UCS expands arts-related initiatives

Students perform in "The Spitfire Grill." A new section of the UCS website will be specifically targeted towards students in the arts looking
for employment and other opportunities.
Students perform in "The Spitfire Grill." A new section of the UCS website will be specifically targeted towards students in the arts looking for employment and other opportunities. Photo by Stephanie Addenbrooke.

Faculty, administrators and students are working to make the Yale Undergraduate Career Services Center a more reliable resource for aspiring artists.

UCS has decided to create a new section of its general website, targeting students interested in pursuing the arts during and after their time at Yale. Yale College Dean of the Arts Susan Cahan said that the new site, which will replace the current “Arts” section, will contain an easily accessible database listing opportunities and guides for students entering arts-related fields. UCS Associate Director Katie Volz, who specializes in arts-related careers and resources, said she has been gathering information for the database from students, faculty and alumni for the past several months. Cahan explained that the new section aims to better serve the needs of arts-oriented students — needs she said are not being fully met by the current website.

“The competitiveness in the arts and the informality with which opportunities are created make this process significantly different for students in the arts than for students in other fields,” Cahan said.

Cahan explained that most of the opportunities students find out about through conversations with faculty members are currently not available in the form of a central database. Theater Studies DUS Dominika Laster said students also share such information with each other by word of mouth, adding she thinks a formal database would be helpful for students.

The online database will formally list opportunities in the arts as well as offer guidance on how students should be preparing for their professional lives as undergraduates. She said the new online guides will recommend on the types of extracurricular activities and summer programs students should pursue in each year of their college careers.

Dancer and choreographer Michael Apuzzo ’06, who is working with Cahan and UCS to develop the database, said that as an undergraduate, he did not receive much formal support from UCS when preparing for a career as a professional performer. Apuzzo added that he hopes the new database will also provide resources on practical topics such as writing resumes and contacting photographers to take professional headshots.

Several students and faculty members emphasized that the differences between arts-related disciplines and other fields create unique challenges for constructing an online resource database. Cahan noted that many types of arts internships and careers that students wish to pursue do not exist as formal opportunities and must be created. She explained that if a student wishes to work as a visual artist’s studio assistant over the summer, the student and his or her adviser must personally reach out to artists and ask if they would be interested in having an assistant instead of attending a recruiting event or visiting a company’s website.

Mark Sonnenblick ’12, who writes theater pieces and performs with a rock band, said that because many artists are freelancers in their field, creating work considered successful is different from “getting a job.” He added that it is reasonable to expect UCS to focus on helping students seek positions that are already established.

“If I wanted to apply for a training program or apprenticeship, I would have gone to [UCS],” he noted. “But you can’t apply to get a show on Broadway.”

Cahan added that another challenge in the process of improving arts career services is staging productions that feature Yale undergraduates performing alongside professionals in the performing arts industry. She explained that working closely with professionals, especially Yale alumni, offers undergraduates a way to build a strong network of contacts, which is particularly important for aspiring artists.

“Shows like ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Kiss Me Kate’ — those projects are also career development opportunities that are far more impactful than standard career services,” Cahan noted. “But projects like these require a large amount of logistical planning and technical expertise.”

Four faculty members said that while they support the idea of a permanent online resource database, they believet professors and administrators should inform their students of opportunities in the arts through other means as well. Theater studies professor Deb Margolin said she encourages professors to periodically announce information about such opportunities to their students during class. English professor Fred Strebeigh ’74 said he believes information about opportunities should be categorized based on discipline and sent out as emails to students.

Theater studies and music professor Dan Egan GRD ’84 added that he thinks an online database would not be able to replace the personalized guidance that faculty members offer their students. He said he believes that students are capable of finding opportunities in the arts and applying for them, but may not know which option they should choose.

“Students are responsible for doing the research on these programs,” Egan said. “I am responsible for telling them which program best suits their interests.”

The current Arts section of the UCS website is divided into eight disciplines.

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