Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Finding their groove

New dance minor at MSU allows students to shake things up

February 7, 2011

Scott Stafford, a communication sophomore, is one student taking advantage of the new dance minor offered through the Department of Theatre. Stafford discusses his passion for dancing, how his athleticism plays a role in his work and the positive and negative stigmas attached to male dancers.

Photo by Emily Wilkins | The State News

Some might look at sophomore Kaity Sinke’s transcripts and have no idea what she is planning to do with her career. Sinke, who is supplementing her degree in psychology with a minor in dance, said the seemingly different career paths are a perfect fit for her.

“I really want to go into dance movement therapy, so (psychology and dance) directly correlate with each other,” Sinke said.

“I didn’t realize I wanted to be a dance therapist until I got to the program here and started learning about the program. It’s so educational — it showed me I wanted to take dance to the next level.”

Sinke is one student taking advantage of the Department of Theatre’s dance program, which now is being offered as a minor for the first time.

Prior to a policy change in 2009, programs had to be offered as a major in order to be considered for a minor. The vast majority of majors do not offer minors as well.

This change made it possible for students, such as Sinke, to minor in dance even though it still is not an option for a major.

A better degree
Sherrie Barr, director of the dance program, said the Department of Theatre wasted no time in giving students the opportunity to obtain a minor in dance.

“My department went for it as soon as we knew the university was doing minors,” Barr said. “Whenever the university passed that policy, we started going for it.”

Barr, now in her fifth year teaching at MSU, said quickly attempting to establishing a minor did not conclude with fast results.

“Curriculum is something that’s very dynamic at a university, and it has to go through a process,” Barr said. “It does not happen overnight.”

Although the change might have happened slowly, Barr said it’s amazing to see progress within the department in a time where cuts to higher educational funding and program consolidation are occurring.

Tricia Gordon, an applied engineering sciences junior who is minoring in dance, said she has seen firsthand what tight budgets in higher education have done to her peers.

“I have friends who have majors that were cut, and they had to transfer schools,” Gordon said. “It’s exciting to know the program is doing well. Even within the program, people are starting to join in more, and more effort is being put in — it’s going really well.”

Prior to the minor option, students interested in pursuing a career in dance only could obtain a specialization in the field — something not as applicable in the job market, Barr said.

“Most universities have minors — I’ve taught at a lot of universities,” Barr said.

“I think people don’t know what a specialization is. The world understands what a minor is — the world doesn’t necessarily know what a specialization is.”

Barr said although there is overlap between the prior specialization and the minor, curriculum changes have made the minor a more rigorous pathway of study.

Beyond logistical differences, Barr said she simply believes a change in name has created positive attention toward the program.

“I do think because it’s a minor now, it’s getting a lot more attention,” Barr said.

“Advisers are more aware of it, so I get more questions about it.”

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One passion
Dancing has been part of Colleen Synk’s life for as long as she remembers.

“I started dancing when I was three,” said Synk, a kinesiology senior.

“Then in fourth or fifth grade, I quit everything else that I was doing — soccer, Girl Scouts, swimming — because I knew I wanted to focus my attention on (dance) now and pursue what (dance) is.”

Synk said she was excited about the program’s transition into a minor because it directly will benefit her career goals, similarly to Sinke’s idea of how the minor will benefit her own future.

“As a (kinesiology) major, I really love moving and appreciate moving,” Synk said.

“The dance program for me — specifically for my major — is really great because it gives me a way to apply my knowledge. (My major and minor) work hand-in-hand and give me a better perspective.”

Barr said she has seen students from several different majors apply their knowledge of dance to their own career goals.

Like Synk and Sinke, Gordon said she already has seen positive benefits from the unique pairing of her academic specialties on her resume.

“I’m majoring in engineering, so (the dance minor) gives you something more — if I want to teach part time or something, I can do that,” Gordon said.

“Even when I interview for an engineering internship, (the dance minor) brings up conversation topics. I think it definitely adds to your diploma.”

Barr said one surprising aspect of the dance program is its unique effect on her students.

“Dance has really formed this amazing community amongst the students,” Barr said.

“And that’s really been interesting to see how those friendships have developed. It’s something I never expected.”

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