Ashlyn Hughes in the FreeStage production in which she co-wrote, directed, acted.

Ashlyn Hughes ’13 graduated from the School of Theatre and Dance in May and was awarded the prestigious Jean Scharfenberg Scholarship, given to a top graduating senior in acting to help them transition into the professional world. Here, she shares her thoughts as a recent graduate.

One of the most vital lessons I learned from my time at Illinois State University’s School of Theatre and Dance is that making your own opportunities is not only important, but it can allow you to be truly thankful for when things do work out in your favor. Senior year was a very eye-opening year for me. Second semester senior year, after not being cast in the main season, I decided to co-write, direct, and act in a sketch show called “Best! Show! Ever!” with another graduate Hannah Brown ’13. It was an unexpected project, but probably one of the most memorable times I’ve had in the School of Theatre and Dance. It was a product of several ideas, stemming from various classes I took at the school—and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t used those classes to the fullest.

With this experience under my belt, I really, truly understand how crucial class work is to me, and how important it is to continue learning postgraduation to make things happen. Even though the Jean Scharfenberg Scholarship award is intended to help defray living costs—rent, food (and trust me, food is very important to me), transportation, etc.—I’m excited to put it towards a continued education in Chicago when I move in September. I have already put a small fraction of the scholarship towards Comedy Writing classes at The Second City, which start on September 1; and I’m excited to continue to use it towards classes that will further my growth as an actor/comedian and keep me curious (super important to me!)

I feel so lucky to have the support system of this scholarship, and I’m humbled to receive it after some very talented peers, to whom I looked up throughout my time at Illinois State University. Thank you so much to everyone for funding not only this scholarship, but also for everyone funding all of the scholarships awarded to the students of the School of Theatre and Dance. Your help is appreciated, more than you know!