Q: “I teach dance full-time at a private K–12 school, while trying to complete my dance major. The problem is that at all of the universities near me, summer classes overlap with my teaching semester, and the classes I need are not offered at night. Help! How does one complete a dance degree while still working full-time?” —Alisa, Miami, FL
A: “There are certain programs that cater to the working dancer. For example, at the LEAP (Liberal Education for Arts Professionals) program at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, we work around the schedules of our students, and we also give them the opportunity to gain significant credits for both their dance experience and other learning experiences. But, if there are no programs like this in your area, first look for a college that allows you to earn credit for prior learning and professional experience. Many colleges are beginning to understand that adult students have a lot of experiences that can be translated into college credit. Then, at the very least, you’ll have a head start, so you won’t feel as though you’re coming to the table with zero.
“Then, take college courses in any way possible (even if they are just online courses) as part of the process of continued learning. I don’t think any amount of time is too long to get a degree. The actual degree isn’t always as important as the learning experience, but this depends on your individual situation. If the degree is necessary for getting or advancing in a job, for instance, and you don’t live in a place where a program like LEAP exists, then you may have to consider putting your job on hold and just going to college. At many colleges it’s just not possible to do both, and you may have to make a choice.” —Mark Baird, director of the LEAP program at St. Mary’s College of California
Photo: LEAP graduating class of 2010! (by Megan Low, courtesy of the LEAP program)