Educational Theatre

The 2011 Swortzell Scholars

Announcing the 2011 Swortzell Scholars. Each scholar has received a tuition bursary to assist with their spring or summer studies.This generous scholarship was established by the co-founders of the program in Educational Theatre, Lowell and Nancy Swortzell. The fund has enabled over 30 students to date to reap the benefits of this wonderful gift.

Each 2011 scholar wrote a 200-word essay on what the NYU Steinhardt Educational Theatre program means to them.(Click on a name to read more):

Solange De Santis
Jack Dod
Michelle Hakala Wolf
Ekene Okobi
Ashley Renee Thaxton
Jonathan Zautner

Solange De Santis is a candidate for the M.A. in Educational Theatre, Colleges and Communities (graduating May 2011). She is an accomplished arts journalist ( seeking new horizons in drama education and is eager to share her passion for the transformative power of theater. She is also a theater practitioner with experience in directing, sound design, playwriting and stage management.

What makes the NYU Program in Educational Theatre unique?

NYU Steinhardt Educational Theatre: Embracing the World.The field of educational theatre has developed over the past half-century to the point where there are a significant number of choices in university degree programs. The Educational Theatre program at New York University's Steinhardt School offers dedicated and accomplished faculty, a sense of passion and purpose and a remarkable range of resources in its dynamic urban location. Where it is unique is in its international reach. From London and Dublin to Puerto Rico and Brazil, the program spans an enormous range of theory and practice outside the United States that enhances the careers of students preparing to work in a global environment. Intense exposure to educational theatre/applied theatre in a variety of cultures is essential today as technology has accelerated both communication and the movement of peoples around the world. The NYU program, due to its pre-eminence, attracts pioneers in the field. In each country, they create an intense learning experience within a few weeks that transforms and inspires students. Using practical skills gained abroad and a deeper awareness of different cultures, NYU students return to the United States better-prepared to, in turn, inspire their students to use drama to transform themselves and their worlds.


Jack Dod is a current sophomore in Educational Theatre and this is his first semester in the program.  He is from Portland, Oregon.  He loves to ski race, perform magic, write plays, act, play Halo, play basketball, and watch the greatest basketball team of all time, The Portland Trail Blazers.  Follow him on Twitter @BlazingTheTrail or follow his soon-to-be-operational blog: The Overtime Index (

What makes the NYU Program in Educational Theatre unique?

"The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime." -John Wooden

What is the difference between these two pictures?  I see a group of talented young people.  I see immense potential.  I see undiluted, ineffable joy.  I see the results of determination, hard work, and focus.  I see the strength and confidence of a team.  I see individuals who challenge each other to work hard and improve their talents.  However, there is one glaring difference in these pictures.  The picture on the bottom captured the first result of the collaboration of talented, individual artists and educators in the most unique program at NYU.  The program that blends education with art, competition with support, talent with promise, inspiration with joy.  The picture on the top is of John Wooden's 1964 UCLA championship basketball team, widely considered one of the best sports teams of all time.  This was the culmination - their final reward - of their work, sweat, and pain.  The individuals' reactions and feelings are identical to the new students in Educational Theatre; the only difference being this was the new students' first collaboration and first reward.  The potential on the bottom is nearly limitless.  This is why I am in this program.  More potential, inspiration, and challenge surround me than I have ever experienced before, and I am excited to experience the journey of this program.


Michelle Hakala Wolf is currently in the EDTC Master's Program. Raised in Northern California she has lived all over the country.  Michelle spent most of her life acting, singing and teaching acting and singing. She received her Bachelor's degree from California State University, Hayward in Liberal Studies; teaching track, emphasis in drama education.   Michelle is happily married and has one large dog.

What makes the NYU Program in Educational Theatre unique?

Creative Freedom Lives Here.  "Think creatively, look closer", these words define Steinhardt's Educational theatre program.  A broad spectrum degree, educational theatre allows you to take what you are as an artist and apply it to other fields either as a classroom educator or within your community.  On its own terms, educational theatre is a progressive education tool used not only to enrich Social Studies and English but to encourage decision making, empathy, ethics and critical thinking by thinking creatively .  The forerunner of the field, this discipline is taught here at Steinhardt, but what makes NYU Steinhardt's Educational Theatre department stick out from the rest is its creative freedom for the educators and artists they train.  Our program "practices what they preach" by encouraging us to build our own path.  As a theater artist you determine where to take your passion for your craft.  Rooted in diversity, the program allows you to explore avenues you might not have explored before, to be curious to explore.  We think of Drama and the stage as not only opportunities to shine with talent, but as opportunities to change the world in which we live. With its strong belief in art as activism and change as a responsibility, our department teaches us that we can and should make a difference.


Ekene Okobi is a first-generation writer who has produced news stories for a number of NPR-affiliated shows and stations in Los Angeles and Washington, DC.  She is originally from San Francisco and has returned to school in order to rekindle her love affair with performance and theatre.

What makes the NYU Program in Educational Theatre unique?

Stephen Nachmanovitch writes, "...creativity is in the searching even more than in the finding or being found." The Greek philosopher Epictetus has been quoted as saying "Only the educated are free." If so, a distinctive feature of the Steinhardt Educational Theatre experience is the journey on which it sends students, a delightful quest on which every twist, turn and occasional dead end is an opportunity for growth and discovery. What else can be expected from an academic department charged with transforming performing artists into teachers and helping educators refine their art of instruction? Steinhardt Ed Theatre professors and students know well the joy that comes from experiencing and practicing artistic expression. We understand that knowledge is power. We are guided by the conviction that creativity fosters flexibility. We respect the sacredness of play. We know that creativity is an essential component of life, not just for performers, but also for emerging leaders and members of general society. What distinguishes Steinhardt's Educational Theatre program are the many individuals within it who combine art, theory and practice in order to produce a freedom of thought and expression that starts in the classroom, spreads into the community and changes the world.


Ashley Renee Thaxton is a freshman in the undergraduate program in Educational Theatre. A Southern California native, she has worked as Stage and Company Manager of the Pasadena Musical Theatre Program, a non-profit theatre arts program for elementary to high school students. She was most recently seen on stage as Lilly in NYU's production of Alice: The Looking-Glass Girl.

What Makes the NYU Program in Educational Theatre Unique?

I know that I risk sounding hackneyed and cliché, but the Undergrad program in Educational Theatre here at NYU is very much a family. It has been an incredible three months since I began my journey here and I already feel very much at home. This to me is the most unique thing about this program. In a school the size and structure of NYU, it would be incredibly easy to slip through the cracks and never feel a sense of belonging. Everyone in Ed Theatre is committed to and united by our love for the amazingly powerful combination that is theatre and education. I find myself constantly inspired by collaboration with my classmates and professors. To top it all off, I am living and learning in the very heart of New York City, where the possibilities for work, creativity and entertainment are endless. Such an environment could not exist anywhere else, and I know that when I graduate, I will be fully equipped to pursue a wide variety of careers in both theatre and education.


Jonathan Zautner received his BFA in Dance from UW-Milwaukee. While working as a dance educator with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, he found enjoyment in teaching within a public school setting and became a High School Drama Coordinator. A strong desire to continue to learn and grow as a theater director and implementer led Jon once again toward higher education, where he is thrilled to be a part of the Educational Theatre program at NYU.

What makes the NYU Program in Educational Theatre unique?

In contemplating the uniqueness of the Educational Theatre program, there is a particular quote that consistently comes to my mind. The quote reads: "The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away." Having spent two semesters at NYU, I have experienced firsthand how the Educational Theatre program embodies the significant message found in this quote.  Through coursework that has allowed me to discover my own passion and place within the fields of education and theatre, I feel strongly equipped with knowledge and skills that complement my innate interests and talents. Newfound abilities that range from directing to mask-making to creating process dramas are a result of the carefully crafted curriculum of the program.  This knowledge of purpose is not the end goal, however, and where the program is unparalleled is in its ability to offer students the opportunities needed to give their gifts to others. The results of this meaningful sharing make the difference, fostering life-long inspiration from the high school students who find appreciation for Shakespeare to the collaborations that take place around the globe. Within this ability to inspire lies the Educational Theatre program's true distinction.