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Richard Doty

Lisa Denlinger
School of Continuing Studies

Last modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2002

IU program helps performing arts students work toward their dreams

When Caroline Seely was four years old, she used to dance down the hallway. Wanting to put all that energy to good use, Caroline's mother enrolled her in ballet classes.

"It sort of stuck," said 18-year-old Seely, which is an understatement considering that she has taken 14 years of dance instruction and has spent every summer since the seventh grade studying with professional dance companies, including the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company in Seattle and the School of American Ballet and Ballet Hispanico in New York City. She now dances with the Columbus Dance Theatre, a professional ballet company in Columbus, Ohio.

"I've taken dance seriously all my life, but I got really serious and buckled down at age 16. This is what I want to do," Seely said. Her ultimate dream is to dance professionally with the American Ballet Theatre, which, she said, has a diverse repertory as well as some of the world's greatest dancers.

But first, she had to graduate from high school. To do so, she took courses from Indiana University's Independent Study Program, which offers more than 100 high school courses entirely at a distance.

Seely is one of many performing arts students nationwide who have taken high school courses through the Independent Study Program to complete their diploma requirements while maintaining their practice and performance schedules.

Seventeen-year-old violinist Alexandra Preucil comes from a well-established musical family. She took several ISP courses before entering the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she is now studying, in fall 2001. The nature of performing arts requires great dedication, Preucil said. With independent study, she can study when she needs to study and practice when she needs to practice. If she has to leave her academic work for a week to practice or travel, she doesn't have to catch up when she returns. She just starts in again where she left off. This removes a lot of stress.

Peggy Dodson, assistant dean of general studies at the renowned North Carolina School of the Arts, said NCSA has been using the IU high school independent study program for 15 to 20 years. Currently, 27 NCSA students are taking IU independent study courses. "We like IU because it has an older, established program. Its experience, reputation and accreditation are important to us. Also, IU courses fulfill a large part of the NCSA curriculum requirements," Dodson said.

ISP Director Larry Onesti said the Independent Study Program has many features that make it appealing to performing arts students: a full range of subject areas; year-round enrollment with a year to complete a course (extensions available); self-paced learning; instructor support via e-mail and toll-free telephone; and academic credit from a nationally acclaimed university.

College-bound students can choose from among 62 dual-credit courses, Onesti continued. These courses, in 26 academic areas, provide high school and Indiana University college credit simultaneously. Credit earned is accepted at IU and at many other colleges and universities.

Seely said her IU independent study courses were challenging and engaging. "The courses were the same quality as courses taught in my high school, and I was able to work at my own pace and from my own setting," she said. What's more, she continued, the Independent Study Program did not require the kinds of "busy work" she sometimes encountered in the classroom. "The Independent Study Program," she explained, "is very purposeful."

IU has offered independent study high school courses since 1925, Onesti said. "Our Independent Study Program has won 53 awards for outstanding courses. We are proud to fill a need for students who need non-traditional educational options."