Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.
When Shannon Smith needed to choose a major, she couldn't pick just one.
“I chose ASU because I was able to stably pursue multiple degrees within different areas of study,” Smith said. “Each one has formed me into the person that I am today and have informed each other throughout the past four years.”
She decided on nothing less than a full courseload – a BFA in dance, a BA in English focusing on writing and rhetoric, and a minor in Spanish.
Her senior year of high school, she took multiple personality and career placement tests hoping they would help guide her way to a choice, but they didn’t quite offer results with her core interests.
“I toyed around with ideas of majoring in other fields like philosophy or marketing, but I just had this feeling that dance was where I needed to be,” Smith said.
Now, she plans to continue pursuing all of her interests abroad.
“After graduation, I will be moving to Spain to teach English while exploring the dance community within Madrid,” she said. “In the future, I plan to explore art communities throughout Europe and Asia.”
Smith graduates with a number awards she received along the way, including the New American University Scholarship – Dean’s Award, the Special Talent Awards for Dance and Theatre, the Anne Kinnerup Parfet Dance Scholarship, the Eirene Peggy Lamb Scholarship, the Peggy Desjardin Dance Memorial Scholarship, the Margaret Gisolo Award and the Eileen Paul Dance Scholarship.
This past spring semester she presented her premiere dance work, “Decorative Hierarchy,” set to the song “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones at the 2021 Transitions Projects performance, “Mouthful of Marbles.”
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
Answer: My entire experience just being at ASU has taught me many important lessons, but the most informative lessons I’ve learned in school have been through active discussion and participation with those around me. I think a lot of times school can be very independent and one-sided when it comes to research and writing papers, presentations, etc., but the classes where we are able to deepen our own personal understanding of a topic and challenge its ideas have been the most conducive to my learning. Whether the topic is about social, political or personal ideas, moments where we can learn from those around us have provided me with a plethora of perspectives.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: All of my professors have contributed something very special to me within my artistic and academic interests, so it is hard to pick just one because I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am today without their guidance. Most importantly, Dr. Naomi Jackson exposed me to the field of dance writing, a career field that is directly relevant to me as a dance artist and writer. Her classes also expanded my idea of what dance has been, what it could be and social concepts embedded within dance.
As a creator and artist, professors and mentors Carley Conder and Liz Lerman have continuously been supportive of my work within dance, questioning my process and providing resources for me to explore within local and national communities. Overall, every one of these teachers has stressed the importance that dance can be used within any setting whether performative, communal or political, where I can use my art to ask questions through movement-research.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: The best piece of advice I can give to students in school right now is to continuously keep an open mind about your own process and the field that you are going into. There is constant change happening and being open to new opportunities might land you somewhere you never thought you’d be. I would also suggest participating within your community! Connect with other students and teachers that value you as an artist and want to help you fulfill your creative or academic goals. These relationships provide more than just career opportunities. Community helps to feed your creative voice while relating with the world around you, and each interaction informs who you are as an artist.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: On campus, my go-to spot for working is either at the Starbucks at the MU or outside of the Creativity Commons. Being a dance major, you spend a lot of hours on campus and so my friends and I would roam a variety of spots within the library, the lobby of Bulldog Hall and outside the MU.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation, I will be moving to Spain to teach English while exploring the dance community within Madrid. In the future, I plan to explore art communities throughout Europe and Asia.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Honestly I think that one of the biggest problems our global society faces is being stuck in the idea that money solves everything. With that being said, I believe that change happens at a local level and that small efforts can make big differences in our world. So I think that it is important to support local activists that are dedicating time to their community’s needs that can then spiral into national and global change.