The benefits of studying theater are many, but Connie Canaday Howard hopes her students come away with with one key skill.
"The most important is the ability to see a situation or an issue from a different point of view than is your first instinct," she explained. "This is not to say that one's first instinct is not important - it is. But there are MANY times when taking time to 'walk in another's shoes' can help you see things you never imagined before. I believe that's not only healthy, but really incumbent upon us in today's global world."
Her students must feel the same way, because Canaday Howard's theater program continues to thrive at College of DuPage. She is a past recipient of the College-Wide Outstanding Full-Time Faculty Member at COD, and she also serves as artistic director of the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, a professional in-residence troupe at COD.
Not bad for someone who initially began working in the theater because injuries kept her from touring as a dancer -- primarily in ballet.
"What kept me in theater was an intrique about human relationships -- by either acting or directing the characters, I was interested in how relationships developed," Canaday Howard said. "I think it's a wonderful arena to provoke us about our values and assumptions, to constantly ask us to re-evaluate, and that all of that really helps us be more compassionate, empathetic people, as well as helping us gain perspectives."
Before coming to COD, Canaday Howard worked in many arenas: she toured both dance and theater, taught at Drake and University of Pittsburgh part-time, choreographed and directed for a Shakespeare Festival's green show, taught at several community theaters and community centers, danced and sang in amusement parks, and did both dinner theater (both acting and directing) and "straight" theaters (meaning non-musicals). She also worked for a PR firm, in retail sales, as a waitress and as an office temp. She also taught and directed for a year full-time at a parochial high school.
Regardless of the job, she found herself returning to the classroom.
"I missed teaching after graduate school -- I really feel that this is where I'm meant to be . And I learn, every term, in the classroom, along with my students."