November 6, 2020 at 11:30am
Sydney McReynolds '19 / Video by Lillian Hester '21

Millikin sophomore finds sense of family and community on campus

All prospective college students find different schools appealing for different reasons. Some enjoy the vast amount of people they'll meet while others appreciate the anonymity of the lecture hall. This was not the case for current Millikin University sophomore JJ Pierce from Davenport, Iowa, who found solace in the small class sizes and close relationships to the faculty. 

"I liked how the class sizes were super small and personal, so I can get to know the faculty more on a personal level rather than just on a faculty and student basis," Pierce said.

With Millikin boasting rankings such as the No. 10 Regional College in the Midwest from U.S. News & World Report and one of the top theatre programs in the U.S. according to College Magazine, it's no surprise that Pierce, a theatre and performance studies/arts administration double major with a minor in dance, is growing as an artist, especially with the new Center for Theatre & Dance facility.

Pierce explained, "As a performer and as a theatre student my faculty have really pushed me to change as an artist and it's been a really good change."

While the teaching methods of the Millikin faculty members might not have been his favorite at first, Pierce says he enjoys the challenge that Millikin gives him in his field. 

"The faculty here at Millikin are always willing to push you. At first, I didn't love that but after a while I got really used to it, and it has been one of the best things that's ever happened to me here," he said.


Pierce has not only been able to grow through his theatre endeavors, but in his involvement across campus as well. When Pierce is not focused on academics you will find him giving campus tours as a student worker in the Millikin Admissions Office, or leading one of the many student organizations.

"A big thing they [Millikin] encourage at the beginning of freshman year is to join organizations and I joined some organizations that weren't close to my major at all, which I found amazing," Pierce said.

Millikin faculty and staff have not only helped Pierce to grow as a student, but to also continue thriving during these uncertain times. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly given everyone a new set of challenges, but Pierce keeps a positive attitude. 

"The work has increased but that's kind of a given," he said. "It has taken back the performance side of everything.”

Pierce added, "It's those little things that COVID has taken away, but overall it hasn't ruined my college experience."

The new Center for Theatre & Dance, however, is still available to be used despite the restrictions on performances and practices. For School of Theatre & Dance students, the new building is a great opportunity to further themselves in their art. 

"We're really thankful that it opened up this year," Pierce said. "There's so many practice rooms. I take dance classes here and the dance studios are beautiful and perfect, and I just love it here."

The new practice rooms, dance studios, technology and performance spaces are giving Millikin theatre students the tools to develop and prepare for successful careers, and Pierce is no exception.

In terms of his goals post-graduation, Pierce said, "I think I want to become a dance movement therapist. My other dream is that I want to open my own theatre that gives back to low income communities in dance, theatre and music."

Millikin Center for Theatre & Dance

Pierce seems to be on the right path to success in terms of Millikin's mission statement, "preparing students for professional success, democratic citizenship in a global environment, and a personal life of meaning and value."

While Millikin may be small, it's the close knit community that makes students, like JJ Pierce, choose to grow and thrive within the Big Blue family.

"I feel like I have a sense of family, especially within the School of Theatre & Dance … I know everybody since it is a smaller school and I like that," he said. "I can go to any student and talk to them, and faculty as well. It's a place where everyone knows everything about each other but in a good way and only positive things."