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Grad Profiles – Robyn Clarke

Grad Profiles – Robyn Clarke

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.
Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Robyn Clarke

Robyn Clarke

Bachelor of Music, Music Education
Hometown – Joliet, IL
Transfer from: Joliet Junior College

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?
My favorite memories are of my friends and me during our frequent all-night study/practice sessions. Lots of snacking, humor, and nap intermissions involved!

What’s next for you?
I have accepted a job offer and am excited to announce that I will be entering my first year of teaching in the fall! I will be teaching General Music to grades K-5 in the Joliet Public School District.

I do hope to further my education later in life to study trumpet performance or music education at the graduate level.

What is one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career or education?
Even as a teacher, one should never stop learning. Our education system changes rapidly. It is important to keep reading, asking questions, and reflecting in order to offer our students the best education possible.

How was your experience at NIU different than what you expected when you started?
Being a first-generation college student, I did not know what to expect upon transferring to NIU. I was in shock during my first full week on campus. Being a transfer student on top of everything, I was put into upper-level classes with students who had already known each other for years, so I imagined making friends would be complicated. Three other students transferred from my community college’s music program with me, so we were sort of our own little unit during our first few weeks. However, it did not take long before I started branching out. The music community is very tight-knit, by the end of my time there I felt very close with everyone and have established lifelong friendships.

If you could thank someone (or more than one person) that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be, and what would you say?
The music education program at NIU is extremely fortunate to have Professors Dr. D’Alexander, Dr. Wang, and Dr. Doherty. Each of these empowering women brings such unique experiences and expertise to our program and I feel fully confident going into my first year of teaching after learning from them. I would not trade all of the wisdom, tools, and skills I’ve gained from them for the world! Thank you all for all that you do!

Additionally, I would like to thank our teacher-coordinator Lynn Retherford for the copious amount of work she does to ensure that our program runs so smoothly! She always goes above and beyond for everyone!

What is something you’d like to come back to do one more time?
I would love to perform in a concert at NIU. Even though I majored in Music Education, I put the same amount of emphasis and effort into improving as a player as I did into learning effective teaching strategies. It is so important not to lose sight of the passion that inspired us to become Music Educators in the first place, and that is performance. Personally, I strive to have successful careers as both a performer and an educator. I will forever miss being fully-immersed in music at NIU with peers who are just as dedicated to their craft as I am.

What are some of the things you are most proud of from your time at NIU?
I struggled immensely with stage fright for most of my life, but I am proud to have faced my fears at NIU.  I joined every ensemble that I possibly could and even agreed to ensemble “cameos” whenever asked (such as playing conch shell for a piece or offstage trumpet solos) hoping that the more I performed, the easier it would get. I originally planned on studying trumpet classically but ended up focusing on jazz trumpet with Professor Art Davis. I was terrified at first as I knew next to nothing about jazz; to a strictly classical player, jazz felt like a foreign language. I committed to learning everything I could about jazz, stopped worrying while I playing, and had fun, even during juries! I am thankful for the opportunities and professors that forced me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to grow.

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020 who will be starting at NIU in the fall, what would it be?
Take advantage of your professors’ office hours. Every single time I made an office hour visit, it was extremely positive and beneficial. Most of your classes will be a lot larger than your high school class sizes, so getting lots of one-on-one help from professors is not always possible unless you utilize their office hours. Whether you have a question that is directly related to your class or assignment or need support in some other way, go. Every teacher I have visited has been happy to help and I also enjoyed getting to know them better as individuals in the process.

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.

Grad Profiles – Chelsea Cwiklik

Grad Profiles – Chelsea Cwiklik

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.

Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Chelsea Cwiklik

Chelsea CwiklikMSEd with K-12 Licensure and endorsement in Art
Hometown: Batavia, IL (Batavia High School)
Received a B.A. from Columbia College Chicago in Art Management

Best memories:
My best memories are the ones with with the friends I made within the program. Everyone is so supportive of each other and the times we had together are the most memorable. The simplest of ones – visiting each other in printmaking labs, having lunch together at Pita Petes, staying late or arriving early to class to work on coursework together – are the times I will remember most.

What’s next for you?
I’ve been hired at an all-girls K-12 school in Greenwich, Connecticut as their full-time middle school art instructor, so I will be moving to the East Coast this summer.

What is one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career or education?
I was recently reading through research articles I had printed during the course of my study while looking for lesson ideas, and on the front page of one article from the ARTE-544 Middle Level Clinical course I had written “What kind of lesson would you develop to help encourage positive self-concept, knowing these students at this age are experiencing a range of negative emotions that might interfere with their continuous pursuit of art?” I can only assume those are words of wisdom from Dr. Staikidis but that note has been in the back of my mind as I begin lesson planning for the Fall since reading it again a year later.

How was your experience at NIU different than what you expected when you started?
I did not expect it to be as rigorous yet intellectually rewarding. I cannot believe how much I learned in such a short amount of time but I also worked really hard to get to this point. You work incredibly hard throughout the program but it is so worth it in the end.

Chelsea Cwiklik - Chicken

Chicken – Chelsea Cwiklik

If you could thank someone (or more than one person) that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be, and what would you say?
I owe everyone in the department a big thank you, but particularly one to Kryssi Staikidis and Connie Rhoton. I still remember trying to register for classes and get everything organized for my first Fall semester from a small cabin in the middle of July in Maine, and Kryssi and Connie were so incredibly helpful and calming as I stressed and struggled. It meant the world to me in that moment.

What is something you’d like to come back to do one more time?
Have one last friends group lunch at Pita Petes!

What are some of the things you are most proud of from your time at NIU?
I am very proud at how hard I worked and what I accomplished. I felt very recognized and encouraged by the department there, which says something about the community that is cultivated within the program. My 2020 Outstanding Graduate Student Award is reflective of that and I feel honored to have been nominated.

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020 who will be starting at NIU in the fall, what would it be?
Prepare to be flexible, especially during this time. Don’t look at any road blocks as missed opportunities but rather a new opportunity to try something different. Take full advantage of the free services the campus offers. And food delivery charges will add up, so spend wisely!

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.