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  • Joanna Mills
  •  | Theatre
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Deciding to Act at SMU

October 5, 2011

As you saw at the end of my last post, I had decided that I wanted to be an actress. This came as quite a shock to my parents who were both science majors (agricultural science and computer science). So, they took me to see a “life councilor”. I think they hoped that I would grow out of this crazy desire, but were willing to look into it with me. After I spoke with the woman, she told my parents that I would be able to do a job in math or science, but it wouldn’t make me happy. So, my parents were willing to try and help me the best that they could, but they had no idea where to start. So the councilor, besides telling us I should probably go far away for a relatively long amount of time to see how far away I wanted to go to college (which I did by going to NYC for 3 weeks in an acting for film camp, super fun!), gave us a few college names that had a good reputation for having connections for their theatre majors AFTER college. One of those names was Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.
When I started seriously looking at colleges, I began by looking for a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program. I auditioned at several different colleges, but was not accepted into any of their BFA programs. So, I went back to the drawing board and started looking at Bachelor of Arts (BA) programs. One of those programs was Saint Mary’s. My mom thought it would be good for us to go visit them. At first, I wasn’t too interested. It was all the way in Minnesota and it was a Catholic school (I’m Presbyterian). But I agreed to go and visit.
When we got to SMU, I had my tour and saw how beautiful the campus was! It was breathtaking, set up in the bluffs with the trees and flowers all around. And after my tour, I was suppossed to have a meeting with the (then) head of department, Dr. Gary Diomandes. When he arrived, he took my mom and I on an in-depth tour of the Page theatre (the main performance space) as well as all over the prop rooms, makeup room, dressing rooms…EVERYWHERE!! Then, I voiced the fact that I had heard that SMU had a dance studio and since I was planning on taking a dance minor (even though I had never had a dance class!) I would enjoy seeing it. Without hesitation, Gary agreed to show us the dance studio. As we walked from the theatre to the dance studio, Gary would see different students around campus. What impressed me so much was that he was able to see the student, recognize them, know what class they were in, as well as what assignment was due next for that class or what they needed to catch up on. That was so important for me, finding a place where there was a good community between professors and students, especially having come from such small schools all my life.
In essence, I say that Gary is one of the big reasons that I chose SMU to be my home for these past 3 years. I’ve never regretted a day of that decision.

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