Our First EdD: Michael Yurchak

To recognize the achievement of our first EdD graduate, Michael Yurchak, we invited him to reflect on his experience in the program and to articulate his future plans. Congratulations, Michael!

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Michael Yurchak

What were your expectations when you entered the EdD program?

My expectations were that I would continue my own learning and understanding of educational theater and applied theater praxis. Since I live in Los Angeles, I worried that my geographic challenges would hamper my experience or become an issue for my professors and classmates. I assumed I would have a hard time connecting with the community due to my location, but that was not at all how things went. Because of the intensive semesters offered over the summer and January terms, as well as weekend intensives during the fall and spring, I was able to attend most of my classes in person in an immersive curriculum that allowed a deeper personal connection than I would have thought possible. As a graduate assistant in London and Puerto Rico, I felt very connected to the student community, and I absolutely loved being involved as much as I was. I did have a few classes during my time in the program where I had to attend class meetings via Skype. Every one of my professors and fellow students were supportive and open to making the best of that challenge when it came up. What might have been a distraction was actually kind of fun, because of the novelty it presented!

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Michael Yurchak leads participants through breathing and stretching exercises.

What aspects of the program were helpful in your academic and professional development?

The collaborative nature of crafting a program that fit my needs and interests was incredibly useful in my development as a professional in the field. My advisor (Jonathan Jones) and mentor (David Montgomery) as well as my dissertation committee members and readers (Philip Taylor, Nisha Sajnani, Amy Cordileone, and Nan Smither) were all extremely approachable and helpful in charting my course through the program. There was a collegial nature to the discussions we had from the very beginning. The sense that I had agency and choice within the context of the requirements was empowering. Finding the intensive courses and study-abroad programs that allowed me to fully participate was really important to me. Also, designing and applying my own practicum and independent study projects was enlightening. That independent work served as a barometer of my own understanding and illustrated some ways in which I might incorporate my coursework into real world application. An unanticipated outcome has been an increased confidence in my writing and how I might contribute to the academy in that way, which is not something I had thought about before finishing the program.

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Michael prepares the participants to release the breath and engage in voice work.

How will you apply what you learned in the program out in the field?

I will be teaching voice in the MFA program at Cal State University Los Angeles and will remain on the faculty at the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio where I teach voice and acting. Independent projects in the applied theater space also pop up throughout the year, and I look forward to participating there as well. Since defending my dissertation, I have been asked to adapt a portion of it for the publication associated with the Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA), and I’m looking forward to that too. I had not anticipated going into academia after graduating because, ultimately, I would like to lead an education department for an arts organization. Still, at the risk of being a bit sappy, I guess I see everything I do academically and professionally as part of the journey of a life-long learner. That is exciting to me, and I look forward to seeing how the future unfolds.

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Michael Yurchak, EdD

What advice would you give someone considering applying for the EdD program?

My advice would be to enter the program with a clear sense of why you think you need to be there. It’s a big commitment, and it can feel overwhelming at times. For me, a strong understanding of why I felt I had to make it happen kept me going when things got tough. I also think it’s important to stay open to the possibility that new discoveries may change where you thought you’d end up. I found it incredibly useful to stay flexible!

Program in Educational Theatre Welcomes Students to the New EdD Program

This year, the Program in Educational Theatre will welcome our first students into the new EdD Program. The second of our esteemed new students is Michael Yurchak.

Michael YurchakA teacher once told me that to experience the sensation of being thrilled is to embrace the space where fear and excitement meet. I am thrilled! Thrilled to be embarking on a new journey at NYU and to be returning to the department of Educational Theater after 11 years in the field. I am also truly honored to be invited back to be part of this community. I live in Los Angeles and will be commuting virtually as well as joining study groups and intensive semesters whenever possible. As a teacher, I am particularly influenced by the work I do as an associate instructor of Fitzmaurice Voicework, focused on the release of breath and body tension in order to discover and express with authentic voice. I try to incorporate the principles of this practice into my work as a teaching artist, in an effort to help facilitate the empowerment of students as they seek to make themselves heard. I also perform regularly as a voice artist and actor and (most importantly) I’m a dad to two amazing little creatures (Luca 9 and Sascha 6) who want desperately to see New York City! I hope to focus my doctoral work on the design and implementation of meaningful teaching artist programs within the context of urban nonprofit arts organizations. As equal parts artist, educator, and administrator, I work full time across many facets of the field, and I hope to learn more about ways to add leadership and value to the various organizations I represent. Since I started my career after getting my masters in 2004, I have consistently found connection with and inspiration from fellow NYU alums as mentors, colleagues, and friends all over the country. There is no other program I know of with as far reaching impact, and it is with the most sincere gratitude that I join you!

Program in Educational Theatre Welcomes Students to the New EdD Program

This year, the Program in Educational Theatre will welcome our first students into the new EdD Program. The first of our esteemed new students is Carmen Meyers.

Carmen Meyers

Carmen Meyers: Thrilled and Honored

I am thrilled to be one of the first two students in the newly revised Educational Theatre Ed.D program for the Fall 2015 semester.  As I embark on this unfamiliar path of doctoral work, I am excited, honored, and to be honest a little nervous.  As with most things, I’ve learned that this combination is the perfect environment for me to begin my work.  I feel proud and a great sense of responsibility to continue to create and explore new strategies for teaching and learning through theatre practice.  As I am a full time instructor in the Communication Arts and Sciences Department at Bronx Community College, my hopes are that my doctoral work will continue to help me serve my students. I am currently working with the Psychological Services Department to address domestic abuse and mental health issues on campus.  It is in this area that I would like to focus my doctoral work by delving deeper in to the barriers of mental health services within Latino/Hispanic cultures.  I plan to create forum pieces to help aid these conversations and bring awareness and understanding to this issue.  I am eager to gain the knowledge and expertise that this program offers and that I will need to go forward.  This program has been a pioneer in the exploration and potency of applied theatre practice and education around the world, and through its outstanding faculty I hope to add to the work that has already been done.