Class of 2013
Major: Liberal Arts/Dance Licensure Program
Favorite weekend activity: Hiking with his dog
Career Plans: To open a dance studio in Vermont
"I really love the atmosphere on campus. The professors are so kind and more than willing to meet with me outside of class, if need be. I work at a café downtown, and sometimes they come in and say hi."
After falling in love with dance in high school, Shani Stoddard aspired to study where most artists would: New York City. He spent two semesters at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and continued living in Manhattan for two years. He spent his time working and dancing when he could. Eventually, Shani decided to return to Vermont to pursue an undergraduate degree.
Shani was already familiar with Johnson State's dance program; his high school dance teacher studied with JSC Dance Professor Maris Wolff. He toured the campus and was immediately drawn to one of the best-kept secrets in New England: a vibrant, friendly, artistic community that draws its energy from beautiful, natural surroundings.
"I really love the atmosphere on campus. The professors are so kind and more than willing to meet with me outside of class, if need be. I work at a café downtown, and sometimes they come in and say hi," Shani says. "Johnson State College has been such a positive change for me."
Shani credits Maris with creating a welcoming, comforting space for dance students. "She is a wonder to work with. She's not just a great dance instructor, but she is also one of the nicest people I've ever met," he says. "She knows my body and how I move and how I practice."
He infuses this collaborative spirit into the campus' dance community, as an active member and president of the JSC Dance Club, the college's largest student organization. Members spend countless hours choreographing, rehearsing and fund-raising to present two annual dance shows.
"Itâ€™s such an exciting club to represent," Shani says. "We welcome all students and we pride ourselves on the diversity of our club members and their different levels of experience. We try to promote growth and positive energy in the dance studio and on the stage."
Dance Club isn't Shani's only campus activity. As the director of student activities for the Student Government Association, he helps schedule bands for coffeehouse nights, inflatable structures for gym events, films for campus movie nights and student performers for talent shows. As part of Break Away's alternative spring break program, he traveled to work at homeless shelters and food banks in Chicago. He recently led a trip to Washington, D.C., to focus on the issue of youth and food justice. He also has helped JSC Admissions, serving on panels to inform prospective students and parents.
"This place has become my home," he explains. "I've gained so much from Johnson State, and it's my job to give back."