MFA Monday: Stephanie Todd Wong
The first question I ask someone who has expressed an interest in grad school, is “Why?” And I ask it not to be flippant or to discourage, but with genuine curiosity. Why? What is the goal? What is motivating you? What do you hope to accomplish? The administrator in me these days, wants to ask what is the ROI? I think these questions are super important, because let’s face it, higher education isn’t cheap. We’re talking about a serious investment here, in terms of both time and money. And as dancers, we can’t afford to waste either!
When I entered grad school, I did it wanting several different things. I wanted to be a better dancer and choreographer. I wanted to be able to teach at a university level. I longed for the structure school provides and the resources of space and bodies to work with. And if I’m totally honest, I wanted something I could hold up that might make others outside our field take my profession more seriously. (“I have a terminal degree now, this isn’t just a hobby!”)
Back to the ROI or return on investment…. Since I will probably be paying off my school loans up until the moment I start paying for my daughters’ college expenses, I have to bring this up. School is expensive and when you finish you’re not entering a professional world known for high compensation. Will an MFA advance your career enough to justify the expense and/or debt? Is the degree truly worth the price tag?
Take time to sit with the “why.” Having honest answers to that question will guide you more surely than any advice you could get from me.
Stephanie Todd Wong moved to Houston in 2008 after spending ten years in Washington DC as a dancer, choreographer, dance teacher and dance administrator. Stephanie holds a BA in Dance from Mercyhurst College and received her MFA in Dance from George Mason University in 2004. While living in Washington she was a dancer in the Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company, which performed in various locations in DC and New York City. She also had the privilege of working with Lorry May, founding director of Sokolow Dance Foundation to learn and perform Anna Sokolow’s The Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter. As a choreographer, Stephanie’s work was presented at both Joy of Motion and Dance Place. Stephanie also spent time teaching dance and worked to create a high school dance program for The Flint Hill School in Vienna Virginia. Beginning in 2007, Stephanie began working for Dance/MetroDC, the local branch office of Dance/USA, serving as its Programs Associate and ultimately its Interim Director. In this role she was responsible for creating and executing all the organizations programming, including the Metro DC Dance Awards, a region wide awards program that took place at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Stephanie became Executive Director of Dance Source Houston in 2011 and currently sits on the Advisory Board for Arts + Culture Magazine and an Affiliate Working Group of Dance/USA.