An MFA as a Gateway to Career Success

May 10, 2016

For Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan, pursuing an MFA in Classical Acting at George Washington University was a catalyst for a career breakthrough.

After trying to make it in New York without much momentum, Keegan decided that she needed to try a different tactic, she told the Washington Post Express. “I was doing all of these things to pay rent to live in New York City,” she said. “I was actually passing up auditions because I had to work. I woke up one day and thought, ‘I think I need to restart.’”

She enrolled in GW’s one-year program, which is especially designed for students with previous professional experience, and through her classes discovered that to better understand her characters, she needed to embrace, not run, from her insecurities.

“The way that I approach my work changed the most by understanding who I was,” she told the Express. “What I learned was, more than the positive aspects of myself, I really needed to embrace the things that are wrong with me. That was the real breakthrough.”

Keegan was one of several GW voices featured in the Express’s May 9 article “State of the arts degree,” which examined the value of an MFA. Department Chair and professor Dana Tai Soon Burgess discussed the flexibility of the university’s MFA in Dance—an 18-month accelerated program that allows students to continue working while completing classes—while Nina Gilden Seavey, director of GW’s Institute for Documentary Filmmaking, emphasized the networking value of a graduate degree in the arts. 

“You can’t do it alone,” Seavey said. “You have to be part of a community of people who will read proposals, recommend you for jobs and talk about production. Our filmmakers work together for years.”