All You Need to Know About Gallatin
As a Steinhardt student, I have always been curious about programs offered by other NYU grad schools. In particular, I've always wanted to know more about the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. “What is the Gallatin School and how can you design your own program?” I sat down with a friend to find out! Read my conversation with Beryl Liu, a current graduate student at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study specializing in Motion Pictures and Theatre: Acting & Producing, to learn more.
What is Gallatin?
BL: The NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study is a unique school like no other where students are able to connect diverse interests to create their own program of study. Its interdisciplinary nature allows students to curate their degree independently and be creative to follow their true passions and career ambitions.
Why did you choose to study at Gallatin?
BL: "Well, that’s a weird combination...” is usually the first reaction I receive when I talk about my undergraduate studies at McGill University. A double major in Political Science and English (Drama & Theatre) is perceived to be “odd” and “unconventional” until I explain to them the surprisingly intricate connection between the two fields. As an aspiring producer, actor, and filmmaker, I want to immerse myself in both worlds of academic and professional knowledge that will be integral to inspiring my creative work.
Gallatin was the most reasonable next step for me to take as I am able to take agency to curate my own unique program that is tailored to both my academic and creative interests in theatre and film.
This interdisciplinary environment is an opportunity for me to bridge and safely explore my interests, while also allowing me to build on both theoretical and practical knowledge that will be essential to my future career.
What is your concentration at Gallatin? How would you describe your creative work?
BL: At Gallatin, my concentration is “Motion Pictures and Theatre: Acting & Producing.” I am pursuing a creative thesis where I explore the “actor-character (emotional, physiological, and physical) relationship” and will hopefully create a narrative short film as the creative project. My creative work as an aspiring actor and producer is seeking to find a connection amongst differences. As a Chinese-Canadian, I spent most of my life trying to find a place between the two cultures. While this background has shaped me to become more open-minded, I have struggled to balance between these two identities. This desire to connect, to reconcile, and to find compassion between differences is part of what drives my purpose and my creative work. I deeply believe that creative story-weaving in cinema and theatre is essential for sharing unvoiced narratives and understanding of differences to build compassion amongst ourselves.
What is the program structure like?
BL: The master's program is a two-year program that consists of course work and a thesis. The courses include several Gallatin courses, and the rest, you are free to take courses within NYU that are specific to your concentration. This freedom allows us to explore and expand our horizons to the broader NYU community. There are options to follow a research driven thesis, a performance thesis, or a combination of both known as an “artistic thesis” which is what I am currently pursuing myself. Additionally, you are able to select any faculty member within the NYU community to serve as your advisor and mentor throughout your program. My advisor, Professor Abigail Zealey Bess, has given me tremendous support and guidance throughout my time at Gallatin.
Ultimately, I would say that the program is suitable for students who are driven, independent, and passionate about their unique interdisciplinary interests.
What were some challenges that you faced?
BL: While for the most part I really enjoy the freedom and independence I am given at Gallatin to truly pursue my passion, there have certainly been challenges - as with any academic pursuit. As a Gallatin student, when I approach courses in other programs, I tend to be considered as “out of major” and that can be frustrating at times. To combat that, we are encouraged to reach out and be persistent. Most of the NYU community understands the uniqueness of the Gallatin program and I am usually able to enroll in my desired courses. Another challenge I faced was being slightly overwhelmed navigating and curating my own program. In fact, I did feel slightly lonely at times. Nevertheless, I luckily have a great support system from my advisor and the Gallatin administration, who I can seek guidance from when I face challenges.
I also go back to read my personal statement during times when I feel lost and am able to rekindle the spark and remind myself of the reason as well as purpose behind why I am here.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
BL: Some of my humble advice to prospective students would be to take courses within Gallatin and take advantage of the opportunity to take courses in any department at NYU. This unique ability allows students to broaden their horizons and meet others in similar fields of interest. Additionally, I recommend connecting with your Gallatin cohort as well as seeking a group of like-minded peers in your field of interest to support one another throughout this academic endeavor. Be proactive in seeking guidance, opportunities, and resources both in Gallatin and throughout the NYU community to better your academic experience. Lastly, I would say take risks and embrace the freedom to explore your true passion. Personally, I decided to change my thesis and was able to realize what I truly was passionate about.
Understand that being open and flexible to organic changes to your concentration is a natural process that allows you to also grow as a creative individual. All in all, it is a very unique experience to truly study what you are passionate about and have access to a boundless list of courses.
During my time at NYU, I was able to participate in a number of student films and have gained a solid network of like-minded creatives to collaborate with and a support system from faculty. These are invaluable connections that inspire me to continue to grow both creatively and professionally. At NYU and living in New York, I believe that I was able to discover unlimited possibilities and potential within my own creative trajectory.
Portions of this interview were edited for clarity. Many thanks to Beryl for sharing more about her experiences at Gallatin!