Master of Education
Toward the end of her undergraduate studies at Smith, Molly Treadway finally pinpointed the career she wanted to pursue. "I was a psychology major. I loved what I was studying, but working in elementary education was where I could see myself," she says.
Treadway, a native of San Francisco, chose Smith's master of education program as the best route to achieving that goal. "I already knew how great the faculty and facilities are at Smith. I also wanted to spend a little more time in the Northampton area."
These days, she's known as "Miss Treadway" to the 20 first-graders who she teaches at the Campus School. Getting used to her new name took a little time as did adjusting to the energetic pace of her young learners. "It's an incredible age group. They're making huge changes right before your eyes."
What Treadway appreciates most about Smith's master of education program is the way it combines the theoretical and the practical. She says she'll find herself suddenly seeing a pedagogical concept that was discussed in a seminar on early literacy come to life in the first-grade classroom. She has the highest praise for the faculty of Smith's department of education and child study. "They're so available and supportive."
She also values the supportive community that has developed among the graduate students in both the master of education and master of arts in teaching programs. The group gathers for dinner on campus every Thursday night to unwind and swap stories about their classroom adventures.
Now that she's had a taste of teaching, Treadway is convinced that it is her calling. She finds teaching science to be particularly gratifying. "I took horticultural classes as an undergraduate and had such wonderful professors," she says. "Now I find myself reinventing what I learned for the first-grade level. It's a nice feeling to reteach those lessons and, in a way, finish the cycle."
Diploma in American Studies
When Afanwi Niba, a double major in American studies and applied linguistics at the University of Hamburg, registered for courses being taught by two visiting professors from Smith, he never imagined it would lead him to the United States. Now a candidate for the diploma in American studies, Niba credits Daniel Horowitz, Mary Higgins Gamble Professor Emeritus and professor emeritus of American history, and Louis Wilson, professor of Afro-American studies, with introducing him to Smith. "Then Professor Wilson encouraged me to apply for the diploma program and actually saw to it that I submitted an application," says Niba.
That type of faculty support is a large part of what Niba finds remarkable about Smith. He notes that as a student at a large university, he's always been in large classes and hasn't had personal relationships with professors. "Now I'm in classes where there are 20 students at the most," he says. "I can write to my professors whenever I want and always get a quick reply. I can go to office hours and discuss my papers. It makes a huge difference."
Ultimately, Niba sees his future in diplomacy or international relations, perhaps as a member of the German department for foreign affairs or working with an international organization. So, along with taking courses in American studies, he is studying government, international relations, political science and economics. "Back in Germany, we don't get to take courses in other departments. Smith is a one-time opportunity to broaden my horizons," he explains.
Niba is also taking full advantage of Smith's resources, which he describes as incredible. "As a [former] student at a state-run university, I'm not used to going into the library and having something like a hundred different online catalogs available." He also appreciates his access to the libraries of the other schools in the Five College Consortium. "I'm trying to fully use every resource while I'm at Smith," he adds.
Master of Fine Arts in Playwriting
On his blog, Ezra LeBank describes himself as a playwright, actor and fight/movement director. The latter specialty is one he discovered while training at the State University of New York Purchase College and later honed in the Physical Theatre Program at The Actors Center in New York City. He went on to found Lynx Co., a theatre company dedicated to creating socially provocative theatre through exploring diverse forms of movement, language and storytelling. Now as a master of fine arts candidate in Smith's playwriting program, LeBank is integrating those three elements to create a style of theatre all his own.
LeBank says he chose Smith mainly because of Professor Leonard Berkman, Anne Hesseltine Hoyt Professor of Theatre, and his reputation among the dramaturgs and writers LeBank knows. "When I interviewed with Len, he was excited about my focus and the way I wanted to pursue it. I had the sense that I'd not only be welcome to follow that direction but also enthusiastically encouraged and mentored through the process."
Another draw of the program was the opportunity to work in the diverse areas that combine to create theatre. While at Smith, LeBank has coached movement for several productions at area colleges, performed in academic and professional productions, directed plays and readings, studied dance and performance art in a socially activist context, written plays and screenplays, and lectured at other schools in the Five College Consortium. "I've done all this and more, inside the context of the M.F.A," he notes.
In addition to collaborating with the theatre departments of the Five Colleges, LeBank has also produced a substantial amount of work in the community through Lynx Co. "The downtown arts scene in Northampton has been quite welcoming and creates a forum beyond Smith to stay active in an artistic community."
After graduation, LeBank intends to return to New York to continue producing work through Lynx Co. and to pursue freelance writing and acting. "I'll also continue traveling around the country performing at festivals, teaching and directing," he says. "My Smith M.F.A. will broaden the scope of opportunities that are available in academic and artistic communities."
Master of Fine Arts in Dance
As an undergraduate at Smith, Maura Donohue '92 pursued a double major in dance and anthropology. Fifteen years later, she's back on campus as a candidate for a master of fine arts degree.
"In between, I ran my own dance company in New York City and toured the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia," Donohue says. "Now I'm getting the kind of experience and credentials needed for viability in the academic landscape."
Donohue's troupe, In Mixed Company, is known for multimedia performance works that often examine the experience of "self" against the backdrops of gender, race and national alliance.
"I was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and raised in the U.S.," she says. "Throughout my life, I have been aware of the lens of difference through which I'm often viewed. This has led to a deep interest in how one might make deeply personal work that dissolves that notion of difference and works towards a common ground."
Donohue is continuing her autobiographical work while developing an interactive, large ensemble performance for her thesis. Along with maintaining a strong focus on integrating digital technology into dance performance, she's been teaching a number of courses at Smith, including beginning contact improvisation and beginning jazz.
As for why she chose Smith for her master of fine arts, she says that the availability of teaching fellowships was a key draw. Another factor was having loved her undergraduate experience. She adds, "Smith's resources and facilities are exceptional. I have access to the Five College Dance Department, which is wonderful, and I can run back to NYC for a show or meeting when needed."
After the challenges of running her own dance company while raising her two young children, Donohue finds graduate school exhilarating. "It is wonderful to indulge in lengthy, focused explorations of craft and creative process; history and theory," she says. "It's been a deliciously selfish time for me."