Starkle Dream Up. Stephens College


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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:

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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