We had a chance to connect with Wayne Petro (Enrollment Manager of the School of Performing Arts at Pace University) about what a student should be looking for when choosing a degree and school. Check out Wayne's insightful advice below:
Navigating Degree Titles
Prospective performing arts applicants have an unprecedented amount of program options at colleges and universities in 2015. Applicants are no longer limited to theater arts or dance studies-type degree options on the college application. As performing arts programs around the country adapt to 21st century industry demands, applicants to colleges must dig beyond the degree titles listed on colleges’ websites and find the heart – the coursework and course offerings – that make each program special and unique.
Unwrap a Degree’s Contents
As the Enrollment Manager of the School of Performing Arts (PPA) at Pace University in Manhattan, I find myself regularly telling prospective parents and students to look beyond whether a certain theater or dance program is a BA or a BFA and “unwrap” its contents. For example, at first-glance, Pace’s BA Acting or BA Directing programs might seem standard-offering when in fact both programs are a part of the International Performance Ensemble (IPE). IPE starts in the freshman year with a course entitled Performance Ensemble where the students in these majors work side by side with pro in developing new theatrical work which, after premiering at an off campus professional theater, travels internationally to premiere at a major international theater festival.
Investigating Exposure to the Industry
To prepare graduates to work across the entire industry – from stage to film, TV, and media – some colleges are adding coursework, concentrations, and other experiences that broaden a student’s exposure to important aspects of a professional performing career. Back when I went to college, we considered ourselves lucky to get a semester of acting for film/TV. Now it’s standard. Students across all performing arts disciplines at Pace take courses that connect their individual majors with the film/TV/media industry. But one wouldn’t necessarily know this by glancing at the program description of, say, a BFA in Musical Theater. One wouldn’t also know that the School of Performing Arts offers a Los Angeles Intensive for our actors and dancers.
Ask Questions and Don’t Apologize
For the prospective parent and student, it’s important to know everything that one can about a school’s curriculum and course offerings. Furthermore, ask the important questions of what courses are offered that aren’t part of the required courses. Are there playwriting or sketch comedy courses? Do designers and stage managers get experience in film and TV? Can you become certified in stage combat? These electives aren’t always easy to find on the website, but a college rep – especially someone in performing arts– should be readily able to speak to you about the unique courses they offer. Many times prospective students apologize for asking these questions. Don’t apologize. These questions aren’t annoying for colleges. They convey your interest and potential engagement in their programs.
Wayne Petro is the Enrollment Manager for the School of Performing Arts at Pace University. He also is the first-year advisor for the School of Performing Arts and teaches First-Year Seminar and Acting for Production & Design. Outside of Pace he has been involved with the “downtown” New York theater scene, working for companies such as Soho Rep, Half Straddle, Ontological-Hysteric/Incubator Arts Project, Target Margin, Bushwick Starr, Page 73 Productions, and Clubbed Thumb to name a few. Wayne has a BFA in Theater from Cornish College of the Arts and an MS from Drexel University in Arts Administration.