Gifted Dancer to Soar as Valedictorian of the Class of 2011 at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus
May 12 commencement ceremony to recognize the achievements of 1,801 graduates
Alka Gupta,Assistant Director of Public Relations
Long Island University
Brooklyn, N.Y. – A talented young dancer from Cedar Falls, Iowa, Lauren Mackenzie Paxton, has been named valedictorian of the Class of 2011 at Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus.
Paxton, 22, will deliver the valedictory address at the Brooklyn Campus commencement exercises on Thursday, May 12, on the Campus' Athletic Field in downtown Brooklyn. At the ceremony, 1,801 degrees will be conferred and Commissioner Raymond Kelly of the New York City Police Department will be the commencement speaker. Commissioner Kelly will also receive an honorary degree, as will anchor and correspondent Soledad O'Brien.
“I am very honored and surprised by being selected valedictorian,” said Paxton, a summa cum laude student with a 3.8 grade point average, who believes “there is more to dance than just movement, there is artistic soulfulness behind it.”
For Paxton, who will have earned a B.F.A. in dance with a minor in English, dance goes beyond an impressive physical feat. “It is communication in motion, which creates a shared experience for dancer and audience,” she said.
Paxton started dancing as a young child, when her parents enrolled her in ballet classes. But it was hip hop that ignited her passion for dance.
“Not only did I love hip hop, but I loved moving, and so I expanded my horizons and went on to jazz, modern, lyrical and other styles,” she said.
Paxton joined her school dance team in high school, performing at football and basketball games and at Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center at the University of Northern Iowa, while also playing soccer for the Cedar Valley Youth Soccer Association. She decided to pursue dance at a higher level as “it was the one thing I was most passionate about,” she said.
Paxton said she chose to attend Long Island University because of its location in the heart of Brooklyn and because of the school's excellent teachers. Among the inspiring dancers and choreographers she has trained with at the Campus are Dana Hash-Campbell, Nathan Trice, Roger Belman, Alexandra Beller and Alenka Cizmesjia.
“The dance program here has changed the way I dance on two levels,” said Paxton, who has choreographed several dances for concerts on Campus. “One is in understanding the anatomy and physics of dance – a better understanding of the body has taught me how to access movement. Also, artistically, I am learning that dance can be used to say something more, it's not just entertainment.”
At the Brooklyn Campus, she has expanded her sights beyond dance.
“The liberal arts core curriculum at LIU has opened my mind to more possibilities,” she said. “I am more apt to understand now and to ask questions when I don't. The student community here is much more diverse than in Iowa. I have met more people from different backgrounds and learned about their cultures.”
Michelle Relyea, dean of the Campus Office of Student Development and Retention, who served on the valedictorian selection committee, noted, “One of the things that struck us was that even though Lauren was a dance major, she talked about how other classes helped her develop as a person. Lauren was the best example of what Brooklyn Campus encompasses. She is very mature, thoughtful, insightful, compassionate and a very bright student.”
In addition to her classes and rehearsals, Paxton has worked in the Campus library. She has maintained top grades and has been on the dean's list for seven semesters, winning several dean's awards and scholarships. She was a member of Alpha Lambda Delta, the National Freshman Honor Society, and Alpha Chi, the National College Honor Society.
After graduation, Paxton plans on pursuing a professional career as a dancer in the city, though she knows it will be a tough road to follow. “It means I will have to balance several jobs in order to dance,” she said, before adding, “Dance is my way of expressing myself, my way of communicating; words are not adequate all the time and dance allows me to say what I can't say in words.”
The Brooklyn Campus is distinguished by…
dynamic curricula reflecting the great urban community it serves. Distinctive programs encompass the arts and media, the natural sciences, business, social policy, urban education, the health professions and pharmacy, and include the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, the Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics, the D.P.T. in Physical Therapy and the Pharm.D. in Pharmacy. A vibrant urban oasis in downtown Brooklyn, this diverse and thriving campus offers academic excellence, personalized attention, small class size and flexible course schedules. In 2006, a $45-million Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center was opened to serve the Campus and the surrounding community. In 2007, the Cyber Café was launched, providing a high-tech hot spot for students and faculty members to meet and eat.
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