Student Spotlight: Sara Smigen

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Sara is a Student Mentor for 2016-17

Sara Smigen is a 2012 cum laude graduate of Gettysburg College with a Bachelor of Music in Performance (Voice) and a business minor. After college she worked for Proctors and Capital Repertory Theatre in Schenectady and Albany, New York where she worked her way up from intern to Marketing Account Manager. While there some of her favorite duties were designing and coordinating commercial and video shoots, season brochures, and managing subscription campaigns. With her performance background in opera and voice, Sara is particularly interested in building a stronger bridge between opera and musical theatre audiences. She hopes to work in management and season planning for a multidisciplinary performing arts organization.

What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University? The diversity of the program offerings was definitely a strong asset of the program at TC. If there’s one thing I’ve learned thus far working in the arts, it’s that nothing exists in a vacuum, and that you will be interacting with people both within and outside of your organization who come from all different academic and professional backgrounds. Additionally, the arts are interdisciplinary by nature. With that in mind I was really drawn to the ARAD program here at Columbia because of the possibility to take classes in nearly any discipline possible. We can take classes in the School of the Arts, SIPA, the Columbia Business School, the Law School. The list is quite comprehensive. One of the reason I wanted to attend graduate school as to broaden my skill set, and I feel like the course offerings in our program really allow for that. Additionally, I appreciated that half of our coursework is for us to determine. Having worked for a few years I had a good sense of what skill sets I needed to focus on, and what areas I did not need as much experience in. As opposed to being rigidly structured, the TC program allows you to cater your course studies to your particular interests. Lastly – the location! You really cannot beat NYC if you want to work in the arts.

How are your studies helping to advance your career goals? In just my two preliminary semesters I’ve already had the opportunity to take classes in a wide range of disciplines. For instance I’ve already taken classes in Organizational Psychology, Human Resource Management, Planning a Theatrical Season, Accounting, Development, Marketing for the Arts, and more. I definitely feel that I am broadening my professional and academic skills. Since I want to work in management for performing arts I feel it’s important to have some experience and knowledge of each major aspect of a company, from HR to Finance, to Development, to Marketing, etc, and so far I have been able to do so.

Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community. Each member of the ARAD community comes to the program with a unique background, set of skills, and interests. I learn so much from my classmates on a daily basis and really enjoying hearing about their experiences. It’s been really great getting to know everyone, and through them be exposed to new kinds of art and experiences. Further, the faculty really encourage us to go out and be part of the arts scene, whether that means going to see shows, or continuing to perform if that is something that is important to us – it is New York, after all! Regardless of our specific areas of focus, everyone is passionate about the arts as a whole, and supportive of each other’s artistic and administrative endeavors. When a classmate has a painting on a display or is singing in a performance, there is always a group of ARAD students there to support them. We often organize get together to go to performances and exhibitions, as well. It’s really great to be surrounded by a group of people who are passionate about their craft and genuinely kind and supportive of your own aspirations in concert with their own.

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