” Talkington said.

Campers visited Fairview Farm in New Bloomfield as well as High Spirits Farm in Ashland, which is owned and operated by Stephens alumnae Anna Marie Knipp.

“The girls get to see a big horse operation up close,” Hulse said. “They can talk with the trainers and watch them work.”

Campers also participate in various barn activities, which included learning how to set up a tack room, a makeshift enclosure of boards, curtains and zip ties used to store saddles, bridles and other equipment during shows. Tack rooms are generally set up by the trainers, but Hulse wanted the campers to know the work that goes on behind the scenes that riders sometimes take for granted. 

With a pile of long narrow boards, curtains, zip ties and staple guns, the campers split into tow teams and went to work. Hulse and three camp counselors sat down to watch as the campers scrambled to put the pieces together.

“This is hard!” one camper shouted.

As Hulse smiled, she said: “We want them to know the work that goes into this.”

Besides riding, training and exploring the horse industry, campers also enjoyed the camaraderie of hanging out with other teenagers who understand their sport and share their desire to ride.

“I’ll tell people at school that I ride and they’ll be like, ‘oh, I’ve ridden a horse before on a dude ranch,’” Lachner said. “I try to be nice about it, but they don’t seem to understand that this is our sport.”

The campers agreed that a passion for horses and competing in the ring is tough to explain to the uninitiated.

“It’s one of those sports that once you’re in it, you can’t get out,” said Emma Wood, 17, of Oklahoma City.

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Stephens alumna Shelby McCoy ’15 has dream job with Budweiser Clydesdales


Since the time she was a young girl, Shelby McCoy ’15 saw the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales as the celebrities of the horse world.

Today, she works as a handler for one of the traveling teams that takes care of the iconic gentle giants. Of her seven-member team stationed in Merrimack, N.H., McCoy is notably the only woman.

She credits Stephens with helping her dream up to land the position.

“I have never once been intimidated by the job,” says McCoy, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in equestrian studies from Stephens College. “I had three years of support at Stephens College, where I was surrounded by people who told me over and over, ‘You can do it!’ All of those people helped me get to where I wanted to be.”

Shelby and SonnyIn her role, she drives one of the team’s three 50-foot tractor-trailers used to haul its 10 horses, the famous red, white and gold beer wagon and other essential equipment. On show days, which can last up to 12 hours long, she helps prepare the horses, wagon and Barley the Dalmatian. She also cleans the trucks, sorts equipment and ensures the Clydesdales are back in their stalls, brushed, fed and watered.

Sara Linde Patel ’02, equestrian studies program coordinator and a hunter/jumper instructor at Stephens, isn’t surprised by McCoy’s success.

“Shelby took advantage of every opportunity the equestrian program offers all its students,” says Patel, adding McCoy had no qualms about joining the stable crew and working long hours. “She cleaned stalls, fed and watered the horses and worked during breaks.”

So when McCoy later asked Patel for a letter of recommendation, she was more than happy to help her former student become a handler for a team of Budweiser Clydesdales.

“It was so easy to write about her passion, work ethic and love of horses,” Patel says. “It was easy to say why Shelby would be phenomenal for the job.”

The letter certainly helped, but so did McCoy’s dogged determination.

Before securing her post with the Clydesdales, McCoy started her career with Anheuser-Busch straight out of college at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis, the former Busch family estate and home to more than 100 species of animals.

In the beginning, McCoy worked in merchandizing but was soon outdoors mowing grass, all the while asking about jobs with the horses. Four months later, a full-time position opened with the Clydesdales.

McCoy applied.

The job was a dream come true for the horse lover, whose family settled in Marshall, Mo., when she was 13.

“I remember thinking, ‘Man, nothing would be cooler than working with the Clydesdales,’” she says.

McCoy was 7 when she received her first horse, Pepper, a 30-year-old pony who lived on a farm in Kentucky where she was taking riding lessons. Though he appeared tall to young McCoy, Pepper was short for a pony. He had a dark reddish-brown coat peppered with white and a coal-black mane and tail. 

Because her father was in the military, McCoy’s family moved often. But riding horses gave her an instant connection, no matter where she lived.

“I really loved doing it and had a passion for it from the beginning,” she says.

By age 10, McCoy was traveling to horse shows around the country to compete in Western-style riding events. She had a new Quarter Horse named Sonny, who she earned one summer in exchange for training, cleaning stalls and taking care of horses at a stable.

Years later, Sonny, a brown horse with white legs and a big personality, would come with McCoy to Stephens, where together they trained, and he lived in the campus stables. She still owns Sonny, who is spending his golden years at a private stable in Columbia.

As for her team of Clydesdales, McCoy loves them all, but she has a soft spot for a 7-year-old lead horse named Ivan. Like Sonny, he’s a born star. 

“When we’re out showing, he likes to look at the crowds and shake his head,” McCoy says. “He’ll show his teeth, and people think he is smiling. Ivan has a sense of pride when we put on his harness.

He holds his head high, snorts and says, ‘I’m here to do my job!’”

Jeff Knapper, general manager of Clydesdale operations for Anheuser-Busch, says besides McCoy’s team in New Hampshire, two other hitch teams are based in Fort Collins, Colo., and St. Louis. Each team is made up of seven employees.

“Because the Clydesdales are an enduring symbol of Budweiser’s heritage, tradition and commitment to quality, we look for enthusiastic and passionate people who love horses and are also committed to providing quality care,” Knapper says. 

Each team member completes extensive training before joining one of the Clydesdales teams. They make hundreds of appearances each year and draw crowds wherever they go.

With her team, McCoy has traveled to such places as Game 7 of the 2016 World Series in Cleveland, where fans lined the streets for a chance to see the Clydesdales.

The team also appeared in New York City recently to reenact the delivery of beer to local bars, marking the anniversary of the 1933 repeal of Prohibition.

“The more people who are there, the more excited the horses get,” McCoy says. “They really like the attention; it’s a lot of fun.”

What McCoy likes best about working with horses is the unspoken bond that develops once she has earned their trust.

“I love being able to communicate without ever saying a word,” she says. “Horses aren’t like dogs and cats; they are mysterious and have a sense of wildness about them. You have to earn their respect and trust before having a great connection with them. What has always drawn me to horses is that quiet connection.”

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Vocal Performance student explores business side of music 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 performance 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.

Program Coordinator Rusty Elder, Associate Professor Pam Ellsworth-Smith 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.”

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Stephens School of Design rises in national Fashion-Schools rankings


The Stephens College School of Design has risen three places in the ranks to become the #12 Private Fashion Design School or College in the nation, according to Fashion-Schools.org, which released its fifth annual list.

Stephen’s fashion design program also rose nine places to be named #22 nationally and up two places to be recognized as #6 in the Midwest by the national website.

“The newly released rankings show the fashion program at Stephens College continues to increase its global footprint as a fashion school of choice to learn from the best and brightest faculty and practicing professionals,” said Dr. Monica McMurry, dean of the School of Design. “Fashion-Schools looks at curriculum, faculty, staff, facilities, outreach and industry contacts or partnerships and job success rate. Being in the top 20 percent is an honor as each of the schools were to rank who they considered to be the best of the best.”

Among the reasons for the high rankings were study trips to international fashion capitals and opportunities to intern at places such as Escada, Cosmopolitan, Baby Phat and WWD as well as participation in The Collections juried fashion show. 

“I believe the Stephens College fashion program shines because of our involvement or rankings with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund and The Business of Fashion, London,” McMurry said. “Students gain an international perspective of the quickly changing fashion landscape by being part of these organizations and having a diverse faculty with members who are doing international research/projects.

McMurry added that students are also given the opportunity to work one-on-one with industry professionals and faculty who have all worked in the fashion industry.

“Our new Jeannene Booher Fashion Lecture series is providing students and the community a chance to hear from major players, such as Dame Zandra Rhodes, in the world of fashion,” she said.   

Stephens was also recognized by Fashion-Schools for student access to the Historic Costume Museum and Research Library with its 13,000-piece collection.

“The collaboration of fashion programing within the School of Design’s other programs in strategic communication and event and convention management make for a truly real-world, team, collegial experience additionally realized through new initiatives in design thinking embedded in our students’ course of study,” McMurry said. “Our increased rankings, in each of the measured areas, is due to our outstanding faculty who stay abreast of best practices and the global context to train the next generation of fashion leaders.” 

The Stephens College School of Design and its fashion program have also been recognized by The Business of Fashion, London, and Fashionista.com. The College is considered a Top 381 College by The Princeton Review. 

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Musical revue to wrap-up six-week summer theatre intensive

Students in the Summer Theatre Institute (STI) are preparing for their grand finale, “Crazy for Broadway: A Musical Revue,” a three-musicals-in-one production that is the pinnacle of their fast-paced, high-intensity six-week experience. 

The show promises to be a crowd-pleaser.

“What makes this show special is that it is less story-driven and more about treating the audience to spectacular singing and dancing,” said Trent Rash, assistant professor of music at Stephens College and director and music director for the show. “For the students, it gives them the opportunity to hone their skills as dancers and singers in a company ensemble.”

Crazy for Broadway posterThe show includes mini versions of “Crazy for You,” a romantic comedy musical by George Gershwin; “Little Women,” a 21st century musical based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel; and “Hairspray,” an American musical with music by Marc Shaiman.

The soon-to-be-second-year students have had two weeks to learn the music, dances and additional staging for each song. But at this point in the summer program, the students are accustomed to the rigorous pace and have plunged head-first into the final production.

“I knew it would be a lot of hard work, and I was right,” said Lili Marean, 19, an acting major with a musical theatre emphasis from Louisville, Ky. “But it’s been a good kind of hard work.” 

STI brings top-notch guest artists to campus to provide students with state-of-the-art theatrical education that culminates in five fully staged shows. Choreographer David Ollington is the guest artist for the Broadway finale.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind program,” said Lamby Hedge, artistic director of STI and 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.”

This summer, guest artists have provided students with professional instruction in acting, physical theatre, devising, stage combat, musical theatre performance techniques, commedia dell’arte, voice, theatre-dance and fitness. Classes also were held 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.

Hope Peña, 18, an acting major from Orlando, Fla., was concerned learning stage combat might overwhelm her, but the experience turned out to be her favorite intensive of the summer.

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “The artist we had was amazing, and the techniques he taught blew my mind.”

Peña said she has broadened her skill set this summer and learned to be more open to the possibilities of new experiences.

“I’m physically and mentally stronger,” she said.

For Hannah Sutton, 19, an acting major from Gardner, Kan., STI pushed the limits of her acting abilities and helped her build confidence as a singer and dancer.

“I’m traditionally an actor, not a singer or dancer, but at STI, everyone sings and dances,” she said. “STI helped me to develop those areas and to realize that I will need those skills to be competitive in the business.”

Sutton also enjoyed learning more about the business side of the theatre industry and arts advocacy.

Rash said it’s gratifying to see students benefit from the summer program. 

“They have all, in their own unique ways, grown tremendously in their skills and confidence as performers of musical theatre,” he said.

STI is part of what makes earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts at Stephens possible in three years and two summers. The summer after their second year, theatre students attend Okoboji Summer Theatre, a professional summer stock theatre in Spirit Lake, Iowa that is celebrating 60 years this summer. The Stephens theatre program is ranked No. 6 in the country by The Princeton Review.


Crazy for Broadway (Family friendly)

Monday, June 19, 2017

7:30 p.m.

Macklanburg Playhouse, 100 Willis Ave.

Free and open to the public.

Arrive early. Seats fill quickly. 

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CoMo Girls Rock! camp teaches empowerment through creative expression, social awareness


This isn’t your typical summer camp—and that’s exactly what participants love about CoMo Girls Rock!, which is taking place this week on the Stephens College campus.

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

rock show posterThroughout the week, campers, who are grades 7-12, learn an instrument, start a band and write an original song.

Now in its fifth year, the camp culminates on Saturday, June 10, 2017, with a live rock show at 2 p.m. at The Blue Note in downtown Columbia, featuring performances of the campers’ original songs. The show is open to the public, and admission is $10.

Luci Cook, one of the camp’s organizers, said 40 volunteers who run the camp provide mentorship and facilitate a space where campers can be themselves.

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

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

Campers have 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 name the band and design a logo, which is stamped onto a camp T-shirt and worn during the live performance.

High schoolers Alexis Harper and Lauren Stokes, both of Columbia, are members of a band they dubbed Deep Sea Veins. Harper is learning drums while Stokes is working 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.

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Stephens students create classic shoe logo for summer camps


When Stephens College decided to move toward a more middle- and high-school aged market for its summer camp programs, it turned to a marketing group close to home for help reaching its new audience.

Creative Ink, Stephens’ student-run marketing firm, was asked to create promotional materials for the 2017 summer camps. Working in teams of two—an account executive and a creative executive—the students pitched multiple ideas, each well planned and researched.

StephanieStephanie LeBlanc ’19 (pictured right) and Brie Marie Orsak ’18, a Creative Ink account executive, teamed up for the project with LeBlanc designing the cool kicks, which have a distinctly Andy Warhol pop art feel.

“It was an extremely difficult decision, and there were many great options,” said Rebecca Kline, director of marketing and communications at Stephens. “In the end, we liked the way the concept designed by Stephanie, in partnership with Brie Marie, conveyed the Stephens commitment to respecting and embracing every student as an individual. In other words, color your shoes anyway you’d like because you are uniquely you.”  

LeBlanc said she chose to draw Converse sneakers because they are popular with the target audience. The design was used in print, and on digital ads and T-shirts. 

“I also felt they fit nicely in with the active and fashionable atmosphere of the camps,” LeBlanc said, adding sneakers are a common fashion statement among middle- and high-school girls, and one that can show their individuality.

“Summer camp is about being able to express our passions,” she said, “so I designed it in a way that conveys that idea.”

Kline was impressed with the professionalism of the Creative Ink students as well as their ability to produce results in a short period of time. 

“I’ve had a lot of ad agencies and creative services firms pitch to me over the years—and I’ve done quite a few pitches of my own,” she said. “Every single Creative Ink team involved in this project demonstrated a strong understanding of the project, my needs as a client, and the market we were trying to reach. Every team was professional and prepared. I continue to be impressed with their work time and time again.”

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Stephens M.Ed. in Counseling Program seeks ‘gold standard’ CACREP accreditation, adds new Addictions Counseling track

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.

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Stephens theatre students work with top-notch guest artists in Summer Theatre Institute


Theatre students at Stephens College don’t go home to rest after their first year in school, quite the opposite.

They enroll in the Summer Theatre Institute (STI), a six-week, high-intensity, fast-paced experience that brings top-notch guest artists to campus to provide students with state-of-the-art theatrical education that culminates in five fully staged shows.

Commedia Tonight“It’s a one-of-a-kind program,” said Lamby Hedges, artistic director of STI and 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.”

This summer, guest artists are providing students with professional instruction in acting, physical theatre, devising, stage combat, musical theatre performance techniques, commedia dell’arte, voice, theatre-dance and fitness. There are also classes 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,” Hedges 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,” Hedges said. “The students are getting a training of a lifetime.”

This summer’s special guest artists include:

  • Betsy Elston, a veteran of Chicago’s famous improvisational theatre ImprovOlympics (now IO Chicago) and The Second City
  • Jessica Burr and Matt Opatrny from Blessed Unrest, the internationally acclaimed, New York City-based devised theatre company
  • Tony Fuemmeler, master commedia and mask artist from Portland, Ore.
  • Andrew Dylan Ray, a professional stage combat and fight choreographer from Shreveport, La., with credits from universities and professional regional theaters across the country

The guest artists are also joined by Stephens assistant professor Trent Rash, a musical theatre specialist, and guest choreographer David Ollington.

STI is part of what makes earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts at Stephens possible in three years and two summers. The summer after their second year, theatre students attend Okoboji Summer Theatre, a professional summer stock theatre in Spirit Lake, Iowa that is celebrating 60 years this summer. The Stephens theatre program is ranked No. 6 in the country by The Princeton Review.


2017 Summer Theatre Institute Season

  • "Rock ’em, Sock ’em” - May 26, A stage combat slug festival (PG 13)
  • "The Blessed Unrest Project” - June 2, Electrifying, company-driven devised theatre (PG 13)
  • "Improv, Chicago Style!” - June 9, Hilarious, long-form improvisation (PG 13)
  • "Crazy for Broadway” - June 19, A sparkling Broadway musical revue (Family friendly)

Each performance is a one-night-only, special event and is offered free of charge to the Stephens College campus and Greater Columbia community. All productions begin at 7:30 p.m. and are held in the Warehouse Theatre, 104 Willis Ave., with the exception of “Crazy for Broadway,” which is in the Macklanburg Playhouse, 100 Willis Ave.

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High School senior receives full, four-year scholarship to study education at Stephens College


Nautica Varnum wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after high school until she interned last summer in a first-grade classroom at Rock Bridge Elementary School.

The experience introduced Varnum to her passion: teaching.

Yesterday, Varnum, a Rock Bridge High School senior, signed a letter of intent to study education this fall at Stephens College, where she received a full, four-year scholarship through a new Columbia Public Schools program meant to increase the number of minority teachers in the district.

The purpose of the Grow Our Own Teacher Development Program is to develop a pipeline of locally educated teachers. Varnum’s letter of intent also includes a commitment to work at least four years for the Columbia Public Schools, where she is promised a job upon graduation.

Varnum, who wants to teach first or second grade, can’t wait to get started at Stephens, where she is looking forward to working with students in the Children’s School.

“I really like that I will get classroom experience right away,” she said. “And I really like that Stephens is an all-girls school.”

Varnum is no stranger to Stephens, where she took horseback riding lessons as a girl. She hopes to join the dance team once school begins.

“It’s all kind of overwhelming,” she said. “But I appreciate the opportunity and am grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way.”

Varnum was among three Columbia high school students who signed letters of intent on May 17, 2017, during a ceremony at Hickman High School. The other two students will be attending Columbia College through the Grow Our Own program.

Each of the students participated in the Grow Our Own’s Educational Exploration (EdX) Intern Program, which pays high school students interested in becoming a teacher $10 an hour to work in a classroom during summer school.

Dr. Dianne Lynch, president of Stephens College, said she believes in providing students with opportunities and making sure they have the support they need to succeed.

“We want to inspire, encourage, support and challenge,” she said. “We all know how important it is for young people to see and be surrounded by individuals from their life experience, but particularly in the education environment where it is important to have people who look and are just like them and who are not.”

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Battle High School students sign letters of intent to attend Stephens this fall


Olivia Smith couldn’t wait to sign her letter of commitment to attend Stephens College.

In front of a packed gymnasium on May 10, 2017, at Muriel Battle High School in Columbia, Smith and 267other graduating seniors signed their letter of intent—whether to attend college, join the military or receive on-the-job training—as a sign of their pledge to continue growing after high school.  

Classmates Nashae Prince and Elizabeth Huett-Linzie, who also signed on the dotted line during the all-school celebration, will join Smith at Stephens in the fall.

Little did the trio know that the daughter of their high school’s namesake and guest speaker at the event is a Stephens alumna. However, Muriel “Jeanne” Battle Browder wasn’t shy about pointing out the future Stephens women and asking them to stand for a round of applause.

“They are the most exceptional students here because they are going to my alma mater,” Browder said.

Once at Stephens, Smith plans to study psychology while Prince will pursue a degree in health sciences and Huett-Linzie a degree in fashion design and product development.

Smith said she picked Stephens because of its small class sizes and reputation for one-on-one attention from professors.

“I am really excited to get started,” she said.

Smith’s mom, Karen Breithaupt, couldn’t be more proud of her daughter and her choice for higher education.

“I think Stephens is going to be the perfect fit for her,” she said.



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Citizen Jane Film Festival, Ragtag Cinema partner for woman-directed monthly film series


The Citizen Jane Film Festival at Stephens College is teaming up with Ragtag Cinema to bring one woman-directed film a month to the nonprofit independent movie theater in downtown Columbia.

The new collaboration—called Citizen Jane Suggests—begins Friday, May 12, 20017, with the showing of the World War II-set romantic drama “Their Finest,” directed by Lone Scherfig. The evening begins with socializing at 5:30 p.m. followed by a screening of the film at Ragtag, located at 10 Hitt St.

Barbie Banks, director of Citizen Jane Film Festival, said the films will be selected by Ragtag programmers with approval from Citizen Jane organizers. In addition, each film will be reviewed and written about in COMO Living magazine.

Banks hopes the new collaboration will bring more attention to films directed by women and prompt more support for the Citizen Jane Film Festival.

“I will introduce this first film and share any CJ news with the audience,” Banks said.

For the second consecutive year, the Citizen Jane Film Festival has been named one of the 50 film festivals worth the entry fee by MovieMaker Magazine. Banks said she’s already seen an increase in submissions for the festival this year since MovieMaker released its list in mid-April.

The 2017 Citizen Jane Festival takes place Oct 26-29. Learn more on the Citizen Jane Film Festival website

The Citizen Jane Film Festival was started in 2008 by several Stephens College professors to give students in the Digital Filmmaking program experience running a festival. Student volunteers continue to do the bulk of the work. That first year, the festival attracted such films as Academy Award-nominee “Trouble the Water” and hosted musical talent such as punk songstress Exene Cervenka. A year later, attendance grew by more than 50 percent, solidifying the community’s support of the festival.

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Stephens College graduates inaugural M.F.A. in TV and Screenwriting class


Stephens College believes in the power of women’s voices.

That’s why Stephens launched its Master of Fine Arts in Television and Screenwriting in 2015. It is the first M.F.A. program in the country specifically designed to amplify the voices and impact of women in television and film.   

On May 5, 2017, the program's first cohort of students graduated during an emotional ceremony in Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall on the Stephens campus. Seventeen women and three men accepted their diplomas, knowing they could potentially change the country’s entertainment narrative and become part of something bigger than themselves.  

“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Sarah Whorton ’08 B.S., ’17 M.F.A., the student commencement speaker and member of the inaugural class. “You think you’re going to school, but you end up transforming yourself. I think that was something none of us anticipated, that we would come out different people.” 

The M.F.A. is a low-residency program that brings students together twice a year for an intensive 10-day workshop at the Jim Henson Studios in Los Angeles. While there, students learn about the business of Hollywood and have access to prominent show-runners, writers from the film world, development executives, agents and managers.

MFA classThe rest of the year students are paired with professional working writers, each of whom are members of the Writer’s Guild of America and work with the students to develop their vision, voice and career as a screenwriter. Over the course of two years, students are paired with a new mentor for each new project, which includes one screenplay a semester, a spec script (also known as a speculative screenplay), an original hour-long television project and a final thesis project of their choice.

Ken LaZebnik, a longtime screenwriter from Los Angles whose father taught creative writing at Stephens, directs the program. LaZebnik, whose credits include writing for “Prairie Home Companion” and the television series “Touched by an Angel,” has fond memories of wandering the Stephens campus when he was a boy. 

So when he decided to start a low-residency M.F.A. program with a mission of getting more women writing for television and film, LaZebnik knew Stephens was the perfect home. Though the program accepts men, the emphasis is on increasing the number of women writers in Hollywood.

“Media delivers stories that tell America what our lives are like and forms how we view the world,” he said. “When half the population doesn’t get a chance to have their voices heard, it diminishes our culture.”

According to the Celluloid Ceiling Report, women comprised 17 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films in 2016.  

LaZebnik said the writing community in L.A. has been very supportive of the program, which is evident in the impressive list of guest speakers. Among those who have visited the program are Nell Scovell, creator of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and co-executive producer of “The Muppet Show”; Alexa Junge, Emmy Award-winning writer of “Friends,” “The West Wing” and “Grace and Frankie”; and Winnie Holzman, award-winning creator of “My So-Called Life” and author of the book for the Broadway musical “Wicked.”

Whorton, who is a senior media producer for Mizzou Online at the University of Missouri, said having the opportunity to interact with working writers in the industry was invaluable.

“Every time we had guest speakers, we would see their incredible resume, and I would expect them to tell us some secret to their success,” she said. “But there was no secret. Everyone said the secret was you have to work really hard.”

She also learned that no matter how long a writer has been in the business, she still struggles from time to time. 

“For me, it was encouraging to see someone who has achieved so much and still struggles and to hear how she works through those moments,” Whorton said. “That solidified for me that I was doing the right thing and that just because I was struggling with a script didn’t mean I wasn’t a good writer.”

Toni Anita Hull ’04 B.F.A., ’17 M.F.A., who graduated from Stephens’ theatre program, said participating in the program built her confidence in ways she never imagined.

“I feel more myself than I have in a long time,” she said.

Hull, who lives in L.A. and works for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, hopes to one day write for a television comedy series. In the meantime, she plans to revive her stand-up comedy routine and continue writing. 

“I plan to keep networking and reaching out to the contacts I have made through the program,” she said.

An administrative assistant in the Stephens College School of Performing Arts, Chelsea Andes ’17 had spent the better part of her 20s starting and stopping a novel. When a friend asked her to collaborate on a screenplay, a new form of writing opened up to her. 

So when Andes heard Stephens would be offering an M.F.A. in TV and Screenwriting, she jumped at the chance to participate. Her favorite project was a screenplay she wrote about four witches living in an oppressive boarding school in the 1950s. The witches are being groomed to be Stepford wives, but they aren’t interested in that lifestyle and challenge the status quo.

“I found that I wasn’t interested in telling anything with romance in it,” she said. “I was very interested in highlighting female friendships and the importance of those and how they can be the most important relationship in your life.”

Andes’ short-term goal is to become a writer’s assistant on a television show with the hopes of eventually securing a staff writer position. Her plan is to be in L.A. by the time she turns 30 in January 2018.

“My goal is, hell or high water, job or no, I am heading West young woman,” she said.

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Stephens honored at 33rd Annual Partners in Education Celebration

The Columbia Public Schools’ Partners in Education Program recognized Stephens College on May 5, 2017, for its 30-year partnership with Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School.

Stephens was honored during the 33rd Annual Partners in Education Celebration at the Holiday Inn Expo Center. Stephens was among nearly 30 local businesses and organizations recognized for their five-, 10-, 15-, 20- and 30-years of partnership with the school district.

Dr. Sean Livengood-Clouse, an associate professor of education, accepted the award on behalf of Stephens.

The Columbia Public School District’s Partners in Education Program provides a vehicle through which the schools and the business community can come together to share resources and strengthen public school programs, improve student achievement and enhance the community’s economic development. 

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May graduate reflects on her time, growth at Stephens

When Miranda Carlisle ’17 first arrived at Stephens College, she was homesick and painfully shy.

“I wouldn’t talk to anyone,” she recalled.

Carlisle has come a long way.

On Saturday, May 6, 2017, she will take the stage as the class speaker for the undergraduate commencement ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m. at Missouri Theatre. Tomorrow, graduate and online students will receive their degrees at a 6 p.m. ceremony in the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall.

Believe it or not, this once reluctant young woman from O’Fallon, Mo., is looking forward to addressing her classmates.

“I think two years ago, I would have freaked out,” Carlisle confessed. “But being at Stephens and growing as a person here has helped me so much. I used to be terrified of public speaking. Now, I can’t wait.”

Carlisle, who is graduating a year early with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Art History, is the senior recipient of the 2017 Alumnae Association Board Scholarship, which comes with a $250 award and the honor of speaking at graduation. Applying for the scholarship two years ago would have been out of the question for Carlisle. 

“I might have looked at the application and seen that I would have to speak at graduation and not filled it out,” she said.

Carlisle originally came to Stephens to pitch for the softball team. She credits her teammates with being the first to help her feel comfortable on campus and make friends.

“I don’t know where I’d be without softball,” Carlisle said. “I not only made friends with other players on the team, but those girls introduced me to other people across campus, and that’s what really got me connected with the school.”

Ed Wilkerson, head coach for the Stephens Stars softball team, said Carlisle—whose nickname on the team is “Mac”—is always the first player to volunteer to help a teammate.

“Mac is also very conscientious,” he said. “She always wants to make sure that the end product is the best that it can be.”

Carlisle said faculty and students in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies were also instrumental in encouraging her to try new things and meet new people. She joined the Stephens chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, which became another source of companionship with classmates.

By her senior year, Carlisle was a member of 16 student organizations, including the biological honor society, Stephens Organized for Service (S.O.S.) and the equestrian Prince of Wales Club.  

“I might not advise getting involved in that many organizations, but I would definitely recommend getting out of your comfort zone,” she said. “That has helped me understand different aspects of this college and to make connections with people outside my area of study.” 

Carlisle said being at a small college made forging close relationships with her professors much easier because they seemed more accessible.

“The connection I have with my professors is a huge part of why I am where I am today,” she said. “Being able to have that one-on-one connection with them has influenced everything I’ve done here.”

Dr. Tina Parke-Sutherland, a professor of English/Creative Writing at Stephens, said she relied on Carlisle, her advisee, many times to help make programs in her department run smoothly, and Carlisle never let her down.

“Miranda is a selfless leader,” Parke-Sutherland said. “She works for organizations because she believes in them, not because her many accomplishments will look good on her CV. She has a clear vision of her future and has the drive and energy and imagination to make it all happen.”

In the fall, Carlisle will begin the Master of Arts in English degree program at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Her dream is to be a college professor in ancient and medieval studies. She is also applying for a graduate assistant coaching job at Liberty with the hopes of one day becoming a college softball coach.

Carlisle’s experience at Stephens has been one of overcoming her fears and meeting challenges head on. She realized how far she had come in February, when the softball team traveled to Arkansas for its first tournament of the season. The tournament had been rough, and on Sunday the Stars faced Ecclesia College.

“We were exhausted and wanted the weekend to end, but knew we could rally and beat this team,” Carlisle said.

Stephens won the first game, but the second game was tough. Carlisle was pitching when Ecclesia’s baseball team showed up to cheer on their softball team. Everything was fine until Stephens tied the game and the cheers began to turn ugly. 

That’s when Carlisle and her teammate pulled together, closer than ever.

“We fought for each other and ended up winning the second game by one run,” she said.

That’s how Carlisle will remember Stephens College—a place where people come together to help each other and make a difference. 

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Citizen Jane Film Festival named among MovieMaker Magazine's 50 film festivals worth the entry fee


For the second consecutive year, the Citizen Jane Film Festival at Stephens College has been named one of the 50 film festivals worth the entry fee by MovieMaker Magazine

Barbie Banks, director of the annual celebration of female filmmakers, said she’s already seen an increase in submissions for the festival this year since MovieMaker released its list in mid-April. 

“This is really exciting for Citizen Jane,” said Banks, adding that last year, 80 percent of CJ’s 90 films were gained through submissions. “To filmmakers, it is clear that our submissions process is not a revenue source but a way to discover new voices.” 

The 2017 Citizen Jane Film Festival takes place Oct. 26-29. Visit the Citizen Jane Film Festival website.

“I have found that running Citizen is a delicate balance between making the festival about the patrons and about the filmmakers,” Banks said. “I would hope we could also be recognized as a film festival worth the pass fee!” 

According to MovieMaker, Citizen Jane ranks high among film festivals that celebrate independent moviemakers because many of its films come from submissions rather than special invitation.

“This non-competitive, women filmmaker-oriented festival accepts a relatively high percentage of submissions but doesn’t compromise on quality,” noted Kelly Leow in an article for MovieMaker. “The Citizen Jane Summit, an afternoon of communal brainstorming and discussion, gets straight to the heart of the gender parity fight. Visitors then brush up on moviemaking skills at the festival’s day-long film school, and afterwards benefit from the festival’s new exchange program, which waives submission fees to CJFF’s partner festivals.”

Banks said Citizen Jane exists to change the game for women in the film industry.

“If we are going to take their often limited financial dollars we have to make it worth it,” she said.

Here’s what Banks said sets Citizen Jane apart from other film festivals:

  • Each film submitted is watched.
  • Feedback is given to each filmmaker, regardless of her acceptance into the film festival.
  • CJ provides airfare, lodging, transportation and a filmmaker swag bag to the accepted filmmakers.
  • CJ offers networking opportunities through Q&As after each film, panel discussion, parties, a filmmaker lounge and filmmaker-only events.
  • CJ has a festival exchange program that allows filmmakers to submit to other festivals for free. 

The Citizen Jane Film Festival was started in 2008 by several Stephens College professors to give students in the Digital Filmmaking program experience running a festival. Student volunteers continue to do the bulk of the work. That first year, the festival attracted such films as Academy Award-nominee “Trouble the Water” and hosted musical talent such as punk songstress Exene Cervenka. A year later, attendance grew by more than 50 percent, solidifying the community’s support of the festival.

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Stephens classmates reunite for 60th class reunion


The last time Sandra McFadden Rowden ’57 visited her alma mater was 1972.

An awful lot has changed at Stephens College since then. But one thing has remained the same: the comradery she feels with her classmates.

Rowden is among five members of the Class of 1957 who came home to Stephens this weekend to celebrate the legacy, leadership, friendships and traditions that make the college a place like no other.

About 90 alumnae have returned to attend the annual Celebrate Stephens alumnae reunion, which is April 27-29, 2017. This year’s event gives special recognition to classes ending in 2 and 7.

Rowden, who lives in Texas, and her classmates were thrilled to reconnect.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” she said. “But I keep getting lost” on campus.

While they are in town, alumnae are invited to drop in on a class, tour the campus, visit the residence halls or browse the college’s archives, among other activities. Other events during the weekend include a welcome party for the senior class and annual Crossing the Bridge ceremony; brunch and President Dianne Lynch’s State of the College Address; the Alumnae Cabaret and Bistro, where the Alumnae Achievement and Service Award recipients are recognized; and Vespers.

Classmates Sue Wilkowske Kaestner ’57 and Barbara Kerr Staub ’57 made the long drive north together from their homes in Texas. In the mid-1950s, Stephens was a two-year college. Kaestner had come to the college for the horseback riding while Staub enrolled to take advantage of the fashion program. 

Both women married fraternity brothers from the University of Missouri shortly after their graduation from the Stephens. Both met their future husbands on blind dates, and 60 years later, the couples are still married. 

Kaestner is impressed with how much the campus has grown.  

“I am very happy with the improvements that have been made to the health sciences program,” she said.

As the women gathered in the Kimball Ballroom to have their class picture taken, Gretchen Bush Kimball ’57 took in the beauty of the cavernous room, admiring the hardwood floors, tall windows and original chandeliers. Kimball and her late husband, William R. Kimball, helped finance the restoration of the ballroom, which was built in 1938. When the ballroom reopened in 2006, it was renamed in honor of the Kimballs’ generosity. 

“It’s always nice to come back,” she said. 

View our Celebrate Stephens photo album.

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Stephens advanced digital photography students to display work


These days anyone with a cellphone can fancy herself a photographer.

Just point, shoot and capture a moment, right?

Chase Thompson, assistant professor of filmmaking at Stephens College, is challenging his advanced digital photography students to take their picture-taking to a higher level.  

“What makes these photographs more important than a picture on your phone,?” he asked his students.

Their answers are reflected in the 10 Women – Photography Exhibit that goes on display Friday, April 28, 2017, at Broadway Brewery, 816 E. Broadway. The show is a collection of 10 selected works that features mixed media, portraiture, abstract and other unique forms. The students will be on hand from 4 to 7 p.m. to talk about their artwork. The work will also be on sale.

Thompson encourages his students to dig deep for what it is they are trying to say with their photography.

“A lot of people go to Pinterest for inspiration,” he said. “I try to discourage the students from doing that and instead ask them to look into their own well of inspiration.”

Kelsey Cyganik ’17 spent weeks in the basement of Tower Hall digging through Stephens College archives for old photographs of the campus. Once she located some images she liked—most of them from 1938—she took her own photographs of the campus and melded them with the old.

The result is a collection of photographs that simultaneously put the viewer in the past and present. Their effects are mesmerizing.

“It’s a perfect marriage of old and new,” Cyganik said. 

In her collection called “Private Meets Public,” Rose Bennett ’19 superimposed images of landscapes onto photographs of a nude woman, creating artwork that is both beautiful and haunting.

“They’ve all headed in radically different directions,” Thompson said. “We’re really excited for the show.”

Other students participating in the show and the title of their photographs: Arin Cross ’18, “Night of an Insomniac”;  Emerson Van Roekel ’20, “Topiary”; Jayla Williams ’18, “Sexy Psychedelic”; Kristi Shumate ’17, “Almost Gone”; Makayla Penny ’20, “Mixed Media Photography”; Mariah Brisco ’19, “Dream Photography”; Rachael Mallinson ’19, “Skeleton”; and Shae Walker ’20, “Black Water.”

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Spring musical allows audience to determine the ending


Paul Bogaev is a multi award-winning music director, arranger, conductor and composer.

He’s worked with an impressive list of performers, including Beyonce, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Phil Collins and Harry Connick, Jr., to name a few.

This semester, Bogaev has been a guest artist at Stephens College, where he’s taught a master voice class similar to the training sessions he holds with famous singers.

Edwin Drood posterBogaev says whether he’s working with students or stars, his message is the same: Express, don’t impress.

“The singer has to be telling a story,” he said. “A singer can only go so far on a pretty voice. That’s why people don’t make it on American Idol and The Voice. They can’t advance because they don’t know how to tell a story with their voice.”

Bogaev is ending his stint at Stephens as the musical director for “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” a musical loosely based on Charles Dickens’ famous unfinished novel that opens Friday, April 28, 2017. Every performance has the potential to end differently because the audience votes for whomever they think murdered the unfortunate young Edwin Drood. 

“It’s a top quality show and has been really fun to work on,” he said.

Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Performing Arts, said the Stephens Bachelor of Fine Arts training involves an apprentice model that is enhanced with exceptional guest artists like Bogaev.

“As an extraordinary conductor and vocal coach with vast Broadway credits, he has expertise that greatly expands the students’ learning and professional acumen,” she said.

Bogaev received his first Grammy Award for Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida,” for which he produced and conducted the Tony Award-winning score. He was also music director on Broadway for “Tarzan,” “Bombay Dreams” (for which he received a Tony Award nomination for best orchestrations), “Sunset Boulevard, “Aspects of Love,” “Chess,” “Les Miserables,” “Starlight Express, “Cats” and “The Musical of Andrew Lloyd Webber” with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman.

Bogaev earned a second Grammy as executive producer of the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning film musical “Chicago.” His other film musicals include “Nine,” “Across the University,” “Dreamgirls,” and the animated “Lion King,” “Tarzan,” “Mulan” and “Emperor’s New Groove.”

He also served as music director of the ABC-TV film musicals Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” “South Pacific” and “Annie,” for which he earned an Emmy Award.

As a symphony conductor, Bogaev conducted the music for Francis Ford Coppola’s presentation of the silent film epic “Napoleon” with major orchestras around the world. He also worked with the New York Philharmonic and prepared a series of concerts that he conducted in 2011.


The Mystery of Edwin Drood [Musical, PG-13 for adult themes]

Performances are 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 28-29, 2017, May 4-5 and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 30, in the Macklanburg Playhouse, 100 Willis Ave. Contact the Box Office at (573) 876-7199 or [email protected] for tickets. 

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Fashion design seniors to debut collaborative efforts at The Collections fashion show


Sonja Tabb ’17 and Maggie Reasbeck ’17 were already putting in long hours preparing their own collections for the 73rd Annual Student Designer Fashion Show: The Collections. The notion of collaborating on a line of clothing together seemed outrageous, at first.

Tabb, 21, was designing a collection of intimates and loungewear; Reasbeck, 22, was creating a series of tailored clothing. The senior fashion design students were inseparable in the workroom, always brainstorming and offering feedback.

design boardBefore long, their idea to create a collection together took shape.

Tabb and Reasbeck’s six-piece collaboration, “The Lost Diadem,” emphasizes the young designers’ love for draping and will be featured in the runway show, which takes place at 2, 4:30 and 7 p.m. on April 29, 2017, in Windsor Auditorium, 1405 E. Broadway, on the Stephens College campus. Get tickets online now.

The Collections highlights the best work of fashion design and production development students and this year includes seven senior collections. Not only do students design the collections, but they also produce the show and market the event to the public. 

“Fashion design is visual storytelling for the body,” said Dr. Monica McMurry, dean of the School of Design. “Whether someone is wearing sport casual or an elegant evening ensemble, the look and feel of the person’s dress evokes a conversation or storyline. The Collections fashion show provides a review of what young fashion designers, communicators and marketers see for the future.  

“Student designers create new works that are juried by fashion industry professionals, with only the best-of-the-best making their debut down the catwalk. Fashion marketing and communication students ramp up the looks and create a showcase for public review.”

The Stephens College fashion design program is ranked No. 14 in the world by The Business of Fashion and is among 20 across the nation to be recognized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

“Truly, The Collections fashion show is an exploration into creativity that is unparalleled in the region,” McMurry said.

Tabb and Reasbeck said their collaboration, which has a distinctly Grecian feel, was inspired by Star Wars costumes, Greek sculptures and desert landscapes. The muted-color garments are constructed of natural fibers, such as linen, bamboo and silk, and include some color blocking and an occasional pop of color.

“We have a similar eye and taste level,” Tabb said. “When we are designing, we always turn to each other for advice.”

Kirsteen Buchanan, associate professor in the fashion program, said Tabb and Reasbeck were incredible teammates whose strengths complemented each other. 

“Their collaboration somehow looks totally different from their individual work, yet perfectly reflects the attitude of the pair,” she said. “As their professor, I was excited to see what they would accomplish and impressed by the way they handled all the work with seeming ease—even though I suspect there were many sleepless nights. They remained the best of friends throughout and continue to crack each other up."

After graduating in May, Tabb plans to spend the summer at home in Chicago before moving to New York City, where she has already landed a job in the sample making room at Shilo Byrd Studio. Reasbeck, who also will graduate in May, hopes to find a job in the Big Apple, too, after spending the summer at home in Lee’s Summit. 

Tabb has been sewing clothes since she was a girl, and Reasbeck always enjoyed the arts, but neither young woman thought a job in their areas of interest was feasible until they learned about the fashion program at Stephens.

“I came here, and they told me there was so much I can do with this degree,” Tabb said. “It’s been amazing.” 


73rd Annual The Collections Show

About the Show

The garments that will be presented during The Collections were chosen this spring by a jury of selection, which included Felicia Peppers, textile designer for Men & Boys, Belk Stores; Eric Johnson, executive director, Saint Louis Fashion Incubator; Raquel Narvaes, Product Developer II, COE Tees, Nike Global Apparel; Louise Coffey Webb, consulting costume historian, curator, appraiser, international lecturer and collections manager; Carol Foley, fashion designer and Stephens alumna; Jennifer Lapka Pfeifer, founder of Rightfully Sewn; and Vanessa Sterbenz, personal shopper and stylist, Bergdorf Goodman.

If You Go:

Show Times: 2, 4:30 and 7 p.m. on April 29, 2017, in Windsor Auditorium, 1405 E. Broadway, on the Stephens College campus.

Tickets: $10 children/students, $20 general admission and $40 VIP. VIP tickets include a light reception, goodie bag and premier seating. Get tickets online now.

More Info: thecollectionsfashionshow.com

Unable to attend? Watch the show via Livestream.

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Cerena Chaney to debut four new works in student concert


Even before she stepped into her first dance studio at the age of 3, Cerena Chaney ’18 couldn’t resist the urge to twirl across a room. She knew instinctively that her body was made to move in beautiful ways.

Dancing was in her blood.

“My parents noticed I was always moving and dancing around the house,” Chaney, 19, recalled.

Though the local dance studio in Chaney’s hometown of Ponca City, Okla., didn’t accept students until they were 4, her mother convinced them to make an exception.

“My mom said, ‘We got to get this kid doing something,’” Chaney said. “So, they put me in a class, and I took to it right away. Dancing is what I love to do.”

New Works posterChaney's passion will take visible form on the stage this weekend when Stephens College’s Dance Collaborations presents its annual New Works Dance Concert featuring original pieces choreographed by seven dance students. Chaney, a second-year dance student, has choreographed four pieces selected for the show: two duets, a trio and a group dance.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 21-22, 2017, with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on April 23 in the Warehouse Theatre on the Stephens campus. Get ticket info.

New Works is produced entirely by students through Dance Collaborations. Earlier this spring, dances were presented to an external panel of adjudicators who selected the pieces that would go in the concert.

Audiences can expect a range from ballet to tap to hip hop to musical theatre.

Elizabeth Hartwell, coordinator of dance, said choreography is the main focus of the three-year, two-summer B.F.A. in Dance at Stephens.

“The act of choreographing is time consuming and very difficult for some people, even after formal training in the discipline,” she said. “Having direct experiences as a choreographer at this stage of their training puts our dance major students ahead of their peers who are learning dance roles.

“Being a choreographer allows a dancer the chance to see the big picture beyond her own dancing role in a dance work. The benefit is that our students gain a deeper understanding of the construction of a dance work and their role within it.” 

Hartwell said students develop many of the dances in New Works during their choreography courses, taught by Stephens Modern Dance assistant professor Deborah Carr.

“Deborah passes on the theoretical concepts she received from her teacher at Stephens, the founder of the Stephens Dance program, Harriette Ann Gray,” she said.

Chaney said three of her pieces—the trio, group number and one duet—were developed during choreography courses this year with Carr. Her second duet, a tap dance performed to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band, was choreograph on her own time.

“This is my favorite dance concert of the year because it is completely student-run, student-choreographed and student-produced,” said Chaney, who has developed a greater appreciation for the work that goes into creating a dance show. “I have gained so much respect for professional dancers because I have gained a greater understanding of how hard they work.”

Hartwell admires Chaney’s motivation as a dancer.

“Cerena has both the interest to choreograph and the discipline to complete such an arduous task,” she said. “I think she is unique in that she has skills in so many different styles and that she wants to flush out the creative process for each of them.” 

Chaney, who is also minoring in education, hopes to eventually pass on her passion for dance to younger students. 

“My dream is to own my own studio just like my dance teacher,” she said.

Other dance concert selections include “Midnight Thoughts,” choreographed by Jamila Scales ’17; “Anger,” choreographed by Chaney; “Whispers in My Head,” choreographed by Allison Connely ’19; “Prisms of Light,” choreographed by Madisen Nielsen ’18; “Freedom,” choreographed by Kylie Thompson ’18; “Closer,” choreographed by Jami Tebockhorst ’19; “Sisters,” choreographed by Chaney;  “Positive and Negative,” choreographed by Nielsen; “Beneath the Stars,” choreographed by Kiana Homan ’19; and “The Witches of Salem,” choreographed by Chaney.


New Works Dance Concert

Performances are 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 21-22 and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 23, in the Warehouse Theatre, 104 Willis Ave. Get tickets online. Contact the Box Office at (573) 876-7199 or [email protected] for more details.

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Two Stephens alumnae perform in ‘Groundhog Day’ on Broadway

“Groundhog Day” is now a musical on Broadway, and two Stephens College theatre arts graduates are members of the show's quirky ensemble.

Heather Ayers plays Mrs. Lancaster while Rheaume Crenshaw plays Doris. The play, which opens this evening on April 17, 2017, in the August Wilson Theatre, is based on the iconic film, “Groundhog Day,” which stars Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. The musical version of the story stars two-time Tony Award nominee Andy Karl as Phil Connors, the disgruntled big-city weatherman who gets stuck in small-town America reliving the same day over and over again.

The Stephens alumnae are no strangers to Broadway. Ayers has played roles in “Young Frankenstein,” “One a Clear Day You Can See Forever” and “A Little Night Music.” Crenshaw was in “Amazing Grace.” Both actors have been in off-Broadway productions and television projects.

“Groundhog Day,” the musical version, was reimagined by award-winning creators of the international hit “Matilda The Musical,” including director Matthew Warchus and songwriter Tim Minchin. 


Stephens sweeps NAT auditions

Stephens College women swept their divisions in a Musical Theatre Audition in St. Louis sponsored by the National Association of Teachers of Singing.  The competition was held at Webster University. 

The singers, part of the musical theatre program in the School of Performing Arts, competed with students from colleges in the St. Louis area. The panel of judges included voice professors from various colleges and private studios, as well as professional equity singers from the St. Louis MUNY.

"It's an opportunity to he heard by professionals in the field and receive feedback," said Pam Ellsworth-Smith, a member of the music faculty. "It's also an opportunity to hear other singers outside of our amazing four walls."

Students performed repertoire from the Broadway and Off-Broadway repertoire and were critiqued on vocal technique as well as characterization. Mainly, the judges were looking for cast ability. 

Apparently, the judges liked what they heard.  Allie Mgrublian '16, Emily Chatterson '16, Mycah Westhoff '15 and Rebecca Munoz '16 all took 1st place wins in their respective categories.

Conservatory student Eddie Andrews placed 1st for Sophomore/Junior men.

Melissa Trierwiler '16, Chelcie Abercrombie '16, Ryan Tucker '14 and Emy Blake '15 all took 2nd place in their respective categories.

All students who placed in a division received a cash award and a certificate.  The 1st place winners in each division were featured in a recital where they performed one of their songs for all the participants in Moore Auditorium. 

The National Association of Teachers of Singing, or NATS, is an international organization that exists to recognize and support the development of vocal artists.  The organization hosts voice competitions at the Chapter, State, Regional and National Level. 

Stephens students are now eyeing the National Auditions to be held this coming summer in Boston, as well as the State Auditions next fall.

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