Why We Love SLC: Parents and Students Speak
Lorna Dawkins and Maurice Dawkins '15
When Lorna Dawkins learned that her son Maurice was considering attending her alma mater, New York University, she was pleased. He auditioned for a spot in the highly-acclaimed Tisch School of the Arts, for the dance program.
However, after researching the opportunities available to him at Sarah Lawrence, both Lorna and Maurice became intrigued. "Maurice's interests are so varied. Technology, dance, the arts, calculus. I would say he's an eclectic learner," says Lorna, who has a degree in writing and is an entrepreneur.
Thanks to the College's unique offerings in both the arts and academics, Sarah Lawrence soon made it to the top of Maurice's list. A New York City native, Maurice attended the Laguardia Arts High School, where he was enrolled in the drama, vocal, and dance programs. For his undergraduate experience, he was eager to explore academic disciplines with the same rigor as he has explored—and will continue to explore—the arts. Lorna and Maurice knew that Sarah Lawrence was a perfect fit.
"I decided to come here because of the academic freedom," explains Maurice, who is studying dance, abstract algebra, and the philosophy of science. "I didn't want to be limited in my studies in any way."
Before the school year began, Maurice connected with his roommate, and Lorna and Maurice offered to show his roommate and his mother, who are from Hawaii, around New York City. The quartet established a fast rapport.
"We lucked out," Lorna says.
By the time Hurricane Irene was threatening to close the bridges north of the city, just in time for the move-in date, the group was already a unit. The four of them worked together to move the students up to Bronxville quickly.
"After we got situated, there was only time to make his bed, and then we had to leave, before the storm came," says Lorna.
Fortunately, she lives nearby and is thrilled that proximity will allow her to see Maurice, whom she calls "her one and only," for the odd dinner home, or to meet in Bronxville at a local restaurant.
She says, "You wouldn't believe how happy I am."
For Maurice's part, he's happy, too. So far, he's enjoying campus life and his classes. "In terms of self-growth, the teachers at Sarah Lawrence are able to accommodate to each students' needs."
In his philosophy of science course, he's finding application beyond that particular seminar. "I am even applying what I learn to my dance," he says. One month into the semester, Maurice already sounds like a veteran Sarah Lawrence student: "Classes are getting harder, which is great."
A newly-minted Sarah Lawrence parent, Lorna is looking forward to the next four years. She explains, "We went to a reception for admitted students, and I saw how other parents felt pride for Sarah Lawrence. I am feeling that pride now."
Audrey Koocher and Rosie Koocher '15
When asked how her daughter Rosie is adjusting to her first year away from home, Audrey Koocher answers, "Well, we live forty-five minutes from campus, and she has told me she won't see me until Thanksgiving."
Rosie's declaration is definitely a good sign that she's taking to the Sarah Lawrence experience. An actor by training, Rosie had seriously considered going to a conservatory to further her craft. As a high school student, she'd studied acting intensively for three years, at the Lee Strasberg Institute, the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and the William Esber Studio.
As passionate as Rosie is about acting, she told her mother, "I don't think I could ever forgive myself if I didn't go to college."
Rosie's cousin had graduated from Sarah Lawrence in 2008—and loved it. Knowing Rosie would thrive in a more intimate learning environment, Rosie and Audrey visited the campus last November with open minds. Says Audrey, "I could see her seeing herself there, which was exciting."
"I knew the instant I walked on campus that this was a safe environment for experimenting and thinking outside-of-the-box," says Rosie.
Enthusiastic, she wanted to visit admissions straight away to set up an interview. As luck would have it, there had just been a cancellation. Rosie could be interviewed on the spot if she wished. She leapt at the chance, and the rest, as they say, is history.
"It's just been an over-the-moon type experience for us," says Audrey, who has an International MBA and works primarily in India and the United Arab Emirates, overseeing a company's Indian investments. Audrey and Rosie's father met in their graduate program. "As parents, we are both creative and risk-friendly," says Audrey, explaining that they understand the Sarah Lawrence approach to learning.
Despite calling herself "shy," Rosie has had extremely positive experiences socially. "I am able to be myself and talk to so many different kinds of people without feeling like I am being judged," she says.
This semester, Rosie is taking courses in contemporary directing, the Harlem Renaissance, and Public and Private Family life, a sociology class. Her classes challenge her in a way that makes her feel good about herself, because courses are pushing her to excel in ways she hadn't imagined were possible. "The teachers here have so much passion," she says. "Even if you're not as interested in the subject, you can't help but want to meet them on their level of passion."
Acting remains on the horizon. Rosie hopes to spend a semester abroad studying theater in London.
Of her semester, Rosie says, "My experience here has been nothing but wonderful"—a fact that puts Audrey at ease.
"Rosie is so comfortable that this transition has been easy for me," Audrey says. "She's very happy."
Mallika Sarabhai & Anahita Sarabhai '12
Profession: Indian film and television star; director of the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts; social activist
Other children: Revanta (26), who also dances with Darpana and is pursuing a master’s degree in performance research in London
SLC connections: Her dance troupe performed on campus in October; she also led a dance workshop and gave a lecture on Art and Social Change
“I’d first heard of Sarah Lawrence 35 years ago, when my cousin came here to study architecture and design. For Anahita, who took two years off after graduating high school, the main priority was to find a place that she could blossom. When I met Sara Rudner [director of the College’s dance program], I was happy from the start.
“Sara has a similar philosophy to our school in Ahmedabad, exposing students to a broad base of information and working cross-culturally in a variety of different mediums. While most schools in India have followed the Western tradition of specializing, we, like Sarah Lawrence, have adopted the approach that everyone does everything. Having Anahita here feels natural, like there is no separation.”
Anahita Sarabhai ’12
Concentrations: Dance, philosophy, psychology, ethnomusicology, poetry
Don: Sara Rudner (Dance)
“Just after high school, I studied in Australia, in a large, impersonal dance program. Right away, I had a gut feeling that the place was not right for me, so I went back to India after two weeks and took two years off before coming to Sarah Lawrence, a decision I don’t regret for a second.
“When I came here, I instantly fell in love with the dance department, which is like a family. I also love that I can take many different courses outside of dance.
“Most people here come from a Western dance background, so that’s a new experience for me. Being able to take an improvisation class with Sara Rudner last year was incredibly special. And this year I feel more at home in my improv and composition classes because of it. It makes me so happy, to have a place to create and experiment with our own movements.
“Dance is my life—I can’t not do this. This is who I am. Having spent years performing with Darpana, there was really no way to communicate to my Sarah Lawrence friends what my other life is like. So having the company here and performing with them, for my Sarah Lawrence family, was really a gift. There are no words for how it feels for everything to come together.”
Debbie Cooper & Dan Sternberg and Julia Sternberg ’12
Debbie Cooper & Dan Sternberg
Professions: Mergers and acquisitions lawyer (Dan); Vice president and general counsel for Cooke Center for Learning and Development (Debbie)
Other children: Sam (18)
SLC connections: Members of the Parents Advisory Council since 2008
Debbie: “Julia went to a private high school that was supposed to offer small classes and lots of discussion, but it didn’t really live up to its promises. So when she got in to Sarah Lawrence, I was a little skeptical about the claims, and I wondered if she would thrive there. But we saw right away that the teachers were really committed to making class a meaningful experience. Julia was so empowered by the ability to find out about classes in advance. She’s become so much more self-confident. This is a very rigorous form of education, and she takes it really seriously. It’s the first time in my experience that an educational institution has lived up to the hype.”
Dan: “We stopped by campus one evening, and Julia was at an event her friend had organized, where students were reading children’s stories out loud. Fifteen kids were reading Blueberries for Sal, the classic picture book. They passed it around and everyone read a page, including me. The students had brought their favorite children’s books, and they read them aloud. I loved seeing how excited they were, doing this for each other. There was a great energy in the room. I decided I really wanted to participate, even though I felt slightly like the awkward old man in the room. I read the first chapter of The Hobbit, and drew a nice round of applause. I would have read more if I could. It made me feel young again."
Julia Sternberg ’12
Concentrations: Writing, art history, literature
Don: Mary LaChapelle (writing)
“When I came to visit SLC, I was nervous. I didn’t know anything about the College. It was a gorgeous spring day, and we went on a campus tour. There were circles of students having class on the North Lawn, and as we walked past, some of them clapped. Then one guy stood up, cupped his hands around his mouth, and yelled, “Come to Sarah Lawrence!” And everyone on the lawn started cheering. That’s when I knew that Sarah Lawrence was the right place for me. There’s such a strong sense of community here. I can’t walk across campus without seeing at least five people I know who wave at me and want to chat. When I’m getting food in Bates, I run into my teachers, and they want to talk too. I wasn’t expecting that. It’s great.”