Alum spotlight: Stephanie Dean (MFA ’07)

collage of photos

Stephanie Dean, MFA Acting / Directing / Pedagogy, 2007

Stephanie in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, 2001

When Stephanie graduated from Emerson College in Musical Theatre, she had a friend who worked at the Egyptian Theatre Company in Park City, Utah. She agreed to teach one class. After her first week, Stephanie realized, “I love this!”

After researching pedagogy programs, she “felt most at peace at VCU.” Another program in San Diego offered her a full ride scholarship and she turned it down. “It was sort of a gut reaction.”

Even though her undergrad focus was in Musical Theatre, Stephanie never performed onstage at VCU. She worked with Patti D’Beck as a singing coach for Smokey Joe’s Café and worked with Gary Hopper on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. “I wanted to learn how to truly direct and knew as a professor I’d have to direct shows.”

Stephanie (center) at the premiere of Smokey Joe’s Cafe

Stephanie only needed 60 credits, but stayed an extra year to earn 90 credits. “I took all the classes I thought I needed to be really well-rounded.” She remembers Noreen Barnes-McLain’s class, where she taught them how to design undergrad BA and BFA curriculums. “Noreen said, ‘Most grad schools are not going to teach this, but it’s a necessary skill.’ Every place I’ve been, I had to write or rewrite curricula, so I continue to apply it.”

working with the Dah Theatre in Serbia with Janet
Rodgers and VCU students

After getting her degree, she was accepted at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island as a visiting Assistant Professor Of Musical Theatre. When the position ended, she went to the University of Michigan-Flint as a Musical Theatre Professor. “I was nervous about the stigma of Flint, but once I was there, I loved the faculty and facility. I saw diversity and innovation in the university community. It was a really cool mix.”

VCU graduation in 2007

She outlines her subsequent years in anniversaries:

After one year she met her husband, Brad Hix (she kept her last name)
Year 2: they were married
Year 3: they bought a house
Year 4: they had their first boy -Caelan
Year 6: she was granted tenure
Year 7: they had their 2nd son -Henry

Stephanie and her two boys last Mother’s Day

In the last year, she’s started to venture into medical improv and creating a standardized patient program like the one that Aaron Anderson and David Leong were working on when she was at VCU. “They, along with Elizabeth Byland, who I’ve never actually met, have been mentoring me through this as I start to pilot the program.”

Stephanie and Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates (Dr. T) at graduation

Stephanie still quotes several of her influences from VCU:

“From Dr T, ‘From the specific comes the universal.’ It’s become my motto.”

Although she never actually heard Liz Hopper say it, she recalls several of her students recalling her phrase, “everything in life worth doing is a pain in the ass.”

From Aaron Anderson, “If you’re going to fail, fail big!”

Obviously, that last one doesn’t apply to Stephanie.

Stephanie directing a show at University of Michigan-Flint

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the May 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.