Starkle Dream Up. Stephens College


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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:

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. 

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Stephens recognizes students, faculty and staff for scholarship, achievements


Stephens College students recognized assistant professors Dr. Ann Breidenbach and Dr. John Dailey on April 10, 2017, for their distinguished service during the annual Honors Convocation.

Breidenbach and Dailey were among a number of faculty, staff and students who were honored during the event held in the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall.

“This is the time of year that we come together to honor who we are and to celebrate and honor those who have excelled in their academic fields,” said Dr. Dianne Lynch, president of Stephens College.

Honors ConvocationBreidenbach received the Distinguished Teaching Award, which was established to recognize full-time teachers, professional counselors, resident counselors and librarians who teach with knowledge and mastery of their subjects. Dailey received the Michael Bowling Distinguished Advising Award, which honors advisers who inspire their advisees to be self-motivated and self-disciplined while actively pursuing goals of their own choice. 

Both awards are based on nominations from students.

Aja Depass ’17, who presented Breidenbach with her award, said the recipient makes strong connections with students and other faculty members.

“This recipient is known on campus as a listener,” Depass said. “She listens to students, and she listens to faculty.”

  • Breidenbach, an assistant professor in the Women’s Studies and Creative Writing programs, earned her Ph.D. in Rural Sociology with a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia. While working on her dissertation, she rediscovered her passion for writing. She began taking seminars in creative nonfiction writing and eventually earned a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Solstice Low-Residency M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College in Boston in 2014. She is working on a manuscript titled “Girlhood Cache,” which is a memoir told through a series of flash non-fiction essays. Her current research project, “Feminist Activism and the Women’s Film Festival: a Site for Social Change,” explores the impact of women’s film festivals as a means of feminist activism.

  • Dailey, an assistant professor of communication design, has been involved in professional media design for more than 30 years, from his early days in television production to more recent years teaching communication design and digital storytelling. Dailey’s career has been focused on implementing, adapting and teaching the use of digital media design through each successive generation of technology. He has served on the faculties of the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Ark., Ball State University, the University of Kentucky and Southwest Missouri State University. Prior to that, he worked at CBS and NBC affiliates in Lexington, Ky. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Kentucky.

Click for a complete list of award recipients.

View our photo album.

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Girl Scouts engage in day of science, technology fun at Stephens College


Abigail Brown, 13, thought she had created the perfect contraption to protect a raw egg from the perils of dropping from various heights. 

The second-year Girl Scout Cadette from Cole Camp, Mo., had done her research about inertia, motion, velocity, acceleration and gravity. She arrived on April 8, 2017, at the “Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead” fun-with-science event on the Stephens College campus with a quirky device that she was confident would cushion the blow of an egg landing on the concrete.

Brown was right.

Stephens student works with Girl ScoutsHer raw egg, which looked like a daddy longlegs wrapped in straws, tape and poly fiber, survived “The Great Egg Drop,” which was one of more than 30 demonstrations, workshops and competitions that took place during the Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland 2017 signature event.

“This is why I love science,” said Brown, who wants to be a surgeon when she grows up. “I love the experiments.”

More than 700 girl scouts, ages kindergarten through high school, descended on the Stephens campus for the event, which was designed to increase girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. 

Faculty from the School of Health Sciences, along with Stephens students, were on hand to facilitate a wide variety of activities. Students from Tri-Beta, the Biology Honor Society; The Acute Math Club and Stephens Organized for Service (SOS) also worked with the scouts. In addition, the event offered freshmen a chance to fulfill a service-learning component of their required first-year experience course at Stephens by overseeing several 30-minute classes with the scouts.

Sessions were held in the Pillsbury Science Center and Dudley Hall. There were also a number of exhibitors at Stamper Commons including, among others, 3M, ABC 17 Stormtrack, Army ROTC, the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the University of Missouri Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Dr. Susan Muller, dean of the Stephens College School of Health Sciences, said the event was set up like a conference where scouts were free to select sessions they wanted to attend. However, some workshops were geared toward younger participants while others were designed for older scouts.

Among the sessions were: 

  • * “Make it Rain”: An exploration of rain and precipitation in which participants created a mini-cloud and generated precipitation.
  • * “Seeing the World That You Do Not Notice”: A chance to use microscopes to examine the physical characteristics of some local species that are rarely noticed because of their secretive behavior.
  • * Gingerbread Cookie Genetics – A Study of Inheritance”: A hands-on activity that used M&Ms to investigate the possible gingerbread children that could be made from different combinations of the genes inherited from gingerbread parents.

One of the more popular sessions was “Tiny Dancers,” a fun experiment involving magnets created by Danielle Craven ’18 and Kate Yanos ’17, both students in the School of Health Sciences.

Each scout was given a pre-cut copper wire and asked to bend it into the shape of a tiny dancer and attach it to a coin-sized magnet. Next, the magnets were placed on a magnetic stirrer, a device that looks like a hot plate, which used a rotating magnetic field to make the tiny dancers move across the dance floor.

“It was pretty tough to come up with an idea that could present the concepts we wanted to show on a level the Girl Scouts could understand,” Yanos said.

Judging by the reaction of participants, however, their workshop was a success.

“This is fun!” shouted one Girl Scout.

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Stephens College to host Columbia’s Unbound Book Festival

Nationally-recognized and bestselling authors across many different genres will descend on the Stephens College campus later this month for the second annual Unbound Book Festival. The event is not about readings but rather interactions with authors, conversations between writers about their crafts with plenty of room for audience participation. 

Hosting the festival on April 22 is part of Stephens’ longstanding commitment to the creative arts.

“It is an honor to welcome back to campus the Unbound Book Festival,” said Dr. Dianne Lynch, Stephens College president. “Each fall we welcome female filmmakers who tell their stories through film with the Citizen Jane Film Festival. Now, for the second spring, we are welcoming those who tell their story through the written word. As a leader in the creative arts, we are pleased to open our campus to the community in a way that is consistent with our mission.”

The event begins with a keynote address by world-renowned author Salman Rushdie on the evening of April 21 at Jesse Auditorium on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus. The festival continues the next day on the Stephens College campus, where more than 1,000 visitors are expected to interact with writers through a variety of panels, author conversations, poetry readings and special events. All events are free.

Among the many writers who will be participating in this year’s event are New York Times best-selling authors Julie Barton, Ishmael Beah, Melanie Benjamin and Candice Millard. New York State Poet Laureate Marie Howe will be there as well as author Peter Geye, whose novel “Safe from the Sea” will soon be a major motion picture.

Dr. Tina Parke-Sutherland, professor of literature, creative writing and women’s studies at Stephens, said hosting the festival gives students an opportunity to meet working authors and ask questions.

“It’s not every day that students get a chance to talk with bestselling authors and participate in discussion about a wide range of subjects,” she said. “It’s another opportunity for our students to explore the arts and expand their knowledge.”

The Kimball Ballroom in Lela Raney Wood Hall on the Stephens campus will be the hub of festival activities throughout the day. There will be a festival bookshop, and authors will be available to sign books. There will also be an Independent Author Fair where local, self-published writers will present their work. 

For more information, visit the Unbound Book Festival website.

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Fashion icon Dame Zandra Rhodes speaks in The Jeannene Booher Fashion Lecture Series

With her pink hair, theatrical makeup and art jewelry, Dame Zandra Rhodes has spent six decades boldly making a name for herself in the international world of fashion.

Rhodes’ secret: Never bend to the pressures of designing to a trend or bowing to the demands of the industry.

“Mainly, I design things that I like,” said the 76-year-old iconic British textile and fashion designer who has dressed, among others, Princess Diana, Freddie Mercury, Helen Mirren, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lauren Bacall.

Dame Zandra Rhodes

Rhodes was the second speaker sponsored by The Jeannene Booher Fashion Lecture Series, which launched in November 2016 with a $1 million gift from Booher, a 1956 alumna of the Stephens College fashion program. More than 150 people attended her lecture on April 4 at the Kimball Ballroom in Lela Raney Wood Hall on the Stephens College campus. 

Besides her lecture, Rhodes met with students in Stephens courses on pattern to print and printmaking on fabric.

Dr. Monica McMurry, dean of the School of Design, said Rhodes’ visit to campus was “an opportunity of a lifetime” for fashion students.

Rhodes told students she originally went to Medway College of Art and Design in England to become a book illustrator, but was soon inspired by an instructor who taught textile design. She then enrolled at The Royal College of Art in London, where her major area of study was printed textile design.

After college, however, Rhodes struggled to sell her textile designs.

“People said, ‘These are too extreme. What are you going to do with them?,’” Rhodes said.

Instead of changing her designs, Rhodes produced dresses with her own fabrics and began designing styles influenced by the prints she created. In 1969, she took her collection to New York, where editor Diana Vreeland put her garments on Natalie Wood for a spread in American Vogue.

The article launched Rhodes’ career.   

Today, Rhodes continues to design on paper and rarely turns to the computer for help. Each of her garments is hand-silk-screen printed in her London studio on an 8- to 9-yard printing table. The garments are then sewn and hand-beaded. 

This spring, Valentino launched a collection in prints inspired by Rhodes. In September 2016, Rhodes’ Archive Collection launched on, which is a recreation of some of her most iconic designs, including Princess Diana’s cherry blossom dress and the white kaftan photographed on Donna Summer on the cover of her 1977 album “Once Upon a Time.”

When asked how she deals with creative blocks, Rhodes smiled and said: “Feel sorry for myself and bore my friends stupid by saying, ‘I’m stuck again.’” 

Ultimately, Rhodes told students the best way to deal with being stuck is to keep on working. 

“Try and push yourself into not giving up, even if that means drawing the same flower again and again,” she said. “Something, in the end, will get you out of it. But the main thing is not to give up.”

Rhodes has pieces in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and the Fashion Institute of Technology’s library. She is best known for creating unique fashion pieces, timeless bold prints, fiercely feminine patterns and theatrical uses of color. 

In addition, Rhodes founded the Fashion and Textile Museum of London and designed costumes for the San Diego Opera’s “The Magic Flute” and Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers.”


Photo credit for Dame Zandra Rhodes portrait: Molly Wallace ’17

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Stephens alumna Ami Beck finds success with line of luxury bags

Ami Beck ’13 wasted no time putting her degree in Apparel Studies from Stephens College to work.

Within two weeks of graduating in December 2013, Beck bought a $2,000 heavy-duty sewing machine, a supply of scrap leather and set up shop in her grandmother’s basement. A month later, she had created the original Dolyn Tote, the first in her luxury line of bags that continues to be a bestseller. 

Dolyn bagToday, Beck has a popular studio in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Mo., where she is constantly expanding her line of handbags, duffels and clutches. She recently returned from MAGIC Las Vegas, where she launched her first men’s and travel collection. This week, her bags will be featured in the finale runway show of Kansas City Fashion Week (KCFW), which runs from March 26-April 1, 2017; Beck made her first big splash at a KCFW show in 2015. (Read her designer spotlight on the KCFW website.)

Beck said her experience at Stephens helped prepare her for the hard work and dedication needed to compete in the design industry.

“The biggest resources I gained from Stephens—other than a foundation in patterning—was learning how to manage my late nights and heavy workload in an effective manner,” she said. “As a small business owner, there never seems to be enough time. I am wearing all the hats and juggling many projects at once, and I think Stephens helped prepare me for that.”

Before enrolling at Stephens, Beck earned a degree in psychology from Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo., and worked several temporary jobs before landing a position as an administrative assistant in the legal department of a hospital in downtown Kansas City. 

By the time she came to Stephens, Beck had her sights set on starting her own company.

“I was very specific in my intentions to learn about handbag construction and leather and to acquire a basic foundation in patterning while at Stephens,” she said.

As for the name of her company, Beck simply abbreviated her favorite name, Gwendolyn and branded it. 

Beck’s advice for young designers who want to open a small business is to take business classes while in college. 

“The finance side of business is definitely where the knowledge gap was for me, so any head start a student can grasp on that in school would be of utmost importance and benefit,” she said. “I would also advise seeking internships that are as close to your ideal job position as possible. Internships are so eye-opening and beneficial, and should definitely be taken advantage of.”

When running a small business, Beck believes every new experience is an opportunity to learn and get better.

“Every single thing you do in business will be a stepping-stone and a lesson,” she said. “You learn pretty quickly what works and what doesn’t—most of the time you learn the hard way. So, dive in!” 


Beck’s bags are available on, as well as at Webster House in Kansas City.

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Stephens College adds new degree in exercise science

Health and fitness is a booming industry. Stephens College is expanding its curriculum to provide students with a new opportunity to join the growing field.

Beginning in Fall 2017, the School of Health Sciences will offer a new Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science.

Dr. Susan Muller, dean of the School of Health Sciences, said the new four-year degree will prepare students for a variety of careers in the health and fitness industry, including personal training, strength and conditioning coaching and wellness coaching. She expects at least half of the students who graduate with the degree will go on to study in physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant studies programs.

“Once students have the scientific foundation this degree provides, they can easily branch into other health fields,” Muller said.

The Exercise science core includes human anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, exercise and special populations, stress testing and exercise prescription and human movement science. Students will also have the opportunity to strengthen their science backgrounds by taking electives from the biology offerings and to enhance their people skills by selecting some health science courses to complete their required 120 credit hours. 

Muller is looking forward to the inaugural class and expects enrollment to grow quickly.

“This is a very popular field of study,” she said.

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Stephens College hosts concert to benefit organ restoration

On March 8, 2017, members of the Stephens and local community gathered in the Firestone Baars Chapel for “Make A Joyful Noise,” a benefit concert to raise funds for the Stephens College Chapel organ. The occasion marked the official launch of an appeal to restore the 60-year-old Aeolian-Skinner 1186 to its original splendor. 

“This was a magical evening, enjoyed by all, including sections of the local community and alumnae who have not returned to campus for many years,” said Meichele Foster, vice president for institutional advancement and initiatives. “We have rediscovered a space and an instrument made for each other and in which we can look forward to providing more recitals and events.”

The evening’s event raised $20,000 toward the goal of $190,000, including an anonymous gift of $5,000 in honor of Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Performing Arts.

The audience of over 150 people enjoyed selections played by organist Haig Mardirosian, who gave a glimpse into the range, tonal variety and acoustic potential of the Stephens organ. Performers also included Trent Rash, tenor, and Darrell Jordan, baritone, the Prairie Strings Quartet and the Stephens College Concert Choir. 

The concert was made possible with the support of Margaret Lynn Koegle ’48, who watched the concert via livestream from her home in Ohio. Her donation enabled necessary interim repairs to the organ. 

Watch the concert and donate to the organ project here.

See more event photos.


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Stephens adds emphasis area in Theatre for Young Audiences

There is growing interest in using children’s theatre as a way to foster the educational and emotional growth of young people. Stephens College is expanding its theatre curriculum to provide students with an opportunity to join this growing field of theatre with, for and by youth.

Beginning in Fall 2017, the School of Performing Arts will offer a new emphasis area in Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) through the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts program. 

Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Performing Arts, said Stephens is looking forward to offering theatre students more options in its highly ranked program.

“TYA programs truly pay it forward as we focus on the future of education and artists, educators and audiences for the 21st century,” she said. “Training artists and educators of tomorrow is a calling for us at Stephens and should be essential in higher education and for all of us who respect the power of arts education.”  

Dr. Brian Sajko, vice president for enrollment management at Stephens, said TYA is a growing part of the arts industry, and Stephens wants to prepare its students to take advantage of this emerging field.

“We want our students to have all the classes and options at hand to find the path that’s right for them so that they can leave prepared to secure a position or fellowship upon graduation,” he said.  

Students seeking the TYA emphasis will participate in eight productions at Stephens’ various theatre companies. They will also receive hands-on experience at the TRYPS Institute, a children’s theatre located on the Stephens College campus that introduces children ages 10 months through high school to the magic of theatre.

The Princeton Review ranks the Stephens theatre program No. 6 in the country. The other areas of emphasis in the B.F.A. Theatre Arts program are acting, directing, musical theatre, stage management or scenic, costume and lighting design. 

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Shelly Romero accepted into renowned NYU Summer Publishing Institute

Last year, Stephens College student Shelly Romero ’17 fell in love with New York City during the English/Creative Writing program’s spring break trip. 

This summer, she’ll return to the city, this time to attend NYU’s prestigious Summer Publishing Institute (SPI) program, an intense, six-week study of book, magazine, and digital publishing.

“I’m looking forward to everything this amazing opportunity has in store for me,” said Romero, who recently received early acceptance into the program. “I feel extremely prepared to take on the Big Apple and SPI.”

During the program offered by NYU’s School of Professional Studies, students attend guest lectures with leading book, magazine and digital industry professionals. The program also offers workshops, group projects, various networking events, and resume reviews and mock internships.

Romero, who will earn a B.A. in English from Stephens in May, credits Stephens with preparing her for this opportunity.

“I often tell people that I wouldn't be who I am and I wouldn’t have had all the opportunities that I have had without Stephens,” she said.

At Stephens, Romero has had invaluable experiences working on the staffs of Harbinger, Stephens’ literary magazine and Creative Ink, the student marketing firm. She also has taken graphic design classes, which, alongside her acquired editorial skills, will make her more marketable to employers.

At the conclusion of SPI, students attend a career fair, where they have the chance to interview with top publishers in the industry.

Romero will also receive a graduate certificate, as well as six graduate credit hours that can be applied to NYU’s M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media. 

Romero is the second Stephens College graduate to attend SPI in the last two years.

Maya Alpert ’16 attended last summer and now works as an editorial assistant at Insight Editions, a publisher in San Rafael, Calif.

“I hope that my experience with the program will be seen as a potential path to take for other students in my program interested in publishing,” Romero said.

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‘Girls Like Us’ wins first place for Sigma Tau Delta’s Outstanding Literary Arts Journal

The Stephens College literary magazine has once again received top honors in an international competition.  

The 2016 Harbinger, “Girls Like Us,” won first place for Outstanding Literary Arts Journal from Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society.

This is the fifth time in seven years that the student publication has been recognized as the best by Sigma Tau Delta. Harbinger took the first-place award in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before new rules kicked in barring a journal from winning the top award two consecutive years. Harbinger won again in 2013, and in 2015, the publication took second place, making last year’s magazine eligible to compete for the highest honor.  

“Girls like us are daring, creative and intensely passionate,” wrote 2016 editor-in-chief Maya Alpert in the magazine’s forward. “In an age where technological innovation is valued above literary and artistic creation, publications like Harbinger foster the development of meaningful and intentional expression, displaying the absolute necessity of the arts.”

Stephens Assistant Professor Kris Somerville, the faculty adviser for Harbinger, said a staff of nine students worked on the winning publication. In the fall, the students solicited poetry, short stories and non-fiction submissions from peers across campus. After that, the student staff decides which works to accept and which to reject. During the spring semester, Harbinger becomes an official course for students. That’s when student staff members edit the selected pieces and decide on a theme.

“The theme comes out of the content,” Somerville said. “The students don’t start with a theme. Instead, they look at the content and look for a unifying theme, which helps give meaning to the cover and what the editor writes in the forward.”

The Stephens’ literary magazine debuted in 1920 as The Standard and aimed to provide English students with an opportunity to be published. In 1962, it morphed into Portfolio and expanded to include art, photography and literary criticism. In the 1970s, the publication became Narcissus under the helm of Eleanor Bender, who was also owner, editor and publisher of the national poetry magazine Open Places. The literary journal became Harbinger in 1980. 

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Playhouse Theatre Company presents ‘Everything You Touch’

Linda Kennedy, an artistic associate with The Black Rep in St. Louis, is back at Stephens College, this time directing “Everything You Touch,” a comedy that looks at the darker side of fashion and the struggle to find an identity that’s more than skin deep.

“The play is especially important because we are all always looking for ways to define the self and how we fit in to all aspects of living,” Kennedy said. “It speaks to all of the ‘isms’ and how we view the self and those around us. What are we comparing the self to or competing with? How can we forgive pains of the past and rise above?”

Everything You Touch posterThe play will run at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 3-4, 2017, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 4-5 in the Warehouse Theatre, 104 Willis Ave., on the Stephens College campus. (Get your tickets online.)

“Everything You Touch” is the eccentric creation of playwright Sheila Callaghan that looks at what happens when questions of personal ethics collide. Victor is a ruthless fashion designer in the 1970s at the top of his game. Esme, his glamorous protégé and muse, is pushed aside when an ordinary Midwestern woman inspires Victor to make his artistry accessible to the masses. A generation later, a woman wrestles with her family demons trying to find her way through a world of fashion that won’t give a woman her size a second look.

Kennedy said the play raises some important questions: “The world of fashion is changing, but is it more inclusive? Does it encourage us to look and present our best self? Or is it still male dominated, even through some female designers, with more of the same out dated views of beauty.” 

For more than 30 years, Kennedy has worked on and off the stage at Stephens College. She is a two-time Kevin Kline nominee and has received the Go List Best Actress Award, the Visionary Awards Successful Working Artist Award, the Missouri Arts Individual Artist Award, the Griot Award from the Griot Museum and the 2012 Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award from the Arts and Education Council.

“I thoroughly enjoy coming to Stephens,” Kennedy said. “It is very much like an incubator, helping young women and men to focus, create, develop, fail, succeed, dream and feel part of a larger community. Even as a guest artist, I feel inspired, energized and encouraged without fear.”


Everything You Touch [New Work, PG-13]
Performances are 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, March 3-4 and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, March 4-5, in the Warehouse Theatre, 104 Willis Ave. Order your tickets online or contact the Box Office at (573) 876-7199 or [email protected].

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Starlets earn at-large bid to inaugural NAIA National Championship

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Stephens College competitive dance team earned an at-large bid to the inaugural NAIA Competitive Cheer & Dance National Championship, the NAIA national office announced Sunday evening.

Led by first-year head competitive dance coach and dance faculty member Paige Porter, the Starlets will return to nationals for the second consecutive year, but this year will be the first that competitive cheer & dance is a fully-sponsored NAIA National Championship.

“While competitive cheer & dance is new to intercollegiate athletics, we are certainly putting our stamp on the sport with two consecutive trips to NAIA Nationals,” Director of Athletics Adam Samson said. “Under Paige’s direction, the team has constantly improved and we are peaking at the right time. The National Championship bid is a culmination of all the hard work our group has put in since the beginning of the school year.” 

The National Championship begins on Friday, March 10 in Oklahoma City at the Abe Lemons Arena on the campus of Oklahoma City University. The preliminary round will begin at 6:45 p.m. on Friday and will account for 25 percent of the overall score. Finals will start at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

The field of competition for dance is set for 12 teams total, leaving eight at-large bids after the four Regional champions earned an automatic bid.  Grand View (Iowa) won the Southeast Regional to earn the automatic bid for the Starlets’ region. The other three automatic bids went to Midland (Neb.), Aquinas (Mich.) and Oklahoma City.

The Starlets were awarded the seventh at-large bid after scoring 77.540 at Saturday's Regional. Three other opponents from the Southeast Regional also earned an at-large bid to the Championship. These teams included Missouri Baptist, Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.) and Central Methodist (Mo.). 

The Starlets will face a similar set of competitors as last year as eight opponents from the 2016 NAIA Dance Invitational made it into the 2017 field. The complete field of competitors for the 2017 NAIA National Championship is: Grand View (Iowa) – 90.260, Midland (Neb.) – 89.875, Aquinas (Mich.) – 84.710, Oklahoma City – 84.300, Missouri Baptist – 88.810, Morningside (Iowa) – 83.312, Baker (Kan.) – 83.041, St. Ambrose (Iowa) – 81.710, Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.) – 79.100, Siena Heights (Mich.) – 78.130, Stephens (Mo.) – 77.540, and Central Methodist (Mo.) – 76.030.

The NAIA is the only collegiate athletics association to offer a national championship in competitive dance, and it is the first, along with cheer, to earn national championship status within the NAIA in a span of 22 years. 


This article is republished from the Stephens Stars website.

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Stephens Student Success Center sees increase in visits by students


Stephens students made more visits to the Margaret Campbell Student Success Center (SSC) than ever before during the center’s first semester in its new location inside the Hugh Stephens Library.

Sady Mayer Strand, director of the center, said providing students academic support and professional tutoring in a library setting makes sense.

“So far, it’s going very well,” she said.

According to records kept by the SSC, students made 1,354 visits to the center during the Fall 2016 semester. That compares to 1,176 visits during that same period in 2015. 

Strand said students who used the center this fall made an average of four or five visits during that time period. And, in general, between 40 and 50 percent of undergraduates use the success center each semester. 

Located on the first floor of the library, the success center is an enclave of desks and tables with computer access where students can meet with tutors individually or in small groups. The center, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, is available to any full-time undergraduate, graduate or online student.

At any one time, there is at least one professional tutor available to help students with assignments and writing papers. A peer tutor also is available to assist students with science. In addition to helping students with specific assignments, tutors work with students to develop study skills, time management and strategies for dealing with test-taking anxiety.

Occasionally, workshops are held at the success center around themes such as research, computer applications and APA citation. The success center is also responsible for making sure ADA/504 accommodations are being met. 

“We are teaching as much as we are tutoring,” Strand said.  “We want them to walk away with skills that they can apply later with other assignments and help themselves.”

Mariah Escarsega ’18 sought help at the success center shortly after her grades plummeted during her first semester at Stephens. She quickly realized that she didn’t know how to properly study or prepare for college-level tests.

It didn’t take long for her sessions with a tutor to begin paying off. 

“I learned study skills that I can apply to all my subjects,” said Escarsega, who studies often at the success center. “I like coming here to study because if I have a question, there is some who can answer it, and I’m not stuck. Plus, everyone who comes to the success center comes to study, and I like that.”

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Stephens College School of Performing Arts participates in arts advocacy day at Capitol


The voices of Stephens College School of Performing Arts students, faculty and staff joined with other supporters of the arts at the Citizens for the Arts Day hosted by the Missouri Citizens for the Arts (MCA) at the Missouri State Capitol on Feb. 8. 

Starbursts“Our students must learn to articulate the importance and value of the arts in our lives both practically and philosophically,” said Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Performing Arts. “It is my hope that we garner strength and courage from this experience to continue to be strong and clear advocates for the arts.”

The annual event featured advocacy training, legislative visits with state officials, performances and an arts awards ceremony.

“The day really reinforced for me the importance of speaking up about the need for funding for the arts,” said Sicily Mathenia, a second-year musical theatre student. “It was not easy and not every representative was happy to listen to us. As an art student, my life revolves around arts education and has since I was a small child. It was a wake-up call for me to realize that not everyone values arts education in the way that I do.” 

Mathenia, as well as the other members of The Starbursts, the dean’s student arts advisory council, represented the school. The Starbursts also include Emma Frankie Costello, a third-year theatre student; Dana Leigh Degnan, a second-year vocal arts student; Brandon Mayville, a second-year professional conservatory student; and Delainey Phillips, a second-year musical theatre student.

Costello, who attended last year’s advocacy day as well, has found both experiences rewarding.

“It is wonderful to see a bunch of Missouri citizens come together and support the arts,” she said. “This year more than ever it is important to have all kinds of people speaking up for the arts and other things they believe in. The government is taking a serious shift after this election, and people must make their individual voices heard to make any difference.” 

Others who attended from Stephens were Chelsea Andes, administrative assistant for the School of Performing Arts; Ruth Ann Burke, school business manager and executive director of the Okoboji Summer Theatre, Stephens’ summer stock theatre in Iowa; and Jill Womack, executive artistic director of the TRYPS Institute at Stephens College. Several TRYPS students and a parent also attended.

“I feel as though we made an impact on Arts Advocacy Day, but there is so much more work to be done,” Mathenia said.

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Stephens College to showcase shoes and hats in “Head Over Heels” exhibit

Shopping at department stores in the city was an event from the 1940s through the 1960s.

Imagine walking into a 25-story building about the size of the entire Mall of America near Minneapolis and being greeted by uniformed sales clerks, sparkling chandeliers and miles of gleaming hardwood floors. Instead of elbowing your way through a crowded food court popular in today’s shopping malls, you would be seated to dine in a “tea room” restaurant, where meals were often made from scratch.

That’s the backdrop to the Stephens College Costume Museum and Research Library’s latest exhibit, “Head over Heels,” which opens Feb. 18, 2017, and runs through May 7 in the Historic Costume Gallery on the mezzanine level of Lela Raney Wood Hall, 6 N. College Ave. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

The show includes 16 pairs of shoes, 10 hats and a variety of accessories such as stockings from the three-decade period. Most of the items on display have a Missouri or Columbia connection.

shoes For example, there is a pair of sandals purchased at the Novus Shop, which opened in 1936 in downtown Columbia. There are shoes from Harzfeld’s department store in Kansas City, and suede Palter DeLiso ankle strap sandal from the 1940s that were purchased at Famous-Baar in St. Louis. 

“I was thinking about merchandizing and shopping practices involving department stores of that era,” said Lori Hall-Araujo, an assistant professor in the fashion program and curator for the Stephens College Costume Museum and Research Library. “It was the end of an era when there were more rules about fashion, which in some ways, made it easier for women to dress because they knew what the expectations were.”

Hall-Araujo joined the faculty at Stephens this fall after serving as an Anawalt Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Study of Regional Dress at the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles.  “Head Over Heels” is her first exhibit at Stephens and one she selected for its practicality, among other reasons.

“I wanted to focus on things that don’t require as much labor, and hats and shoes are less involved than exhibiting garments,” she said.

Hall-Araujo explained that showing garments from a museum collection is time-consuming because the mannequins must be modified to fit the garments, not the other way around, the reason being the preservation of the clothing.

“We want to treat every garment as if it were worn by Marie Antoinette,” she said.

The exhibit includes some offbeat items such as a pair of sandals made in England that earned a royal warrant. The special designation authorized the company to display the royal arms, indicating that the sandals were supplied to the sovereign or to a specific member of the royal family. The sandals in the Stephens show have Wedgwood bone china heels on which a relief of an angel is engraved.

“Aren’t they amazing?” Hall-Araujo said.

There’s also a pair of Capezio mustard-colored lace-up jazz oxford with black leather detailing that were popular among Beatniks of the time.

“They probably weren’t terribly expensive because many young people were wearing them,” Hall-Araujo said.

To prepare the shoes for the show, each pair was cleaned using a small brush and a vacuum hose, which was covered with a nylon stocking to prevent loose pieces from being sucked into the machine. All the items in the exhibit are stored on shelves in a climate-controlled room.


If You Go

Gallery Dates: Feb. 18-May 7, 2016

Gallery Hours: 12-1 p.m. Wednesdays, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays, and 12-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed during Stephens College holidays. 

Location: Historic Costume Gallery, mezzanine level of Lela Raney Wood Hall

The exhibit is free and open to the public. 

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Stephens to restore organ, hold benefit concert in Firestone Baars Chapel


Those familiar with the Firestone Baars Chapel know Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, who designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, also planned the historic sanctuary on the Stephens College campus.

What they might not know is inside the building waits a hidden gem: an organ.

Built by the preeminent Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, and installed in 1956, the organ is unique, its geometric shape and clean lines clearly influenced by the chapel’s architect. Even the organ’s console has it own quirky characteristics.

But after 60 years in place, the Aeolian–Skinner needs some attention.

On Wednesday, March 8, 2017, Stephens will host “Make a Joyful Noise,” a concert at the chapel to benefit the organ restoration project. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and costs $20 per person. (Buy tickets.) Performers include Haig Mardirosian, organist; Trent Rash, tenor, and Darrell Jordan, baritone; the Prairie Strings Quartet and the Stephens College Concert Choir. A reception will immediately follow the concert.

“The organ is part of the legacy of Stephens,” said Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Performing Arts. “We felt the time was right to begin work on restoring this valuable instrument.”

Last year, the School of Performing Arts received a $10,000 gift to begin the process, first assessing the condition of the organ and then identifying small fixes that could be made in time to make the organ more playable by the benefit concert in March.

John Panning, a consultant with Dobson Pipe Organ Builders in Lake City, Iowa, traveled to Columbia to examine the instrument and found a number of issues. Among the most serious was the poor condition of the leather bellows inside the organ. His report also indicates that, among other work, the pipes need tuning, regulating and cleaning. Some quasi-cosmetic repairs include smoothing chipped keys and broken stop tabs.

The estimated cost of restoring the organ to its original splendor: $190,000.

But Haig Mardirosian, who will be playing the organ during the benefit concert, said the cost of the project is “a pretty good investment” in an instrument that cost the College about $33,000 in the mid- to late-1950s and is estimated to be worth about $1.5 million when its restored.

“The organ is a very valuable resource,” he said.

Mardirosian, who is married to Stephens’ dean of the School of Performing Arts, has been playing the organ since he was a boy growing up in New York. Today, he is dean of the College of Arts and Letters and professor of music at The University of Tampa. He has earned international standing as a composer, conductor, concert organist and recording artist.

Mardirosian was 12 when his mother took him to the Riverside Church in New York City to hear the famous Virgil Fox play the organ. Riveted by the performance, the boy vowed to play the powerful instrument.  

Mardirosian believes a restored organ at Stephens could have the same power to inspire a new generation of players and fans.

“I hope everyone is as excited about this project as I am,” he said. “Just wait until you hear the organ after it’s restored. You won’t believe your ears.”


organ header

Benefit Concert

7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Firestone Baars Chapel, 1306 E. Walnut St.

Stephens College campus

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the organ restoration project. Tickets are $20 per person and can be purchased online or by contacting the Box Office at [email protected] or (573) 876-7199.

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‘Florence of Arabia’ 10-minute play wins top honors at Region V Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

“Florence of Arabia,” a 10-minute play written by Minuette Layer ’17, won top honors on Jan. 28 during the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) awards ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa.

The play was among two selected from a field of more than 100 plays submitted to the seven-state region, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Layer’s play is one of two semi-finalists from each of the eight KCACRF regions that now goes on to be considered by a panel of judges for a concert reading in April during The Gary Garrison National Ten-Minute Play Award ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

A winner will be selected along with three additional national finalists whose plays will be presented with casts made up of professional actors from the Washington, D.C., area. 

This isn’t the first time Layer’s 10-minute play has garnered attention.

“It was staged last summer at the Just Off Broadway Theatre in Kansas City,” Layer said. “It’s always nice to see different incarnations of the show and to watch the script grow and change in new unexpected ways.”

The play is about a family of cosplayers who are performers who wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character. The word comes from the contraction of the words costume play. In “Florence of Arabia,” the family must convince their daughter Sarah to be “normal” after she embarrasses them at Comic-Con by trying to dress as Lawrence of Arabia instead of picking from a more mainstream fandom.

Layer said writing a 10-minute play isn’t easy because they must have a beginning, middle and an end.

“The main challenge is trying to tell a full play’s worth of information in just a few pages while still keeping the story engaging,” she said. 

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‘Emma’ offers contemporary twist to Jane Austen classic


When Timuchin Aker first read the 2010 stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic comedy “Emma,” he was struck by the play’s dichotomy.

The script read contemporary but was still rooted in 19th century language.

Emma posterAker, an assistant professor of theatre at Stephens College and director of “Emma,” which opens today at the Macklanburg Playhouse, decided the best way to approach the play about the mischievous “matchmaker of Highbury” was to embrace the script’s curious twist of old and new and infuse the production with young ideas and old-fashion sensibilities. 

“The play is very much set in Austen’s time period and culture,” he said. “But there is still a good bit of modern contemporary flare to it.”

With that in mind, Aker turned to Tom Andes, instructor of music, who agreed to do music for the show. And in keeping with the old-meets-new spirit of the play, they decided to shake things up.

That’s how the piano ended up on stage where Andes will play throughout the two-hour show. He even uses the instrument to make special sound effects.

Another aspect of the play that gives the production a contemporary feel is the show’s main character, Emma Woodhouse—played by Morgan Walker ’17—who talks directly to the audience. With a snap of her fingers, Emma stops the action on stage and addresses the playgoers. 

“It’s not what you’d expect,” Aker said.

Originally published in 1815, the story follows Emma Woodhouse, the “matchmaker of Highbury,” who has just moved on to her newest project, a sweet but modest girl named Harriet Smith. With comedic twists and turns, the story is a lighthearted tale of gossip, matrimony and misunderstanding. 


Emma [Classic, G]
Performances are 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3-4, 10-11 and 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 5, in the Macklanburg Playhouse, 100 Willis Ave. Contact the Box Office at (573) 876-7199 or [email protected] for tickets. 

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Dame Zandra Rhodes to speak April 4 in The Jeannene Booher Fashion Lecture Series


The Stephens College School of Design will host a visit and lecture by one of the most iconic names in fashion: Dame Zandra Rhodes, the pink-haired pioneering British designer who has dressed, among others, Princess Diana, Freddie Mercury, Helen Mirren, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lauren Bacall.

Rhodes will speak at 7 p.m. on April 4, 2017, at the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall, 6 N. College Ave. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Rhodes is the second speaker sponsored by The Jeannene Booher Fashion Lecture Series, which launched in November 2016 with a $1 million gift from Booher, a 1956 alumna of the Stephens College fashion program.

“We are excited to have Dame Zandra Rhodes as our newest Jeannene Booher Fashion Lecture Series guest,” said Dr. Monica McMurry, dean of the School of Design. “Ms. Rhodes is an internationally known textile and fashion designer.  She has a storied clientele and is now working with Valentino to create fabulous fabric prints.”

McMurry said beside her lecture Rhodes will work one-on-one with students in Stephens pattern to print and printmaking on fabric courses.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for our students,” she said.

Rhodes, known for her dramatic, glamorous and extroverted personality, has pieces in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and the Fashion Institute of Technology’s library. She came onto the fashion scene in the late 1960s and is known for creating unique fashion pieces, timeless bold prints, fiercely feminine patterns and theatrical uses of color. She considers legendary editor Diana Vreeland of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue as a mentor.

In addition, Rhodes founded the Fashion and Textile Museum of London and designed costumes for the San Diego Opera’s “The Magic Flute” and Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers.”

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Dr. Erin Sellner uses music to engage students in science courses

Dr. Erin Sellner knew teaching Immunology at 8 o’clock in the morning would be tough, for her and the students.

So she turned to her favorite pastime and family’s lifeblood: music.

But there was more than entertainment in the songs Sellner played for her blurry-eyed students. There was a lesson.

Pink’s “You Make Me Sick” signaled a lecture on infectious diseases and vaccines while The Isley Brothers’ “Contagious” kicked off a discussion about the Zika virus epidemic. And what better way to usher in a lesson about cell signaling than Blondie’s “Call Me?”

“I try to use different modalities in my teaching,” said Sellner, an assistant professor of biochemistry in the School of Health Sciences. “That’s the way I get to be a bit creative and artsy like the rest of my family while still pulling it all back to my love for science.”

Sellner later posts the song along with the lecture online in a discussion thread titled “Beats by Dr. E.” She encourages her students to listen to the music while they study, hoping the songs will help trigger information about the subjects. She also posts articles about current advancements or research in science, showing students that what they are learning is tied to the world they live in. 

“I just find these subjects so fascinating that anything I can find to help pass it along is very much worth it to me,” Sellner said. “One of the things I really love about teaching is that moment when a student finally really, really gets it. I live for that moment.”

Sellner grew up in New Ulm, Minn., a town of about 13,200 people located 90 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Her father was a classically trained pianist and her mother, who had a master’s degree in music education, taught choir, band and general music at the local public schools. 

When she was in high school, Sellner and her family moved to Jefferson City.

It appeared early on that Sellner would follow in her parents’ musical footsteps. She started on piano, later expanding her repertoire to include the oboe, alto-saxophone and tenor saxophone. Alhough she enjoyed music, Sellner wasn’t convinced it was her calling. 

Always a good student, Sellner challenged herself academically, taking as many Advanced Placement courses, including an advanced science course in ninth grade, as she could.

And that’s where it happened.

“I fell head over heels in love with genetics,” Sellner said. “It was just so amazing how it explained inheritance and how you could predict inheritance.”

When she got home that night, Sellner couldn’t stop talking about genetics, and she hasn’t stopped since.

“It’s my lasting love,” she says. “It’s a case of once you find something that makes you that excited, you don’t waste your time on anything else.”

Sellner received a B.S. in Animal Science with minors in rural sociology and English from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She immediately went on to earn a Ph.D. in Animal Science from MU, with an emphasis in reproductive physiology and molecular genetics and a doctoral minor in college teaching.  

Before accepting a full-time position at Stephens last year, Sellner was teaching as an adjunct professor at Moberly Area Community College, William Woods University, Westminster College as well as at Stephens. This spring, she is teaching cell biology, immunology and biochemistry at Stephens and oversees the seniors’ capstone projects.

Sellner is grateful for the opportunity to put down roots at an all-women’s college.

“I really had no idea how amazing it would be in this kind of atmosphere,” she said. “It’s wonderful because there are young women in the hallways talking about science, and they come in and seek me out to have conversations about science!”

One thing Sellner noticed in the co-ed courses she taught before joining Stephens was male students often dominated the science labs while the women stood back, taking notes and watching.

“In our labs, everyone is touching everything,” Sellner said. “It’s amazing to see young women with their hands on pipettes, reading microbial plates and digging in. No one is complaining about the smell or anything else because there is no one to posture for. I feel so good about sending women out into the world who know what they know and aren’t afraid to share it.”

And the students find Sellner’s love for science, well, contagious.

“Dr. Sellner has a tremendous amount of passion for science and education, and it shows in her classroom,” said Dana Heggeman ’16, now a graduate student in Stephens’ Master of Physician Assistant Studies program. “She is constantly pushing students further into their studies, making them look past just memorizing the fact and into applying what they’ve learned to the real world.”

Hannah Fountain ’17 looks forward to Sellner’s lectures and labs because she knows she will leave the class enthused about a new topic in science.

“Dr. Sellner will draw dozens of diagrams and bring countless props to help make abstract concepts tangible,” Fountain said. “Dr. Sellner’s commitment to the success of her students shows us how to believe in ourselves. Dr. Sellner is everything that is truly great about Stephens College.”

While Sellner is devoted to her college students, she also knows the secret to increasing the number of women in science is to inspire them while they’re young. That’s why Sellner has worked hard to win grants to bring middle school girls to campus for Saturday Science at Stephens. She also advises Tri-Beta, the national biological honor society on campus, whose members take an active role teaching and mentoring the middle school girls.

Dr. Susan Muller, dean of the School of Health Sciences, is impressed with Sellner’s dedication to her students and the field of science.

“Dr. Sellner is an outstanding faculty member who is passionate about teaching and helping young women become interested in science,” she said. 

Sellner embraces the notion that she isn’t the stereotypical science teacher and hopes her example inspires students to be themselves and follow their own paths.

“What I really love about Stephens is our students are engaged with their courses, and they are engaged with their professors,” Sellner said. “I am happy my students feel comfortable walking into my office to talk with me about coursework and other things. I’m here for them.”

Date Tail

Creative Ink students tackle poster design for 'Emma' production

Each semester a team of students from Creative Ink, Stephens College’s student-run marketing firm, works with the School of Performing Arts to create promotional materials for at least two shows.

This fall, however, every student at Creative Ink worked on creating a poster for Stephens’ upcoming play “Emma.” 

Kate Gray, associate professor in the School of Design and Creative Ink adviser, said the poster project became a training opportunity for students to learn firsthand and from each other what it’s like to work with a professional client. 

“We had asked the students, ‘How would you make the training better?’” Gray said. “The students said they wanted a project that they all worked on. So, that’s what we did.”

The process worked like most professional marketing jobs.

First, representatives from the School of Performing Arts talked with members of Creative Ink about the play and its storyline. Next, the firm’s 12 students were split into five teams and were asked to design three posters, each with completely different looks.

Finally, with everyone in the room, each team presented its posters to the client. Students also had the opportunity to hear each team’s feedback from the client.

Director Timuchin Aker, assistant professor of theatre at Stephens and director of “Emma,” was awestruck by the students’ creativity.

“We couldn’t have been happier with the results,” he said.

The winning poster, created by Claire DeSantis ’18 and Lyubov Sheremeta ’18, conveys a perfect pop-meets-period vibe, which is just what the client wanted for the 2010 adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s greatest novels.   

Clean and simple, like a modern magazine cover, the poster features a tight shot of the play’s star, Morgan Walker ’17, under the heading “Emma” in big pink letters.

But the kicker for Aker was the words “Oh, snap!” printed in white below Walker’s picture. The exclamation—made popular in recent years by Tracy Morgan on “Saturday Night Live”—is a play on something Emma does on stage that gives the production a modern-day feel: She snaps her fingers to stop the action of the play and talks directly to the audience.

“It told me the students had really listened to what we had to say about the play,” Akers said. “ Also, someone who says ‘Oh, snap!’ today could very much be the same kind of person who Emma was in her time period. There is a direct correlation between the youth of today and Emma. It was brilliant on the part of Creative Ink.”

Date Tail

Students celebrate differences at first Fallopian Fest

What better way to bring women together than to create an event that celebrates their many different experiences?

That was the idea behind the Fallopian Fest, an afternoon event created by five Stephens College students, which was held Jan. 21 in the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall. The festival showcased local poets and musicians and advocates who also spoke at the event, sharing their personal struggles as women or gender-nonconforming persons. There was also a panel of speakers who responded to a guided Q&A session about a wide range of women’s issues.

All money raised by the event was donated to True North, a local women’s shelter.

Organizers of the event were founders Emme Van Roekel and Lauren Douglas, and coordinators Winona Wiley, Keyari Page and Madeline Campbell. 

Date Tail

Embassy of the Czech Republic hosts Stephens' Traces in the Wind

The Stephens College cast of “Traces in the Wind” returned to Washington D.C. on Jan. 17 for another performance of the tone poem of remembrance.

This time the group appeared before the Embassy of the Czech Republic to which Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Performing Arts, has strong ties.

“Traces in the Wind” was developed one and a half years ago by Mardirosian, who worked with various Stephens theatre and musical theatre students on the piece. Tom Andes, instructor of music, composed original music and worked with Mardirosian to develop the lyrics. The group gave a performance last spring at Stephens before traveling to Washington D.C. for a showing at the International Psychoanalytical Association’s conference at American University.

The piece is based on writings from three Czech survivors of Terezin, a Nazi transit camp located 45 miles outside of Prague.

“The words of three extraordinary women who were betrayed, humiliated, deprived of normal living conditions and incarcerated, experienced a great depth of psychological and physical abuse and, yet, survived, were used as the matrix for the presentation,” Mardirosian said. “It seemed as if each of these exceptional women had used their art as some form of sustenance and it gave them some renewal, at least for the soul.”

Mardirosian said it’s impossible for her to fully comprehend the circumstances under which the women suffered.

“Yet, as an artist, there was such a compelling empathy generated from reading their writings,” she said, “that I felt an extraordinary desire to share their words.”

The stories presented include those of Charlotte Delbo, portrayed by Katherine Moore ’17, Rosie Glazer, portrayed by Clara Bentz ’17 and Eva Kavanova, portrayed by Lauren Hardcastle ’16.

Abilene Olson ’17 performs as the narrator; Jayme Brown ’17 serves as production stage manager and dramaturge; and Jamie Casagrande ’17 designed the costumes. Brandi Coleman, visiting artist, developed the movement. Pam Ellsworth-Smith, associate professor of vocal arts, served as vocal coach. Dialect coach was Paula Cavanaught Cater. Script consultant was Barbara Oliver Korner.

Mardirosian’s work with Czech theatre began in 2000 when she was invited by the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences, an international nonprofit organization promoting Czech and Slovak cultural and intellectual contributions, to present the American debut of a play written by the famous Czech playwright Josef Topol.  This led to many subsequent performances and presentations sponsored by the Embassy and performed in Washington D.C., as well as invitational lectures at various universities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and Bohemia Hall in New York City.

In addition, Mardirosian’s work with the Embassy of the Czech Republic represents an important connection to her personal life.

“My mother was Czech and Slovak and this work connects me to my roots in so many ways,” she said. “I am also driven by a conviction to theatre for social justice.”

Date Tail

Stephens to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day with various programming


The Stephens College community will gather for a special celebration on Jan. 16, 2017, to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Activities will begin at 3 p.m. with a Peace Walk, which will start at Historic Senior Hall conclude in Windsor Auditorium, where a program of powerful performances begins at 4 p.m.

This year’s program is dedicated to Monica Hand, an assistant professor of English, who passed away in December.

The program includes the short film “Sugar-Coated: Make America Great Again” by Tracy Wilson-Kleecamp as well as a dance performance titled “Freedom,” choreographed by Kylie Thompson ’18 and performed by Cerena Chancey ’19, Kiana Homan ’19 and Madisen Nielsen ’18. There will be spoken word by Tiana Williams ’18 and Poets of Infinity, a student group, and a soliloquy performed by Sicily Mathenia ’19. 

This MLK program is a collaboration between the Black History Month Committee, Poets of Infinity, Student Development Office of Programming and Leadership, and the School of Performing Arts.

During the day, students will participate in community service opportunities. Stephens juniors and seniors also will attend a Diversity Conference designed to improve awareness and appreciation of diversity in our communities and places of work. The conference, led by facilitators from the National Conference for Community & Justice of Metropolitan St. Louis, will focus on understanding microagressions/hot buttons and triggers, allyship and creating a foundation of how we are able to become authentic allies. There will be opportunities for participants to see and identify how these identities manifest themselves in daily life through interactive and engaging activities.


Four Stephens students receive prestigious YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund scholarships

Pictured: A portion of Audrey Lockwood’s winning scholarship entry.


Four Stephens College fashion students are among 229 recipients nationwide of the highly competitive 2017 YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) scholarships.

Each student will receive $5,000 from the YMA FSF, which is the fashion industry’s leading educational nonprofit, granting the largest sum of money and total number of scholarships.

The Stephens recipients are Madison Brown ’20, fashion marketing and management; Cierra Bergen ’20, apparel studies; Kalynn Coy ’17, fashion marketing; and Audrey Lockwood ’18, fashion design and product development.

In addition to the scholarship check, recipients will receive an all-expense paid trip to the annual January Awards Gala in New York City and have access to internship opportunities through YMA FSF partner companies, which include Calvin Klein, Global Brands Group, Nautica, and Phillips-Van Heusen Corp, to name a few. Each student will be matched with an industry executive who will serve as a mentor during the year of the award.

“This proved to be the most competitive competition in the history of the organization with 569 applicants from 58 member schools,” said Marie Colletta, director of education programs at YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund.

Kirsteen Buchanan, associate professor of fashion, said the scholarships are only awarded to students from colleges and universities who are invited by the YMA FSF to participate as a member school. This was the first year Stephens was asked to join the competition, and six students applied for the scholarship money. Stacie Mayo, a fashion marketing and management/business instructor, was also instrumental in the student entries.

“We did very well,” Buchanan said.

Each student, who needed a 3.0 GPA or above to apply for the scholarship, was asked to complete a case study involving a fictional partnership between Etsy and Macy’s department store company. Two industry judges evaluated each case study independently.

Established nearly 80 years ago with a mission to advance the fashion industry by encouraging creative young people to pursue careers in the field, the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund offers scholarships and comprehensive programs to fashion students across the country. Each year, the organization presents scholarships from $5,000 to $30,000, leading the industry in support and commitment to education. 

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