Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wagner's Special Strength

Now that I have been at Wagner College for almost two years, I can see pretty clearly that Wagner is a good and getting better liberal arts college, thanks to some excellent leadership. It also enjoys one special advantage. It has one of the best theater programs in the country. This is most noticeable to me, surprisingly enough, as an all-ears rider on the shuttle that goes back and forth between the college and the Staten Island Ferry.

First, I notice the theater majors the most because they tend to be the ones who ride the shuttle consistently, apparently because they are eager to get to Manhattan to see what professional theater has to offer. But even more intriguing is what they talk about as we make the 12 minute trip to and from and the ferry. For me, anyway, the conversations these students have convey passion and excitement.

They don't just talk about the theater in general terms - what's playing, what they like, which theater teachers they admire. They recite their favorite scenes, make a case for the most dramatic speeches from Shakespeare, talk in some depth about why some student actors are better than others. In other words, they can't seem to get enough of theater. Such sensibilities, I would argue, are a huge plus to any institution, especially a college. When students love what they are doing, when they talk about it in depth outside of class, when they see what they are studying as part of their emerging identities, all of these attitudes have an impact, lending to an outwardly staid institution, a heart and a soul that it would not otherwise have. We at Wagner have a lot to be thankful for, but in all honesty I don't think we show enough gratitude for a theater program that brings students to us whose love for what they do make us a better institution academically, but even more important, help us to become a more committed and spirited college as well.

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