exploration. So I changed majors five times! In
Taiwan, when you apply for college, you must
pick your major right then. And the bond between teacher and student here is unheard-of in
Q: What will you do after you graduate?
A: Pursue a master’s degree in comparative
and international education at St. Cross College, University of Oxford. I wasn’t sure I
could pay for it but I have secured the necessary resources! One-third comes from a noninterest loan from an asset management firm at
which I interned, one-third from a noninterest
loan from my high school English teacher, and
one-third from a low-interest loan from the
Q: What’s your long-term goal?
A: To conduct educational research and analyze
educational policy in Taiwan or at an international nonprofit organization.
New York University
First-year M.F.A. student in
musical theater writing
Brigham Young University
PHI KAPPA PHI CHAPTER: BYU
SOCIETY AWARD: 2013 Ruth E.
Ariel Mitchell intends to take center stage. She wrote
an award-winning play as an undergraduate. Now in
graduate school, Mitchell studies her craft under leading lights.
Q: How did you become interested in musical
A: “I have kind of always been obsessed with
theater,” she said. Raised on staples like
The Music Man, she started writing for the stage
after realizing that acting was not the best fit, “and
so it just kind of became this love I kept pursuing.”
Q: Why NYU for graduate school?
A: “It’s really the only program of its kind to really focus on musical theater. It’s also very unique
because you apply as a composer or [like Mitch-ell] as a words-person,” she said. “And you spend
the whole first year collaborating” on assignments such as song types, various scenes, and
one-act musicals, under noteworthy instructors
including William Finn (the Tony Award-winning Falsettos and the Tony-nominated The 25th
Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and Mindi
Dickstein (Little Women: The Musical).
Q: What’s your biggest success?
A: “I had my play produced at BYU, and it won
Q: What challenges do you face?
the Harold and Mimi Steinberg National Student
Playwriting Award for 2013,” she explained,
through the Kennedy Center American College
Theater Festival. Inspired by a New York Times ar-
ticle, Mitchell’s A Second Birth follows Nasima/
Nasim, a female raised male by her poor Afghani
parents to help the family’s standing in their
patriarchal village, as she transitions back to her
born gender when of age to marry. She enjoyed
“creating something out of nothing” and seeing
“that realized onstage,” with the company “con-
tributing to what’s been in your own head for so
long” and getting “excited about what you’re ex-
ploring and questioning.”
A: “I think my biggest problem is believing in
myself and in my work. And it’s hard in art to
put so much into something that sometimes can
seem like it’s not going anywhere or it’s not giving anything more to the world.”
Q: You went directly to graduate school after
A: “I wanted to kind of continue this trajectory
and finish my schooling all at once. I knew that
I wanted a graduate degree so I’d have the option of teaching,” a “safety net as a writer.”
Q: How is your education equipping you to
A: “Standing out is connections and knowing
people, having people mention your work,” she
said. Training also builds self-confidence,
Mitchell added. And the singularity of the
NYU M.F.A. might allow her to “take that to
other schools and create similar programs” —
distinguishing her from job applicants.
University of Southern
Doctoral candidate in educational leadership
DEGREES: B.A., urban studies, University of Nebraska
Omaha; M.S., teacher education, University of
Southern California; M.S.,
educational administration, University of Oklahoma. All earned at U.S. military education
centers in Germany.
PHI KAPPA PHI CHAPTER: Southern Miss
A former soldier and onetime teacher pursues a dream.
Q: Why enroll in a doctoral program at this stage
of your life?
A: I started three days after I retired. I had wanted to work on a Ph.D. for years, but my military
and teaching careers didn’t allow adequate time.
Q: How has your background influenced your
A: I was drafted in 1968, spending five years on
active duty in the Army, including a tour in Vietnam and two tours in Germany. I was in the
Army Reserve from 1973 to 1999, mostly in Germany, in the engineering, transportation, and
aviation branches. In 1990 my unit was activated, and I served in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and
Iraq for Operation Desert Storm. I retired as a
colonel. I was also a teacher for 29 years, mostly
middle and high school science and math: from
1976 to 1982 in Livermore, Calif., and from 1982
Q: What do you like best about your doctoral
to 2005 at four locations in Germany with the
Department of Defense Dependents Schools. It
is interesting to compare military and education-
al leadership. Some nonmilitary people mistak-
enly believe that military commanders have ab-
solute power over their units. Actually, the best
military commanders are good at developing a
spirit of togetherness and a sense of teamwork.
Similarly, school administrators, classroom
teachers, and students themselves need to stress
togetherness and teamwork.
A: Working at an advanced educational level.
Learning new skills. Developing a synergetic
appreciation for material in three different curricular areas: educational leadership, statistics,
and higher education administration. And getting to know some excellent students and outstanding professors.
Q: What obstacles have you faced?
A: Readjusting to being out of Europe and back
in the U.S. I wish professors had more time to
work with students on research questions and
publishing opportunities. And because I have
enjoyed nearly all of my classes, it has been
hard to stop taking them and start working on
my dissertation. My topic: seeing if school climate is related to dropout rates in Mississippi
public high schools.
Q: What’s the No. 1 issue in higher education?
A: Cost. But I’m fortunate to qualify for scholarships that defray most of my tuition. I take
care of living expenses. Economic pressure appears to have reduced the number of students
seeking a liberal arts education. There are
many, many positions that need educated people, not trained people. The liberal arts education is designed to educate. It’s sad if fewer students enroll in and complete a liberal arts degree because of spiraling costs.
Brett Nachman (Arizona State University
chapter student vice president and Council
of Students West Regional Representative)
is a senior journalism major at the Walter
Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass
Communication at ASU. He also attends
Barrett, The Honors College on campus and
founded the Barrett SWAT Team, which mentors incoming honors
transfer students. Nachman is a columnist for the entertainment
site geeksofdoom.com. He served on the editorial board of the
school literary magazine, Write On, Downtown, and earned the
junior and senior outstanding scholarship awards from ASU’s
Society chapter. Email him at email@example.com or follow him
on Twitter @bnachmanreports.
Michelle Holowach is an admissions
counselor at Indiana Institute of
Technology. She wrote a profile for
the 2013 winter awards edition of
this magazine and won a 2012 Study
Abroad Grant from Phi Kappa Phi to help
pay for a monthlong course at King’s
College London. Holowach earned a B.A. in English from
University of Southern Mississippi and held several editing
and reporting roles at its student publications. Email her at