Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lessons from across the pond

Published in: The Globe 
Originally published: October 12, 2010
By Kalea Hall 
The first time Amanda McGuire stepped out of her comfort zone of rural Greenville, Pa., was when she auditioned as an actress at Point Park University.
Two years later, the confidence she gained from her education and experiences gave her the initiative to go forth with her studies in England.
Now, the young woman so unsure of herself when she left her rural home has returned to Point Park as the student activities program coordinator and alcohol and drug educator.
"I fell in love with Pittsburgh, and from my training at Point Park, I fell in love with the program because of the teachers," McGuire said. "I am just happy to be an alum."

As the activities coordinator, McGuire sets up community service activities for students to participate in. Her goal this year as the coordinator, along with the Office of Student Activities, is "to see Point Park students have a sense of pride." She also hopes to make students feel more apart of the Pittsburgh community through community service, like the Sleep-In for the Homeless event.
As the alcohol and drug educator, McGuire gets students thinking about the decisions they make.
As an alum of Point Park, what McGuire loves being able to work with current students.
"What I love most about working with current students, is their enthusiasm, curiosity, and ability to discover," McGuire said.
McGuire hopes she can serve as a guide to students, since this point in their lives is where "they are learning who they are in society and who they want to be in the future."
From a very young age, the classical-looking McGuire wanted to be an actress and would perform for family and friends.
She was given the chance to attend the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts. McGuire felt she "never thought [she] would be good enough" to attend, but her feeling was turned around when she was accepted into the program. Its intensity made her realize what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
 "[The program] made me say, ‘you know what, I'm not done with theater yet'," McGuire said. "I knewthat I would not be able to live my life with never having theater be a part of it."
McGuire heard about Point Park's acting program and decided to apply. She auditioned to be an acting major and was accepted.
She began Point Park terrified, and was once again mystified at how her audition led to her acceptance.
"How am I still pulling this off, when are they going to find out that I can't really do this," McGuire said she thought as a freshman.
McGuire soon realized her fears were going to be taken to new heights when her professors "kicked" her out of her comfort zone.
One professor in particular that McGuire said impacted her life was Sharon Brady.
"She showed me that I could be more than I thought I could, and not just as an actress, but as a person," McGuire said.
Brady, an acting instructor at Point Park, said what she remembers most about McGuire is the "twinkle in her eye, her joy, enthusiasm and her willingness to give of herself." Brady pushed McGuire it her limits because that is how students grow, she said.
"With Amanda, I suggested that she look at a piece that I knew she ordinarily would not have considered," Brady said. "She embraced that job even though she had a little trepidation about it, and she did a wonderful job with the piece and grew exponentially out of that experience."
The self-confidence she gained from each instructor led her to audition for several Point Park productions. She was cast her junior year in "The Skin of Our Teeth." Then she was cast in a production of "Pinocchio," which, she said, was "life changing."
She accepted the position of Assistant Community Director (ACD) her senior year, where she assisted in supervising the student staff at Campus Life.
As an ACD, McGuire planned sessions for CF training sessions and incorporated theater games.Thisled her to want to find how her theater training could apply to everyday circumstancesand she begansearching for post theatrical graduate programs and came across Applied Drama, which uses "theatrical practices and drama in everyday life for community engagement and social intervention." The only problem with the program was the school offering it was the University of Exeter of England. This problem, McGuire soon realized, was a great opportunity.
"I thought going to England would provide a great opportunity to not only continue that passion (of working with students),"said McGuire, "but to also learn about the cultural differences between the U.S. and the U.K. in reference to campus services and ideals."
With encouragement from the Office of Campus Life and her family, McGuire applied to the university and was accepted.
Michael Gieseke, senior assistant dean for campus life, was one of the people who helped McGuire while she was applying to the university.
"I was very excited for Amanda," Gieseke said in an e-mail interview. "I knew that going to England would be a tremendous opportunity."
After graduating from Point Park in May 2008, McGuire left for The University of Exeter in Sept. 2008 to study applied drama. In January 2010, she graduated with a master's degree.
After several months of looking for a full-time job in England, McGuire began researching employment opportunities at Point Park. She applied to a few positions before returning in August, when she was interviewed and later hired.
"Amanda has been there, she has done it all," Gieseke said. "She has also left the university, gained an outside perspective on education as well as life. I think those things make her uniquely qualified to mentor Point Park students."
Even though her feeling of low self-confidence "creeps up from time to time," she credits Point Park for allowing her to learn about herself. As a proud alum of Point Park, she hopes to tell future students about how much the campus has grown.
"Janet Evans has been at Point Park for 39 years. I would love to be that committed," McGuire said. "I could see myself doing that with Point Park because I love it here."

Lessons from across the pond

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