Denise Hughes

MA in Applied Theatre

"Working with my former students to pursue their goals and dreams finally pushed me to follow through with my own."

In 2010, in Zambia with the Peace Corps, Denise Hughes co-led a partnership with local NGOs to create a week-long, province-wide girls' empowerment camp for teenage girls and their mentors. In 2012, back in New York and inspired by the power of mentoring, Denise began work with iMentor to support over 100 mentor-mentee pairs in getting to college and making strong career moves.

She didn't stop there. In 2014, building on her passion for youth and community development and drawing on a common thread of theatre in her work, Denise began as a student in the MA in Applied Theatre. Soon after, she successfully applied to become the first participant in the CUNY Creative Arts Team/CUNY SPS MA in Applied Theatre Apprenticeship Program.  "Working with my former students to pursue their goals and dreams finally pushed me to follow through with my own," wrote Denise in her Apprenticeship application.

Apprentices are matched with a program of the internationally recognized CUNY Creative Arts Team (CAT). Apprentices support and learn from the professional program team and receive a significant tuition reimbursement and an $8000 annual stipend.

Denise is apprenticing with Keith Johnston and his College and Adult Program (CAP).  Denise assists the CAP teaching artists weekly, teaching improv at the drama club at a technology high school in Queens, using drama to prepare students for college in Brooklyn, and using drama to develop financial literacy with formerly incarcerated populations around New York City. Denise also assists in preparing grant reports and upcoming residencies.

Denise relishes being the "mentee" again. "They're masters of the art of facilitation," she said recently, recalling how the CAP actor-teachers seem to intuit how far a young person is willing to go and what they need. "I want to learn as much as I can from them!" Nonetheless, last week, Denise was on her own with the drama club in Queens.  Drawing on tools she'd learned in the master's program and from her mentors in the CAP team, she rose to the occasion and facilitated a session around the interests and experiences of the participants.

Denise is like that.  Ever humble, she challenges herself and the people around her to take on the challenges at hand. "That's where the greatest stuff comes from," she told me, "opening up and listening to what people need."

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