What brought you to UNT?
I am originally from the Houston area and in 2003 I completed my AA in Drama at Alvin Community College. I looked into various universities to complete my Bachelors. I researched every university in Texas and all of their theatre programs for information. UNT was the most helpful school of them all. They were quick to supply information about transferring, and financial aid. They also sent packets of information on the theatre program, and were overall really helpful. Because of their willingness to help, I was sold on coming to UNT and joining this theatre program.
What was it like to study at UNT?
The one thing that I value most about this program is the sense of community. When I was here from '03 -'06, the program was a lot smaller with about 250 students total and, at the time, only had two undergraduate degrees. They had a general BA in theatre a BA in theatre with a secondary teacher certification. Within the general degree, everyone had their expertise; actors, costumers, technicians, stage managers, and people who fall under education. The close-knit community allowed the class size to be small, faculty were able to quickly learn students strengths and interests. You were able to have well developed relationships with your peers.
What was the biggest lesson you learned while in schooling and in your field of work?
You can make good grades, but what we really do in theatre and in this program relies on your skill set. This includes things like being on time, being prepared, and studying up on things in advance, being reliable, not missing rehearsals, being willing to ask questions or go above and beyond, and push yourself to do better. Those skill sets, and being able to juggle deadlines is almost of more value than having a high GPA. We want academic excellence, but your work ethic is incredibly important.
What are you currently working on?
I am the Box Office and Promotions Manager as well as the Theatre Advisor for the Department of Dance and Theatre. Box Office and Promotions is always fresh and new. Social media has grown drastically in the last 10 years, and learning the many facets of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as promotional tools has been rewarding. Social media is the way students are communicating. This is my fifth year as advisor for Dance and Theatre. The first four years I advised for both dance and theatre students, and this year I am working with solely with theatre students. The theatre program has grown a lot, and I was asked to focus on the students in that program. I'm always working with students one-on-one, helping students select classes, meeting prospective students, and being a representative of UNT as well as our theatre program at different functions. I love it! I feel like I am making a difference.
What was your career path after graduation?
My education was really important. Without grants and scholarships I wouldn't have been able to afford to go to college. I had to push myself to cover the cost. I worked three jobs while in college. I was a resident stage manager for Keith & Margo's Murder Mysteries of Texas. I was also a grader for the theatre program; I graded for Dr. Harris and Dr. Wilson. I also worked in food service. Transitioning out of college meant I needed to be able to support myself, to be independent, and contribute to my family back home. I needed to find a good paying job with medical insurance. When I graduated from UNT in '06 with my BA in theatre with a secondary teaching certificate, I worked in non-subscription insurance as an Underwriter's Assistant. The skills that I picked up at UNT, helped me move into that career field. I found that I didn't like working in insurance. I was stuck in a cubical. It wasn't creative. I was pushing papers, and I didn't feel like it was contributing to the greater good. The Box Office and Promotions Manager for Dance and Theatre opened in 2007. I applied for the job and interviewed. Luckily, I was hired. This is my 10th year in the Box Office and Promotions position, and my 5th year as an Advisor.
Do you feel like you watch the students grow over their time in our program?
That is one of my favorite things about my job! The students are what make my position worthwhile. I can answer emails or phones, and create programs for our productions, but the best part of my job is getting serve the students. Seeing them grow is a gift. I try my best to serve every student in our program well. The students I advised in my first year, graduated last year and that is awesome! When students begin in our program, they can be overwhelmed, a bit confused, and they haven't quite found their place. Seeing how that changes between each year is rewarding. It's amazing to watch the students grow mentally and emotionally as they take on young adulthood. I get to be a part of their journey, and I am incredibly proud of each student that passes through our program.
How has your training and experience helped with your work?
With a theatre degree, students do learn more than just acting. We learn analysis, criticism, working in groups, working independently, how to set and meet strict deadlines, creating and maintaining budgets, how to multitask, hyper focus, grand memorization, intercommunication skills, public speaking, stage presence, spatial awareness, clear articulation of speech, body awareness, emotional intelligence, carpentry, sewing, painting, design, and electrician skills. I value my people skills. I work with so many different types of people every day from students, to faulty, and perspective students every single day. Everything learned in theatre can apply to any job, anywhere.
What connections if any were made that helped you get to where you are?
One of the things we have in theatre is the sense of community. To this day, my best friends are the ones I made here in theatre at UNT. They are not only connections to help you get you to your next job, but they will also sustain you in life. They will be your web of support. Your peers push you, support you, and are imperative for your personal growth.
Is there anyone you go to for advice now?
My family and my best friends. The people I made relationships while at UNT. Even all the faculty, and students that have passed through this program in the ten years I have worked at UNT have become my tribe. My support system helps in both my career and personal life.
Do you have any advice for people in the early stages of this career?
Think big. Take chances. Step out of your comfort zone. Once we get comfortable we tend to not want to change, but every new step we take is a new learning experience. Know you are capable of doing something different. Don't trap yourself in a box. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. Goals can be huge, but can be accomplished in tiny steps.
Why would you recommend UNT to future students?
It's awesome! I recommend UNT not just because it's my job as advisor to do so. I wouldn't be here for the last 13 years if I didn't believe in UNT and its theatre program. When I meet new students, not only do I get to talk about our academic strengths, but I can speak from my personal experience as a student. It's comforting to prospective and current students when they know I am an alumna. Our degrees are strong. You can pick to study different areas in theatre from performance, to design/tech, or education. UNT as a whole is an incredibly helpful university and has a ton of opportunities, programs, and entertainment for students.
What presented itself as the toughest challenge after graduation?
Life is going to happen. You have ups and downs. The most difficult has been the changes in my family dynamics. Having a job, paying bills, and what I am passionate about is easy. When life threw me curveballs, that was the most difficult to manage.
How did you land your first job regarding theatre?
One of my first jobs came to me through my community college. I was able to work as an after school theatre teacher for 3rd and 4th graders. As an educator, it was inspiring to see their "light bulb" moments. We performed poems from Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein. Their creativity was endless!
Is it different than you expected? And if so, how did you land where you did in the theatre world?
No, it's not that different than what I expected. College is one milestone in your life. College is where you gain knowledge and skills. Outside of college, you apply those teachings to living. College is not the end all be all. Life doesn't stop when you graduate. You're never going to stop growing as a person. Have confidence. Just be ready to continue your journey, take the good with the bad, learn, change, and never give up.
What is one piece of advice that you'd give to someone considering attending our school or current students?
Have you ever seen the movie "Sister Act II?" It stars Whoopi Goldberg as the character "Sister Mary Clarence." Whoopi plays a lounge singer who goes undercover as a nun to help teach music to students at a catholic school. She has a conversation with one of the students (played by Lauren Hill) who is a gifted singer and whose passion for singing choir is being oppressed by her mother. Whoopi says something to the student to the extent of, "If you wake up every morning and all you can think about is singing, then that is what you are supposed to do." Students need to listen to their inner voice. In your core, you know what you are passionate about. You know what makes you happy. Really listen to yourself. If you want to do something, don't be scared to run with it.
Graduation Year: 2006
Concentration: BA in Theatre with a secondary Teaching Certification and a BA in Psychology with a minor in Italian
Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Petrasek is a senior at the University of North Texas double majoring in Theatre and English.
On campus Julie is involved in Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Fraternity, the University Players, and Kappa Delta Sorority. She hopes to be an accomplished actor and writer in the Dallas area, but also finds interest in technical aspects of theatre. She is an honor student looking to learn from as many experiences as possible whether it is as an actor, designer, or writer.