NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Maggie McCaig, NDEO Intern. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.
Junior year of college: a time when most emerging adults are starting to feel the pressure of having an internship or a summer job that will benefit their future careers. That was exactly what was going through my mind during my junior year at the University of South Carolina. I am a lifelong dancer, and am currently studying dance education under Dr. Stephanie Milling, who helped me discover NDEO’s internship program. Upon finding out about the internship, I decided to apply, which was daunting because I spent most of my summers working at a camp or catering service; both of which I enjoyed very much. The application process was different, but that excited me because I felt like I was able to elaborate on my plans and wishes for my future. I was also able to explain my interest in NDEO and what I would be able to contribute to the organization.
I have come to realize my future may take different twists and turns, but as of now I am planning on being a dance teacher somewhere in the Washington, D.C. or Maryland area. I grew up in southern Maryland, and I have always wanted to return to this area. I am also very interested in arts advocacy, so being close to the nation's capital is appealing to me. I attended national and state arts advocacy days with Dr. Milling and during those experiences, I became very interested with the behind-the-scenes action that goes on the dance education world. As I have spent my entire dance career so far in the studio or on stage, I wanted to experience another side of dance.
Upon hearing that I did in fact get the internship, I was very excited, but also nervous. What will the other people in the office be like? Will I still be able to find the movement aspect of dance in an office? What if I make a mistake? All of these questions, and so many more, circled through my head as I made the commute on I-495 for the first time. I quickly realized how much of a community NDEO is, and how open the staff was to including me and teaching me about how the organization is run. I also quickly came to the realization that, even though each employee has a desk and computer, NDEO is set up in a way that reflects a choreographed dance. Each person has a different role, and those roles come together to create a collaboration of ideas, emails, conversations, and outcomes. Being movement oriented, making this connection was exciting for me because it also allowed me to be able to see how I fit in, which steps were mine to learn.
My first steps were to learn about each program of the organization. I got to understand how much work goes into each, and how all of that work comes together to create the thriving organization that is NDEO. After my introduction, I started to work on the Special Topics Conference, “Emerging Pathways within Somatic Movement and Dance Education,” which I was to attend it as an employee. Being thrown into this work from the beginning of my internship was very exciting for me because it allowed me to get the hang of how to write appropriate emails, answer phone calls, work with excel spreadsheets, and keep an organized record of the work I've done. I have had minimal work in an office and starting my internship at full speed enabled me to pick things up quickly.
Of course, I did make a few mistakes. Because I was in a supportive environment, I was able to face my mistakes and fix them as they happened, and those skills are skills that have already shown up in my daily life. It all comes back to the dance analogy, and when a dance is being created, mistakes happen and the dancers quickly learn from them. The staff at NDEO gave me the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, which is a very important aspect of the learning process.
I am now confident in my abilities to write professional emails, answer the phones, create and edit google docs with multiple people, and use my voice in an office full of very intelligent and creative people. Going into my senior year of college, although I am not 100% sure how my career will start, I know that I am going back to school with skills that will serve me for many years to come. I am also entering the school year with the excitement of attending the National Conference as a poster presenter. Having had the experience working on some Conference-related activities, I have more of an idea about how large and exciting the Conference will be. I am eager to continue building relationships through the connections I have made this summer, which I am sure will happen at National Conference as well as in my day-to-day life.
I encourage other young professionals to not only try to apply for this internship, but to also learn about what NDEO does for the dance community. I have witnessed first-hand how much dedication is in this office and I have truly seen how important this organization is to the dance community as a whole. I learned more than expected, while still being able to connect everything back to where my passion comes from; dance.
Margaret McCaig is a dance education student at the University of South Carolina who is interning with the National Dance Education Organization for the summer of 2019. She is a Maryland native and has plans to teach dance in the MD/DC area upon graduation in 2020. She grew up as a serious ballet student with the intention of being a professional ballet dancer, but experienced height discrimination, which made her want to be able to bring dance to everyone, everywhere. From that realization, she discovered that dance education was a major that was offered in colleges. She never had plans to go to college, but that quickly changed when she discovered USC’s dance education program, which is run by Dr. Stephanie Milling. During her time there, she has been able to perform, study many styles of dance, student-teach, and advocate for arts education. She has attended two South Carolina Arts Advocacy Days and one National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, which has allowed her to discover her second passion for arts advocacy. Arts advocacy is a way that she can use her voice in a way that will impact the greater dance community and ultimately bring dance to everyone that wants it in their lives. Her current internship with NDEO has given her the opportunity to learn more about how to make dance education more accessible and which tools are necessary to do so. She will graduate in May of 2020 with the hopes of moving back to the DC area and teaching dance, although she knows that her career path may take new turns as she continues to learn more about the dance education field.