Clarion Ledger Feature Story

There was a wonderful story in the paper this morning about some of the Mississipi Universities having top quality academic programs.  The story started off featuring our dance department.

Top Miss. college programs take best of best
Jessica Bakeman
December 12, 2011

Ranging from Chinese language to creative writing to veterinary medicine, some programs at Mississippi’s colleges and universities attract more students than they can handle.

Students compete for admission and scholarship money, sure, but some find themselves vying for their top-choice major, too.

Erik Sampson, now a senior at Belhaven University, came to Jackson from Alfred, Maine, to audition for its dance program. The program

accepts about half of auditioners any given year, said Cynthia Newland, department chair.

For the 2011 class, 85 students auditioned, and 44 were asked to join.

“The caliber of dance teachers and the dancers that were going here kind of shocked me for a small school,” Sampson said of his audition, where he attended already-scheduled classes. “I figured if there was a small school with an excellent program like the bigger universities, I’d prefer the more intimate classes.”

Students who focus on performance and choreography, rather than pedagogy and research, must attend class five days a week in their emphasis, which can be either ballet or modern dance. With electives, the typical student might take as many as 10 dance classes per week, plus a liberal arts curriculum, said Laura Morton-Zebert, associate professor of dance.

Sampson began as a double major, with business, but later decided to focus all his energy on dance, in which he is earning the performance-focused degree. He plans to audition for a spot in a dance company or open a studio after graduation.

“The training here has been impeccable,” Sampson said. “I feel fully prepared to graduate and move on to bigger and better things.”

You can read the remainder of the story HERE.

“Belhaven University seniors Erik Sampson and Marah King perform in November. The program is one of several at campuses statewide that are becoming more selective. – Special to The Clarion-Ledger

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