Charlette San Juan

Arts Management (MA) '21

What would you say has been the most surprising thing you learned at Columbia? 

The community and support I received from Columbia since moving to the United States have been paramount. The notion of living in a new country by myself has always been a daunting undertaking. Fortunately, I was consistently surrounded by the most encouraging and reliable cohort, professors who are always understanding, and Clare, from the ISSS, who, from the beginning has always been accommodating and approachable. The adjustment was made easy because of the encouragement of the community and I could not be more grateful to have these people. There is an abundance of resources available for the students; professors, the community, the different offices who are always ready to help and assist. 

Ask for help, ask all the questions, we are here to learn.  

What experiences or courses at Columbia do you feel have been most beneficial? 

In the fall of 2020, I took the Teaching Methods and Pedagogies class under Niki Nolin. This has been one of the most beneficial classes I have ever taken in my entire educational stint. Niki is the most delightful, empathic, and diligent professor, even though the class was done entirely on Zoom, I felt her fervor for teaching. Through her compassion, my enthusiasm to teach grew further and I have been rendered inspired since taking her class. In this course, I was matched with my mentor, John Green from the Theatre department, who has since introduced me to collaborators who I look forward to working with beyond the walls of Columbia. Teaching Methods and Pedagogies class was not part of the curriculum but with the help of advisors Justin Sinkovich and Monika Jaiswal-Oliver, I successfully registered in the class. 

Other than the courses, so to speak, it is highly beneficial as well to have the ability and agency to curate and select our electives for the entire program. This is particularly valuable if a student is deeply passionate about multiple areas of the program.  

What are your plans for after graduation?  

Being an international student, talking about the future has always been a nuanced subject. There is always a cloud of uncertainty as well as caution with the next steps after graduation. For most of my time at Columbia, I worked with Clare at the International Student and Scholar Services office, and through that experience, I gained confidence in exploring my options in the United States after I graduate. Theatre has always been at the forefront of my passion and priorites, I hope to be able to gain experience at local theatres around Chicago, and eventually move to New York to further my studies as well as to gain industry experience.

It has always been within my plan to teach theater, and I plan to explore my options on that as well. With or without the degree, I am forever changed by the minds I have met at Columbia, as well as outside of it. The effort to continuously fight to abolish sexism, racism, all the systems that oppress minorities, and injustices that keep marginalized from getting equal rights, is a struggle that I will be a part of alongside the people and this will always be an inextricable part of my every endeavor.  

Do you have any advice for current students? 

Determine what you want to get out of your education and use all the tools and resources Columbia offers. Strongly advocate for yourself and get all the industry experience you can, this will aid you in your future as well as in applying the concepts you learn in class in real-time. I highly recommend getting in touch with the Career Center. For the past two years, Tom Joyce has been helping me navigate through internships and has been so supportive every step of the way.

If you were going, to sum up, your experience at Columbia in one sentence, what would you say? 

There are no stupid questions. Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.