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Commencement Stories: Liz

The Dream Chaser

Not every Ohio Northern University graduate goes on to have a career in the field they major in. Some, like Liz Coulton, prepare to chase their dreams with the boldness of youth. This dance minor will graduate well prepared for a long career in the arts, but not until after she tries to make it on stage.

“When I came to ONU, I really thought I would continue dancing through college and that would be the end of it,” she says. “But getting cast in shows and being able to perform right away reminded me why I love to do it, and it dawned on me that it would be stupid to give up on that just because I graduated.”

So she’s not going to. This summer, Coulston will spend six weeks in North Carolina at the American Dance Festival taking classes and auditioning for dance companies. If she gets cast, she’ll start her career in concert dance. If she doesn’t, she’ll head back to her hometown of Niles, Mich., to audition for summer stock and to work at the same dance studio that first introduced her to dance. She’ll drive the hour and 15 minutes to Chicago to audition for roles in musical theatre and save her money for a permanent move to Chicago in 2015, when she’ll begin her pursuit full time.

If it sounds like she has a plan, it’s because she does. She’s been plotting her course for more than a year now, harnessing the same focus and drive that allowed her to major in psychology and carry three minors; dance, arts administration and entrepreneurship. Her timeline is set, but the pieces are fluid. She’s eager to take advantage of opportunities should they arise, but is ready for a long road if that’s what it takes.

Coulston performing onstage at the Freed Center
for the Performing Arts.

She’s prepared as well, both on stage and off. At ONU, she has performed on stage since her freshman year, something she credits with fueling her dream. Since she shared her plans with her professors, they have taken her under their wings, instructing her on the specifics she’ll need to know to be a pro. Her résumé is full of roles she’s had and performances she been involved with. Her classwork has prepared her as well, both fueling her passion for dance and laying a foundation for her post-dancing career.

“ONU hasn’t only prepared me for my future in the next 10 years; it’s prepared me to have a career until I retire,” she says. “I’ve learned so many skills, and there are so many things that interest me that I could do. I’m not the kind of person who’s going to have one job for 40 years. It’s probably why I have three minors.”

Someday, Coulston plans to use all of her education within the larger sphere of dance. Through her psychology major she has studied how movement and dance can help people with mental illness, the elderly or people with developmental issues, and she could see herself running an outreach program for a dance company. She created a complete business plan for a dance studio for her entrepreneurship minor, and she’s confident that she could use it tomorrow to start her own business. Her arts administration minor put her in charge of organizing the Ohio Dance Fall Festival and Conference that ONU hosted last fall, giving her real-world experience she could draw on to manage an arts venue. But the one thing she’ll carry with her always is the confidence she gained from being a Polar Bear.

“Every time I felt like I should give up, ONU found a reason for me to keep going. I remember one terrible day I had in ballet class when I was feeling really down about the whole prospect of dancing. At that moment, my professor asked me to speak with a prospective student who was visiting campus. As soon as I started telling the student about ONU, I was like, ‘Wait, this place is awesome. It’s prepared me for what I want to do. It’s going to be okay.’”


Read more Class of 2014 Commencement Stories