You Did What With Your Siena Heights Degree?
Graduates Sometimes Take an Unorthodox Road to a Career Path
By Doug Goodnough
Many institutions of higher education claim that their students “can do anything with a college degree.”
Over the years, Siena Heights University graduates have put that statement to the test. Reflections Magazine interviewed a few these graduates who have used their education to carve out interesting—if not unorthodox—career paths. Success indeed does come in many forms, and these students have a good answer when asked:
“You did what with your Siena Heights degree?”
On the Move
When Chloe Whiting Stevenson ’08 completed her degree in theater/speech communication at Siena Heights University, her education was far from over. In fact, it took another two years of graduate school at Illinois State University before she finally figured out what she wanted to do with her degree.
“I dediced that I wanted to study physical theatre, which is a somewhat new term within the theatre realm.”
In fact, there were only two Master of Fine Arts programs in the world—and only one with American accreditation. She enrolled at the Accademia Dell’Arte program in Italy, which is accredited through the University of Mississippi for Women in the U.S.
The program is two-and-a-half years long and includes a variety of classes, including voice, movement, mask work, dance, acting, music, acrobatics, philosophy and circus. Yes, circus. This past summer Stevenson attended an intensive five-week workshop with a circus school in Torino, Italy. She trained in acrobatics, tightrope, silks, Chinese pole and the trapeze.
“I was personally drawn to the silks,” she said. At workshop’s end she was part of an hour-long circus performance. She had a solo and participated in several ensemble numbers.
“Several of our instructors were individuals who in the past have trained Italians competing in the Olympics,” Stevenson said. “It was wonderful that they trained us in similar styles. … I feel like the circus training that we did allowed me to truly see what my body was capable of as well as giving me a clear idea of what people who pursue circus as a career must do every day.”
The program will also allow her to travel and study in different parts of Europe over the next year.
“I knew that I wanted to see the world and study theatre and movement,” Stevenson said. “This program allows me to do both, for which I am truly grateful.”
Stevenson said the study of movement includes things like everyday motions such as walking or sitting to ballroom dancing, acrobatics and athletics. And it is also “exploring the world and staying aware of what is occurring around you,” Stevenson said.
She said she is particularly interested in the Japanese dance form of butoh, which she studied while at Siena Heights.
“This dance form truly explores how to connect with the earth and your own body,” Stevenson said.
Adjusting to the Italian lifestyle has taken some time, but Steven-son said now that she has a better grasp on the language (all the classes are taught in Italian), things have been better. She said walking and the train are the primary means of transportation, and the absence of some of her favorite foods—tacos, peanut butter and hummus—is mostly offset by the “amazing” Italian cuisine.
When she finishes her studies in December 2013, Stevenson said she hopes to teach movement at a U.S. college or university.
“I feel like more theatre programs are recognizing movement’s importance within the curriculum, so I am hoping that will help. … Part of me really wants to stay in Europe, however, I feel that I will be looking for jobs primarily in the United States so that I can be closer to family.”
She said Siena Heights theatre professors Mark DiPietro, Kerry Graves, Joni Warner and Doug Miller helped “move” her in the direction of her passion.
“They were wonderful in helping me look at programs for movement,” she said. “I have had exposure to many wonderful professors who have all aided me in looking for a place where I could continue to hone my skills that originated at Siena.”
Education: The Best Medicine
Kara Grigsby White ’12 has spent most of her professional career helping others in an emergency. As an emergency medical technician and paramedic, that is almost an everyday occurrence. However, one morning she woke up and realized that the emergency situation she had to respond to was her own.
“I have a rare brain disorder called Arnold Chiari Malformation that I did not know I had until I woke up one morning unable to speak, walk or even sit up,” White said. “This disorder affects the cerebellum portion of my brain, and it had herniated into my spinal cord and basically paralyzed me.”
Her condition required immediate emergency brain surgery, and she was on a strict recovery schedule for the next four or five months. However, she was enrolled in Siena Heights University’s Online Program at the time.
“It was very difficult, because this disorder directly affected my ability to focus, and the pain it caused was most of the time unbearable,” White said. “At one point I was given the option to stop my studies and come back after I was better, but I declined. I was so close to finishing and was determined to earn my bachelor’s degree. … Earning my bachelor’s degree became a priority because I wanted to teach and educate new students to have the passion and care that I have for my patients. Also, in my state (Arkansas), in order to teach any EMS class a bachelor’s degree is required.”
In May, White, still recovering from her surgery, amazingly completed her Bachelor of Applied Science degree with SHU in respiratory care and EMT/paramedic.
“Having the option to do online classes made this struggle easier because I worked at a pace that would not affect my recovery in a negative way,” White said of her SHU experience.
And her degree paid quick dividends. Less than eight months from her surgery, she was hired by Arkansas Northeastern College as director of its EMS Programs. Her new responsibilities include establishing a proper program course, screening potential students for the course and making sure they meet the requirements to test at national level once the course is completed.
“I needed to cut back my ambulance time and field time to continue to properly heal,” White said. “Being in the classroom gives me the time I need and lets me follow my dream of education.”
She remains a paramedic and currently balances her time between the field and the classroom.
“I am not sure that I could ever not be in the EMT field,” White said. “I have a passion to help, and that is a direct way I can fill that passion. Being in the classroom allows me to indirectly fill that passion through my students.”
Hooray for Holloway(wood)
Randy Holloway ’10 knew he had what it takes to have a career in the entertainment business. Now, he has the degree to prove it.
Holloway, a former auto plant assembly line worker who walked away from a comfortable job and a degree in mechanical engineering, is now pursuing his passion as a filmmaker, screen writer and TV producer. In fact, he recently received a prestigious grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts’ Artspire program that is allowing him to produce his first feature film, “Making Money.” The movie is expected to debut early in 2013.
The 38-year-old first developed his love of film by watching the “classics” like “Yankee Doodle Dandy,”“Singing in the Rain” and “The Lost Weekend” as a child every Saturday morning with his mother.
“I had the opportunity to see those kinds of movies, and that drove me to the grandeur of Hollywood,” Holloway said. “I was just enamored with everything I saw on the screen.”
That love of movies persisted to adulthood. A line worker at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant, Holloway would often see three or four movies a week, and then provide detailed critiques to his co-workers during breaks and lunch hours. He decided one day to actually write a movie review, and had two fellow employees—one a retired English teacher—edit his work.
“There was red ink everywhere,” Holloway said of the editing process. “I was a little dejected and wanted to quit. But I made the corrections and went back and there was less and less red ink. Then finally they both said ‘perfect.’”
He decided to print the review and distribute it around the plant.
The plant manager and union president liked it so much they asked him to be the editor of the plant newspaper. At the time a student in Wayne State University’s mechanical engineering program, Holloway’s review found its way to campus – and a woman who worked for a magazine owned by Warner Brothers Entertainment. That eventually led Holloway to a job as a screen representative for Columbia Pictures in 1999.
“I was six classes away from graduating (with a mechanical engineering degree), but my heart wasn’t in it at all,” Holloway said. “Once I got a taste of flying around the country interviewing celebrities and being around what was my childhood dream, it just wasn’t going to happen.”
For several years he helped set up reviews around the country, and interviewed celebrities like Brad Pitt and met some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. However, when his mother be- came ill, Holloway had to step away from the entertainment industry for a while. Still maintaining his job at Chrysler, Holloway decided to take another bold step after his mother passed away in 2007.
“It just felt as if something was telling me, ‘it was your time,’” Holloway said of returning to the entertainment industry. “But I didn’t know the business. To make movies I needed to know exactly what goes on behind the camera.”
He enrolled in Specs Howard School of Media Arts to learn how to work a camera. He graduated at the top of his class and took an intern- ship with a Detroit television station. In less than a month, Holloway was hired as a producer at the station, and it was there he said he honed his skills as a producer.
In 2009 he accepted a buyout from his position at Chrysler, and decided to take his education to another level. He enrolled in the Professional Communication program at SHU’s Metro Detroit Program while continuing to work as a producer. Holloway earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average when he graduated.
“I was still making good money, but my heart was just burning and aching for something else,” Holloway said of his decision to leave Chrysler. “I knew that this was not it.”
Holloway continued to learn the movie-making and television production trade, helping friends with local productions involved with commercials, videos and film festivals. He worked on several reality television programs, including one with Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from MTV’s hit series “Jersey Shore.” He also directed a pilot for CBS star- ring Cindy Crawford in 2011.
But he wanted his own production, and “Making Money” is his opportunity to do it. Holloway said he did not initially receive the grant to make the movie, but he received an email from the foundation’s vice president asking him to reapply, and he did, he got his funding. The foundation helped launch the careers of producers like Julie Taymor, Terry McMillan and Spike Lee.
“That has never been done before in the history of the organization,” Holloway said of being able to reapply. “That truly blew me away.”
He said “Making Money” is a coming of age story about high school basketball player Marcus Banks and his quest to win his school’s first basketball championship. The movie is expected be filmed this fall and debuted hopefully by NBA All-Star Weekend in February.
Working on the movie and several other projects commands most of his time. But he said pursuing his passion fuels him.
“My dream is right in front of me and I’m reaching for it,” Holloway said. “My end goal is to be a respected TV and film producer. I’m trying to take it to another level and really do something that hasn’t been heard of before. I’m not going to Hollywood and doing it, I’m staying here on the west side of Detroit.”
And he said having his bachelor’s degree “takes away any questions.” “Education earns respect,” Holloway said. “Siena definitely gave me that badge of honor that I know is there.”
To view the progress of Holloway’s movie, visit: www.makingmoneythemovie.com.
The Art of Politics
How did an art major find a career in politics? With the help of a good friend.
Angela Biniecki Goble ’05 was working as a digital imaging specialist at a small studio in Monroe, Mich., when she received a phone call from a college friend.
“She said, ‘My dad is running for state representative and he could really use some help with his campaign literature. Let me put you in contact with him,’” Goble said.
That candidate was Monroe’s Dale Zorn, who, with Goble’s graphic design help, ended up winning the election. During the campaign’s victory party on election night, Zorn asked Goble to join his full-time staff in Lansing. She accepted, and makes the commute every day from her home in Newport, Mich., to the state capitol.
“I thought, ‘What an opportunity,’” she said. “ I’ve been here since January of 2011, and I love it so far.”
As a legislative aide, Goble plans and executes all of the events for Zorn, including all the graphic design and photography duties. “I’m kind of the resident artist of the office,” Goble said.
However, her job entails much more outside of her artistic skillset. She also handles all the scheduling and also works on constituent cases.
“If someone calls the office and has an unemployment issue, I work with the person and the corresponding state department to help them get a resolution,” Goble said. “I handle sort of the people side of things.”
Calling herself a “creative problem-solver,” she also is involved with some legislative issues, scheduling committee hearings and meetings to discuss bills. And with this being an election year, she said she is learning the difference between campaign-related politics and legislative-related politics is clear.
“We are not allowed to work on anything campaign-related during office hours,” she said. “The definition is really clear here in the office, as it should be. We do a lot after 5 p.m. and the weekends working to keep our bosses out there (campaigning).”
She said the striking architecture in Lansing often reminds her of classes with SHU art history Professor Peter Barr. And the mission of Siena Heights—which she memorized even before stepping on campus—stay with her in her new career.
“Politics can be a really divisive venture, but as long as you are treating people with respect and dignity that they preach at Siena, even if you don’t agree with them, it just makes all the difference,” she said.
And would she be willing to run for office one day?
“I think it takes a certain personality, and it definitely takes a thick skin that I don’t have right now,” Goble said. “You never know. I wouldn’t rule it out.”