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Honors College student uses double major in theater and philosophy to help create connection out of conflict

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Photo by Reg Madison

Chandler, Arizona, native Cory Drozdowski is a Barrett, the Honors College student at Arizona State University with a double major in theater and philosophy who is passionate about helping people better understand each other. 

Drozdowski combined his fields of study in his honors thesis project “Work It Out” — a personal narrative script about having difficult conversations when we disagree with others.

“If we are able to philosophically talk things out, then I feel that would solve multiple other problems by connection,” said Drozdowski.

For him, the selling point of ASU was the chance to stay close to home and family. He said he also felt he could find the academic rigor he was looking for through Barrett, the Honors College. He said it allowed him to enjoy the feel of a smaller college within the larger ASU community.

Drozdowski was surprised to learn that the theater program in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre focused so much on new work and devising. 

“It's very focused on centering new artists and other voices. I hadn't been exposed to a lot of that before coming here,” Drozdowski said. “I have really been able to appreciate those aspects – there's political aspects, and there is also learning not to be stuck in a certain version of perceiving things.”

Drowdowski said he values and appreciates the growth he’s experienced through both degree programs.

“I would not have wanted to do anything different,” he said.

During his time at ASU, Drozdowski starred in numerous ASU Theatre productions: as Jaddick in Liz Lerman’s “Healing Wars,” as the deputy in the bilingual “La Comedia of Errors” and as Rick Gordon in “Heddatron.” He also maintained a 4.0 GPA every semester, even while recovering from major lung surgery. 

“The personality asset that sets him apart is his determination to succeed,” said Professor Micha Espinosa. “It will be thought leaders like Cory Drozdowski who will lead the future by asking fundamental questions.”

So what comes next for Drozdowski? He is looking at master’s degree programs around the country where he can continue to develop his craft. He plans to pursue a career in acting afterward. 

“My decision to go to grad school was connected to wanting to prioritize my acting and performance career and trying to find success as a performer or theater artist,” Drozdowski said. “It’s important for me to continue the work that I've been doing — to really continue the growth that I've found so amazing.” 

Question: What was your "aha" moment when you knew you wanted to study theater?

Answer: I started doing theater really young at summer programs as a kid when I was like 5 or so, and I immediately loved those programs. At the time, it was kind of like, "This is a fun thing to do over the summer." At some point not too long after that, they had a bigger program that they offered for me to do, and then there were other things that I saw. I realized, "This is a thing that people do. I’ve got to do that." So I fell in love with it through the summer camps, and then I've just loved doing it ever since.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: In the theater program, I have to say Professor David Barker, because I found the work I've done with him to be the most revolutionary for me. A lot of the work that I've been doing with him has been in terms of actually getting connected with your body, releasing tension and acting on impulse. It’s not holding back, and I think that's one of the biggest things I was struggling with. It was powerful. I hope I can continue working on that, because I think I still can grow a lot.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would definitely say start earlier than I did to figure out what you want your next steps to be, because I entered the grad school search process a little late in the game. I figured out that I wanted to do that after some of the deadlines were already encroaching or passing, and so that made it a bit more of a frantic, difficult process. You would be setting yourself up for way more success if you were preparing and talking with your teachers and everything much earlier. Start at or before your senior year, whereas I started at winter break – that was late in the process and really stressful.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: I spend far too much time in my room, but I just discovered my dorm’s patio again. It was really nice out there yesterday. Aside from that, I have some classes in this building that’s just a big, concrete monster. It seems like it would not be a relaxing place to go, but there are patios up high where it’s really nice just to be outside and look over everything. It’s a nice centering thing as I’m getting out of rehearsals or getting ready for classes.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: For my thesis project, I wrote the script for a personal narrative solo performance piece about being able to handle talking to people that we disagree with. I am really interested in how that is so important in our world right now, with the polarization of everything. It's a really complicated thing, but it’s hard to know how $40 million would help it. I like the vision of if we could all just figure out the problems by knowing what we all really thought together, instead of getting stuck in some kind of disagreement.

lhalm@asu.edu