Rachael Yoder is a MFA acting student from Niskayuna, NY
Hometown: Niskayuna, NY
Year: Anticipated graduation year: 2022
Major: MFA in acting
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
I have always wanted to be an actor. I remember going to the theater as a kid and thinking it was magic—and I still feel that way. I am pursuing my MFA in acting here at NIU, and it's wonderful to be surrounded by other people who feel as passionately about the craft as I do.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
I am in my final year of the MFA acting program here at NIU. I have a B.A. in theater from SUNY Brockport, and I also graduated from the two-year conservatory program at The Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City, but I felt called to deepen my training. When I met the acting faculty here at NIU, I knew this was the right place for me to continue my training and grow as an artist.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
The sense of community at NIU is wonderful. Coming from New York, the "Midwest nice" was a bit of a culture shock for me! But I've grown to be genuinely touched by how welcoming this community is.
How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
I have so much love for the MFA acting cohort, as well as for the undergraduate B.F.A. and B.A. students in the School of Theatre and Dance. I have learned so much from my classmates and from my students in equal measure, and I have found many lifelong friends here.
Are you involved in any student organizations, mentoring programs or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
I am heavily involved in the School of Theatre and Dance productions. They're the reason I'm here! It's such a joy to work on productions and test out everything we've learned in class in the actual theater. The facilities here (particularly the Black Box) are gorgeous, and it's always incredible to collaborate with the student designers.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
Patricia Skarbinski, the former head of the MFA acting program, is the reason I came to NIU—but the rest of the SOTD faculty is the reason I stayed. It's an incredible program, so I really can't choose a favorite teacher!
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
I've practically lived in the Stevens Building for the past three years! It feels like home. It's so full of life. There are always students in there who are hungry to create.
What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
Do all of the research, but then go with your gut. Sometimes your intuition will tell you when a program is right more reliably than your intellect can. Learn to trust it, and you may wind up in places you never expected.
Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
Adjusting my daily schedule to accommodate the rigors of my class and rehearsal schedule was a challenge at first. First semester I remember thinking, "When am I supposed to eat?!" But three years later, I think I figured it out!
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I love to take long walks. Especially during the pandemic, I took a lot of walks around campus and around the lagoon to reconnect to nature and peace.