Thursday, May 1, 2014

An Open Letter to My Alma Mater *****Edited

Dear Point Loma Nazarene University,

In the last few moments, your budget cuts, previously unknown to me, have been brought to my attention and now permeate my thoughts. A simple Facebook message read, "PLNU Theatre grads. It's official. They are phasing out our major. We will no longer exist."

A lot of life has happened in these many years since I sat, boiling in black cap and gown, waiting to receive my degree on an uncharacteristically hot day in May eleven years ago. I don't agree with all the choices you've made, but I will continue to validate my experience because I believe, down to my very core, that I am who I am today--in large part--because of the four years I spent on your campus.

In those incredibly formative years, I gained significant head knowledge but, more than that, I learned about life. Those seemingly never ending years are now a mere spot on the radar of my past but, in them, I learned who it was that I wanted to be. As a result, I find myself passionately defensive of my education. I learned. I learned that my professors were right. They were wrong. And sometimes they were neither right nor wrong because it was often a matter of opinion. I learned discernment, when to keep my mouth shut and when to speak up. I learned how to live and grow and educate myself without my incredible parents by my side day in and day out. I learned about God. I studied His word. I took significant steps toward being the believer that I wanted to be. I will be ever thankful for all that Point Loma Nazarene University is to me.

It is because of all that that I grieve the decision you have made to phase out my major. I am deeply saddened by the information reported on your website. The truth of the matter is, I'm not using my theatre degree in the way it was intended. I'm not employed as an actor, director, or stage manager. I don't even work in a box office. I don't regularly consider the Laban Theory of Movement or implement professional make-up techniques on a daily basis. So if you're basing your decision on how many graduates are using their degrees for employment, I urge you not to look in my direction.

But I am using my theatre degree. I use it every single day in a vast array of areas.

I graduated from PLNU in May of 2003 and married my husband three months later. He was and still is a pastor. Having spent the past ten years as a pastor's wife, I have had countless opportunities to be front and center, including the many times I have shared from God's word at conferences and retreats. This skill was fine tuned through the art of being in front of people on stage in productions as well as through classes such as Acting I and II and Movement I and II. I taught drama in the Ramona Unified School District. At that time, I was using my degree for employment (using the knowledge I gained from classes including, but not limited to, Directing, Theatre History, and Stagecraft Techniques). I also used my acting training to effectively and comfortably communicate in the classroom. I now work as a substitute teacher, using my degree in much the same way. With substitute teaching comes the addition of applying my improvisational skills to interact in a variety of different classroom situations and disciplines as well as with students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

While not lucrative, I use the knowledge I gained under Paul Bassett at Point Loma's Salomon Theatre to write and direct church plays and participate in Vacation Bible School ministries. We do not always use our degrees for monetary gain. Sometimes, the Lord calls us to an area of study so that it will later benefit us in volunteer ministry.

From 2001-2003, I served as Salomon Theatre's Production Manager. This, along with stage managing, equipped me for a variety of different opportunities. I now plan conferences and retreats for our church. The theatrical managing disciplines taught me how to take an idea and turn it into an event by being mindful of each and every detail.

Truly, I cannot begin to tell you how often I use the knowledge I gained through the Theatre Department at Point Loma.

For so many of us, theatre is not just a hobby or a way to pass the time. I am deeply saddened that future students will not be able to experience the same education I did. To attend PLNU, gain a Christian education, and study theatre, was a dream come true. By making the decision to cut the major, you are choosing to send young students to secular drama programs when they would have preferred to study at a school that might have helped to reinforce their beliefs and values.Your website is quick to state that a theatre minor will still be offered and that PLNU will continue to stage plays. I trust that you understand what a terrible consolation prize that is. In a world that is so quick to cut the arts, areas in which humanity communicates its God-given condition, I would have expected more from a Christian institution.

As a side note, I am deeply concerned about the university's choice to phase out the Philosophy/Theology department. As my heart is bound to the theatre department, I am much more personally invested in your decision to cut it, but it confuses me that a religious school would do away with its theology department.

My heart is forever tied to the incredible education and experience that I received at your institution. I learned volumes about life...and about theatre. I made deep and continuing friendships. I made memories that will last a lifetime. I love Point Loma Nazarene University.

I love the theatre department. I am devastated that you have chosen to eliminate it. Truly, I wish that another choice could have been made.

***Edited to Add
A PLNU professor brought the following to my attention: The Phil/Theo decision affects only one small major within the School of Theology. The courses will be reorganized into major programs more appropriate to current student interests.

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