Community, sense of family, a feeling of belonging are all things that college students want to have at their university. As much as the events and other gatherings attempt to bring students and faculty together, this responsibility also falls upon the separate departments.
I am a part of three very different departments at Colorado Mesa University. The mass communication, dance and kinesiology departments. Each of these departments offers something different for students. I cannot complain about the mass communication or the kinesiology departments. The professors have been understanding and helpful. Yet, both departments lack in bringing the students together and offering what the dance or theater department does.
With two years under my belt at CMU, I have often thought about why I am at this school. I have often longed for more from the school in the idea of a college community and experience. But, I’ve realized that the reason I came here not just for the price, but was to be a part of the amazing group in the theater arts department.
I became apart of the dance department my second semester of my freshman year. Not only have I learned about dance, but I have learned and received respect, discipline, friendship and trust. The dance and theater students and faculty have taught me more than anyone can understand.
The other departments do not have this sense of family. The students are genuine and care about your well being. We have all formed friendships and can be seen by the laughter in every dance class. Not only do students bond, but professors and students bond more than in the other two departments I am a part of.
The dance studio is a safe and no-judgment area. This is respected by the faculty and students. With this open space and respect, I have learned more about myself and how to take care of every part of my mind, body and soul. The professors care about students well being and want to have a positive impact. Through movement, they have taught me how to express myself and also believe in myself.
Meredith Lyons, assistant professor of dance, and Megan Glynn Zollinger, past assistant professor, who left CMU last semester, have challenged and impacted my life like no other. Both wanted the best for every student as do Amanda Benzin, assistant professor of dance, and Gabriele Cahill.
Zollinger was like a mamma bear when I first became part of the department. I am not a trained dancer and was very shy. She held my hand and believed in me. She helped me become comfortable and taught me different styles of dance. Both Zollinger and Lyons have pushed me and encouraged me. They have no judgment and as much as they want to teach, they also want students to learn and explore what is inside them.
Lyons embraces every student and has provided us with tools for a successful future for the everyday life. Through multiple of her classes I have opened up and grown. I know more about how to be successful not only in my career but in life in general. I can rely on her and ask for a helping hand when need be. She has also given me many opportunities to expand my dance knowledge outside of class time.
The students are open and willing to share their trust and their emotions. This helps my own insecurities and coming forward. With the help of the students and professors, I have been able to express and push past my insecurities as well as make great friends and have opportunities.
Both students and faculty have supported my own special interest in photography and videography. The department as a whole has embraced me, a non-trained, mass communication-majoring, kinesiology-minoring college student.
I found my place of belonging. Although the students can outshine me every day in the studio, I learn from them, watch them and also get tips from them. It is a family. I am blessed to have met these professors and students because they have changed my life. In a safe and respected space, the whole department has shown me nothing but kindness and love. I trust the faculty and students more than I have trusted other friends. They are incredible people.
I may not be following a dancing career, but these courses and lessons will stay with me forever. I honestly encourage every student to find their “family” on campus. Everyone is unique and can find their place in whatever they are passionate about. I am lucky my passion led me to an amazing group of people. This is why I’m here. It was important to meet these people. This is the department that can make everyone feel involved and welcome. You don’t have to be a fantastic or even a good dancer to take a class. I am minoring in dance and still lack in technique and skill. I suggest trying a dance class for the fun, for the people and for a chance to learn about yourself and others.
The dance department is the best department. Take one class and you will understand.