Lisa Yelenick graduated from the Master of Liberal Studies program at Rice University’s 100th Commencement on May 11, 2013. She joined the MLS program in the winter of 2009, and her desire to learn continues after stepping across the stage.
Here is her story:
Could you tell us about yourself?
I’m a Houston native who has also lived in London, England and New York City. My immediate family all live in Houston, including two nephews. I currently work for Texas Children’s Hospital as Director of Marketing and love it. And when I’m not at work or at Rice, I spend time traveling, reading and volunteering.
Why did you choose the Master of Liberal Studies program at Rice University?
I had been taking continuing education classes for some time and noticed the MLS program in the seasonal Glasscock catalog. It was an interesting combination of classes in social science, science and the humanities – things I had always wanted to spend time learning but hadn’t had time for in previous study. And, after finishing my MBA, I promised myself if I ever went back to school it would be for something both personally interesting and fun.
Your Capstone Project was on ballet. Could you please tell us more?
I grew up in the world of ballet, taking classes from the age of three, through high school, college and now as an adult. While I knew the steps, the technique and the ballets, I didn’t know the history of how it developed. My capstone focused on four distinct periods in the history of ballet – the Court of Louis VIX, Imperial Russia, the Ballet Russes and ballet in America with George Balanchine. In addition, I focused on a specific ballet that defined each period. It was an incredibly interesting journey for me and I now find that I watch ballets with both my original understanding but also a new appreciation for the origin of the steps and stories.
How has the program enriched your life?
The program attracts people who love to learn and enjoy being challenged. Being a part of this group I’ve not only learned new things but learned other interpretations and opinions. And, the professors instructing this program are incredible – just having access to them and the topics they teach has been a treat for me. On a practical level (even though I didn’t begin the program with this in mind), a MLS degree helps students develop on a creative level. It shows you how to think outside the lines, to challenge yourself.
What was it like to be a part of Rice University’s 100th Commencement?
My great aunt graduated from Rice University in 1932 and badly wanted me to attend Rice. I know she was smiling as I finally graduated from ‘her’ school at its 100th Commencement. It is such a traditional experience being outside on the quad, students walking in, faculty in full regalia and finishing through the Sallyport. It felt like a ‘real’ graduation. This was my fourth graduation ceremony and definitely the best.
What would you tell someone who is considering the Master of Liberal Studies degree?
Don’t think twice – sign up now! They will not regret it. Actually, those of us who have finished the program don’t really want it to end. Many return to audit classes they didn’t have time to take while working toward the degree.
What’s next for you – personally and professionally?
I’m taking the summer off after spending a full year working on my capstone. But, I will probably be back on campus next fall, auditing an MLS class. When you enjoy learning and have access to world-class instruction at a university like Rice, continuing to take classes is an obvious choice. I will also work in some travel (Machu Picchu this summer), reading (tackle the stack of books I haven’t been able to read while in the MLS program) and continue my volunteer work as a Docent at the Houston Zoo.
More photos from the 2013 commencement for our MLS students can be found on the MLS Facebook page.