This is an excerpt from Introduction to Dance Studies by Karen Schupp.
Of course, the best way to learn about your campus and your department is to interact with your campus community. Students who are more proactive in meeting with their faculty, getting to know upper division students, and joining campus organizations have a better awareness of the expectations of their departments and campus. Additionally, getting involved in your department and campus communities is a way for you to create opportunities in your dance education.
Know Your Faculty
You will work closely with your faculty members in each dance class you take. They will design dance phrases, assign readings, create choreographic prompts, and provide a variety of learning experiences for you and your classmates. While faculty members enjoy working with students in the classroom, most are also available to meet with students outside of class time, willing to formally and informally mentor student projects, and ready to offer scholastic and career advice. It might seem intimidating to approach your faculty members about an individual meeting, but proactively connecting with your faculty can be a valuable step toward shaping your dance education and widening your dance practice.
Most faculty members are required to hold office hours. Office hours are a time set aside for individual meetings between a faculty member and a student. Few students take advantage of office hours, but taking the initiative to meet with your faculty members during their office hours helps you to get to know them (and they get to know you better, too!). Visiting your professors during office hours with questions about class material or to follow up on something discussed in class that piqued your interest demonstrates that you are curious about dance and your coursework. Meeting in person with your faculty members outside of class is a great way to learn firsthand information about your dance program.
Many dance faculty members have won awards for their work; are active as performers, choreographers, or researchers; and have occasional presentations of their work on and off campus. You may find that one of your instructors has choreographed a dance for a regional dance company, or that a professor of yours is having a book reading and signing at a local bookstore. Attending these types of events lets you learn more about your faculty members while also learning more about particular areas of dance that are new to you. Also, these events may give you new ideas about what you can pursue in your dance education.
Know Your Fellow Students
As a new student on campus, you will initially be surrounded by other new students in your dance and general education courses. You will spend a lot of time together, and friendships will quickly develop. While sharing experiences with other new students helps develop community, it is important to meet upper division undergraduate students.
Some campuses have formal and informal buddy systems in which upper division students mentor new students. The term upper division refers to coursework typically taken in the third and fourth years of college, so these third- and fourth-year students can help you navigate the academic study of dance from a student’s perspective. Even if your campus does not have a buddy system, it is advantageous to connect with at least one upper division student. Upper division students will likely have plenty of tips to offer, ranging from information about how to best approach your instructors with questions to the best place to get pizza after a dance performance, so it is a smart idea to seek out their advice. Connecting with upper division students can help you feel more secure in studying dance on campus.
You can also think of meeting upper division students as a networking opportunity. If your campus does not have a formal mentoring program, look for opportunities to initiate casual conversations with upper division students at various campus events. Frequently, upper division students are more established as part-time teachers in local dance studios, choreographers and performers in department productions, and leaders in the campus community. Meeting upper division students can assist you in finding and creating enriching out-of-class experiences that enhance your dance education.
Know Your Campus Community
You will develop a close-knit community in your dance program. At the same time, it is essential that you connect to your larger campus community. All campuses have a variety of student-run organizations that allow for like-minded students to connect. Campus clubs and organizations range from academic clubs, to cultural, ethnic, and religious organizations, to associations that promote social awareness, to honor and professional societies. Chances are that if you have a specific interest, your campus has a club related to it. Getting to know students outside of dance can help create new connections in your campus community.
Additionally, meeting students from outside of dance can help generate interest about dance on your campus. As nondance students hear you talk about the value of dance, what you learn through dance, and the innovative approaches you are learning about as a dance major, they may be more inclined to attend an upcoming dance performance or even enroll in a dance class. You might find that your nondance friends have skills or interests that dovetail nicely with a particular dance focus of yours. Getting to know students outside of dance helps you learn more about different areas of study, social and cultural activities, or volunteer opportunities on campus; furthers your awareness of dance; and creates potential future collaborations.
Learn more about Studying Dance.