Ali Schechter MS '14
Great Neck, New York



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What prompted you to pursue a graduate degree?

After several years dancing professionally and teaching yoga, I learned about dance therapy, and immediately knew it was my next step. I researched several different routes, including certificate programs, but earning a master’s felt like the best fit for me. I enjoyed the academic rigor of my undergraduate experience, and wanted a program that would push me to grow and develop my professional skills in a similar way.

How did graduate school fit into your life at the time?

I attended Sarah Lawrence about five years after completing my undergraduate degree. I was already working and living in New York City (on the Lower East Side) teaching yoga and dancing professionally. I knew I wanted to stay in the city and continue teaching, so I chose to commute to Sarah Lawrence for courses and fieldwork. For the most part, I was able to keep teaching yoga throughout the year, and over the summer I was able participate in freelance dance projects, which was important to me. During my second year, I commuted to Brooklyn and the Bronx for internship placements.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence College for your graduate studies?

I chose Sarah Lawrence because the faculty sounded great, and I knew it would provide an academically rigorous experience. In addition, Sarah Lawrence was close enough to the city that it did not require me to uproot my life. Instead, for the most part, I was able to integrate the Sarah Lawrence program into my life in the city, and vice versa.

What role did the Sarah Lawrence faculty play in your time here?

The Sarah Lawrence faculty was incredibly supportive of my growth as an individual and as a professional. Throughout the program, I felt met, nurtured, and challenged as both a student and an evolving therapist. Notably, our professors established a good balance between course material and personal/emotional processing of the work. In addition, we had many special guests throughout our graduate work, each bringing fresh ideas and perspectives, which greatly enhanced our learning.

What experience as a Dance/Movement Therapy student had the greatest impact on you?

Writing a master’s thesis was by far the experience that had the greatest impact on me. The faculty was incredibly supportive of my ideas and pushed me to find my authentic voice. I feel very grateful for the opportunity I had to do research that was meaningful to me. It was not only an academic journey but a personal and healing process of integration for me, to write a thesis I felt deeply connected with. Our internship experiences over the course of both years were also very meaningful and transformative.

How did your coursework prepare you for your internship/fieldwork, and how did that experience prepare you for your career?

I feel the Sarah Lawrence program did a great job at preparing us first for internship/fieldwork placements. Courses such as Professional Ethics and Group Work gave us the tools and language we would later need in our placements. We also covered documentation in our coursework, which was useful. By the second year, I felt ready and eager to be doing the work, and I think this was largely due to the foundation created by our coursework. In addition, we had a weekly supervision group within the Sarah Lawrence program that was extremely helpful, which supplemented and enhanced our on-site supervision. My internship experiences with a variety of populations, combined with our group supervision and coursework, gave me a very strong foundation for my career.

Where did you do your internship and fieldwork?

During our first semester, we all began our fieldwork at the Sarah Lawrence Early Childhood Center, observing the movement patterns of toddlers. For my fieldwork second semester of the first year, I was placed at Andrus Children’s Hospital, where I worked with adolescents on the spectrum and with a variety of trauma-related disorders. I received two placements for my second year, which I very much enjoyed. During my second year, I spent two days each week at Menorah Nursing Home in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, working with older adults, and one day per week at The BOLD (Bronx Oncology Living Daily) Program, a non-profit providing cancer patients with free quality of life programs through Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Cancer Center.

What is life like as a graduate student at Sarah Lawrence?

While in grad school at Sarah Lawrence, I was still living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, commuting to campus for coursework, and to my internship sites. I do not have a car, so I took public transportation (Metro North, subways, buses) to campus and my internships. My schedule and commute during grad school was challenging, at times, but my passion for the work kept me going. I managed to maintain my relationships with friends in the city, and make new friends on campus. The program is very time-consuming, and really a lot of work, but if you think of it as an investment for your future, and if you are passionate about dance therapy, it will be worth it.

What impact did the proximity of New York City have on your experience?

It's great that the city is so close—you can always see an inspiring dance show, visit a museum, or see friends living in Brooklyn or Manhattan.

What is the strongest attribute of Sarah Lawrence's Dance/Movement Therapy program?

The Sarah Lawrence Dance/Movement Therapy program offers a unique balance between academic rigor and experiential, somatic learning. Our professors pushed us to become thoughtful, articulate clinicians, while also deeply honoring the wisdom of the body—validating our intuition, sensation-based knowledge, and less linear ways of knowing. This is something I really appreciated about my studies there.

What advice can you offer to prospective graduate students?

Though I was able to commute from the city and make it work, I would definitely recommend living close to campus and immersing yourself in the Sarah Lawrence community, if you are able. I would recommend simplifying your life as much as possible, to really embrace the process of learning about dance therapy for those two years. It goes fast, and Sarah Lawrence has a lot to offer. The city is close by, just a train ride away, when you really need to get there.

What are you up to now?

I feel grateful to have found a full-time job as a dance/movement therapist! I have been working now for a year at a large nursing home in Riverdale. I’m part of a diverse and dedicated team of creative arts therapists, and happy to be working in geriatric care. I facilitate, on average, four groups per day, meet with families, and collaborate with the social workers, nurses, doctors, and dieticians to provide person-centered, quality care. I’m also in the process of earning my license (LCAT) and Board Certification as a dance/movement therapist (BC-DMT).