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Department Of Theatre And Media Arts

Grad Kennedy Shanklin Views Theatre Education as a Lesson in Empathy

Graduating Senior Kennedy Shanklin Answers Questions about Her Time at BYU

Photo by Emma Olson, CFAC External Relations

Q: How have you found belonging during your time at BYU?

Shanklin: I felt such a sense of belonging in my department. There were about 40 kids in theatre education, so I felt like we all knew each other and became really close, whether it was someone’s first semester in the program or their last. The professors in the department were our mentors, and they did a good job of curating and creating a welcoming environment. In the program, everyone is assigned an older student as a peer mentor and they lead and answer any questions that we might have.

Now those relationships go beyond the classroom. I go and see shows with those people. I can observe some of them that are teaching in their classrooms. I catch up and grab lunch with them. It’s cool to have that community come out of my program and I know these are going to be connections that last forever.

Q: How has your BYU education prepared you for the future?

Shanklin: I feel BYU does a good job of introducing you to the real world and adult life before you actually step out into it. Now that I’ve been applying for jobs and putting myself in positions where I could potentially be an educator, it’s not as scary. They held workshops and other forums where they brought in people from the community who we could ask questions while we were still learning instead of having to go out in the workplace and learn it on our own. I was also provided lots of opportunities to be in a classroom before I graduated. I feel like BYU creates a wholesome learning environment and the TMA department did an even greater job of setting me up for success.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

Shanklin: I have accepted a position at Timpview High School to be their drama teacher and will be starting in the fall. I am currently preparing to announce their season and cast the level 3 and 4 drama classes.

Q: Is there a particular professor who you felt was helpful or inspirational in your development?

Shanklin: Kris Peterson, Julia Ashworth and Amy Jensen led me through the entire process of student teaching and they both gave me confidence for future endeavors. They're still willing to give me feedback and help me grow.

Q: What advice would you give future students?

Shanklin: I would tell them to make connections and get to know your peers and professors. It’s not only great networking, it’s also having those friendships. Once you step outside of BYU, you’re going to need those people to fall back on and ask questions.

Q: What was your most inspiring experience at BYU or in the program?

Shanklin: Directing a play, also known as Advanced Directing Project, during my senior year and student teaching last semester was genuinely the most fulfilling things I’ve done with my life.

Q: What do you believe is the value of teaching theatre?

Shanklin: What I love about the arts is being able to tell stories that can leave a lasting impression, but also, specific to actors and being able to train actors is empathy. Theater is so important because it gives us a chance to experience empathy. You are put in a character’s shoes and could never have experienced that same life if not acting.

Q: What's a lesson you’d want your future theatre arts students to learn?

Shanklin: That failure is okay. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t doing something right. Failure is where you learn the most. When you fail, you can get back up and try again and do better next time.