Name: Colleen Hooper
Year: Ph.D. candidate, second year (earned MFA at Temple in 2011)
School: Boyer College of Music and Dance
Area of study: Dance
Home town: Philadelphia, Pa. (originally from Bear, Del.)
Why I chose Temple: "When I was originally looking at Temple when selecting master's programs, I really enjoyed the diversity of the dance faculty. The strength of the program is that all the teachers have different ideas about what dance is and why it's important. It was clear there wasn't one point of view. I also liked Temple's urban location. I was looking for a world-class city with lots of cultural opportunities. Many of the dancers I know from New York are now moving here. It's a quality of life issue. Philadelphia is a wonderful, up-and-coming arts destination."
Transformative moment: "In my first meeting as a grad student, Dr. Kariamu Welsh announced that she was looking for someone to assist her in a course about dance and film. I just knew that it would be a good match for me. I applied, and she accepted me. We worked together to develop a syllabus and prepare class presentations. I ended up teaching that course seven times in two and half years — first as her assistant, and then six times I taught it as the lead teacher. It was a wonderful experience that opened so many doors for me. I love being a teacher. I love students. When you teach, you never really arrive — you're continually learning and exploring, and you're doing it together as a class.
"As I was approaching the end of the MFA program, Dr. Welsh encouraged me to look into the Ph.D. program. At the time I wasn't interested in a non-performance-based degree, but she could see something in me that I couldn't see myself. And I was able to receive a fellowship and continue dancing, because Temple is one of the rare universities where you can pursue a Ph.D. and learn about scholarship, reading and researching dance while continuing as a dance practicioner. That's important. Dancing also has made me a better scholar. There's a connection. The thinking body and the dancing mind — that's a concept I've learned from Temple dance faculty member Kun-Yang Lin.
"As a dancer, I've been able to continue performing with Merián Soto. This summer I've had the opportunity to work with her on her 'Branch Dances' project [which will conclude with a performance of 'Somos,' a large-scale spectacle in North Philadelphia on Oct. 12]. She is really grounded in improvisational practices of the body. It's about learning to understand the body and being ready for anything at any time. I really enjoy dance; I can't imagine my life without it."