Some little girls played with Barbies. I have been making films and dancing since I can remember. When I was a child, dance and film were playtime for me and they have always been a part of my life.”
That’s how Amber Adams felt growing up. She’d always known that making a career for herself in the creative arts was a goal, and was determined to make it happen. It was only natural to choose a university that would provide the best environment for her to learn, live and breathe her passions.
She found her answer in Marymount Manhattan College (MMC). Strategically located in the Upper East Side of New York City, this fully-accredited, private college is making a name for itself in the liberal arts as well as fine and performing arts. It seeks out creative and unique students, encouraging each to tell their own story in their pursuit of artistic greatness.
Inclusivity forms the heart of this. First established in 1936 as a two-year women’s college, MMC has always worked to make a liberal arts-based education accessible for all. Today, it welcomes a great variety of students, including men, LGBTQ, non-traditional students, and those from various ethnic and geographic backgrounds. International students make up a huge part of this — at the moment, MMC’s diverse population comes from over 50 countries worldwide.
What’s better: everyone admitted automatically receives a US$10,000 Marymount Manhattan Scholarshipscholarship, which can be renewed every year. This is in addition to other scholarship and financial aid options available to MMC students — opening doors for aspiring artists, dancers, performers and more, regardless of where they come from.
MMC offers 32 majors and over 40 minors, which students can mix and match to create what’s best for them. Adams decided to apply for a major in dance. This programme — available as a BA (Bachelor of Arts) and BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) — focuses on giving students the technical skills and knowledge they need to carve out a career in dance.
MMC’s small and diverse community makes for an 11:1 student-to-teacher ratio. This allows for more individualized attention and wider opportunities to get to know the college’s community of skilled faculty. Adams, who graduated in 2011, recalls her experience as particularly “nurturing” and “warm.” She received immense support from her professor — invaluable in motivating her to break the boundaries of what she could achieve.
One of them was Professor Pat Catterson, who had previously worked at The Juilliard School and Princeton University. “Amber,” she recalls the professor saying, “if no dance company wants you or you’re not interested in dancing with a company, then make your own.” It was the push she needed, and she founded the Cape Fear Dance Theatre in 2013. Since graduating, she has also produced a full-length ballet, a feature film, and worked as a production manager for NBC.
Interspersed in every student’s learning is the opportunity to work with leading professionals in the industry. MMC’s location in New York City certainly helps in this regard. As perhaps the greatest creative hub in the world, opportunity lies on every street of the city — from spontaneous performances with buskers to showcasing your talent at a live gig. MMC students can take advantage of this at any given moment.
Amanda Webster is a prime example of this. A student of Communication and Media Arts with a concentration in Creative Media, Webster was able to intern with Thea Dunlap, producer of “The Hero.” This proved to change the course of her career for good. It was Dunlap who recommended her for her first job after graduating in 2015. She ended up working on a major film — starring internationally-renowned actress Emma Thompson.
Webster’s career soon blossomed. Once production started, she was given the chance to work as Thompson’s assistant. The double-assistant job proved to be a “masterclass in filmmaking”.
“I saw everything from pre-production (setting up the office, meetings, etc), to actor rehearsals, to being on set every day of shooting,” she shares. “I was often found rushing about with script sides or having tea with Emma (which isn’t the worst thing to be paid to do). It was really inspiring to see over 100 people — including your hero — show up to work every day and give it their all to make a movie.” Today, Webster is working as an assistant for Beau Willimon, playwright and screenwriter behind the TV series “House of Cards.”
While real-life exposure forms much of student life at MMC, students also have the added perks of learning and living in a warm, safe community. Students and staff look out for each other in the throes of a city as large and looming as New York. From student organizations to a dedicated health and wellness centre, they have a space to unwind and recharge before returning to the hustle and bustle of living in the greatest city in the world.
The result? Graduates who have the expertise, grit and motivation to pursue their dreams — and know that they will excel in whatever they choose to do.