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Lauren Haughton Gillis ('20) Lauren Haughton Gillis ('20)

#SDSUGrad: Lauren Haughton Gillis

Following her time on Broadway as a member of “Wicked,” Lauren Haughton Gillis graduated from SDSU in May with an MFA in Musical Theatre and a faculty tenure-track position in Indiana.
By SDSU News Team

San Diego State University’s community has shown its true resilience during this unprecedented and difficult time in human history.

Graduates from the Class of 2020, in particular, have risen to the challenge.

In this series, we highlight graduates as they prepare to embark on the next chapter of their lives, including those who have secured jobs and internships or are moving into advanced studies. SDSU Career Services continues to offer resources for students, including the new online career platform Handshake and expanded virtual programming and advising.

Lauren Haughton Gillis
: Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre

Can you describe a bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue your degree?

I decided to pursue an MFA in Musical Theatre while I was performing in “Wicked” on Broadway and on tour. While performing, I would teach part-time and I realized I had extreme passion for the classroom. When I was accepted to SDSU, I felt like it was a sign that I needed to pursue full-time university teaching.

When did you start your job search and how long was it before you received a job offer?

I started applying for university jobs while I was still performing on Broadway and on tours (before school). I realized even with my professional theater credits, universities were not going to take me seriously without an MFA. I continued to search throughout my time at SDSU but I really focused during fall 2019 because colleges were starting to look for new professors for fall 2020 then, and I wanted to put myself out there in a competitive way.

What did your job search entail and what were you specifically looking for when searching job openings?

I was looking for jobs that specifically needed someone who specialized in Musical Theatre. SDSU has one of the only MFA's in Musical Theatre so I knew it separated me from other applicants. I also specialize in Musical Theatre dance so I was attracted to job listings that mentioned that. I first sent in my application, and then was interviewed by a five to 10-person committee over Skype or Zoom. Once I made it to the final round, Indiana University flew me to Bloomington to teach, choreograph, and interview in person for a four-day period. This took place over three months. I applied in December 2019, interviewed in January 2020, and got the job offer in February 2020.

What was your reaction when you received the official job offer?

When I got the offer via email, I was shocked. Completely dumbfounded. As an actor, I always got a phone call, so to just wake up, check my email and have a job offer, was shocking. Luckily my husband was visiting so I was happy to share this amazing, life-changing news with him in-person.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jump start their career and land their first job post-graduation?

Apply for every job you feel fits you. Just do it. I had a lot of colleges respond and give me interviews, and had a few job offers. But I applied for 20-30 jobs. It never would have happened had I not stayed up late to fill out every single application. They can be rigorous, but you have to put in the work to reap the rewards. For interviews, do your research on the people who are interviewing you, as well as the company, and town where the job is located. Always have questions for them. It's not only them wanting you, but you wanting to work for them.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you kick start this next chapter?

I am so excited to teach, choreograph, and direct musicals full-time. I can't believe as a new MFA graduate I have a tenure-track position at Indiana University. I am excited to continue my research in the field of Musical Theatre dance and ensemble education, and help shape the Musical Theatre artists of tomorrow. I find immense joy in performing and sharing my love for Musical Theatre. I hope to inspire future generations so they can continue this uniquely American art form.