Welcome to Columbia, the Marginalia blog and the new academic year at Columbia College Chicago. My name is Jessica, I am the ambassador for the Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling (DMT&C) program, and currently in my third year…
Wait, what? You are a third year?
Yep, that is correct.
But I thought/ I read somewhere that the program is only two years?
…and this is where the confusion starts. Looking at the degree requirements and the goodbye post of past ambassadors, one has every reason to assume that the program is two years long. And after all, that was one of the many reasons why I picked Columbia as the place to follow my dream (why enter a 3 year program if I can finish it in 2?). So how come that after having gone through the two years of my program I am still the ambassador and considered a “current” student? Let me tell you the reason for the secret existence of third year DMT students.
If you check out the curriculum for Columbia’s DMT&C program you will see that the classes are spread out over the course of 7 semesters. You start your first semester at the end of summer and finish your required coursework in your 7th semester, which is the 3rd summer and exactly 2 years after starting the program. To ensure that you can cross the stage with your fellow students, you participate in the graduation ceremony/ commencement in May of your final year. So based on this information, there shouldn’t be anything like a third year.
The key words are “finishing your required coursework” and this little, inconspicuous looking one credit class called “Graduate Thesis.” So yes, Columbia’s DMT&C program is a two year program in the sense that you are finishing all the important coursework and you are able to find basic employment in the field after those two intense years (most of the time this means working registry for a hospital). HOWEVER, the program requires every student to complete a research project as part of a master thesis to receive the degree and only after receiving your degree certificate are you able to apply to get your dance/movement therapist credentials/ license (R-DMT) and to take the licensed professional counselor exam (LPC). In conclusion, only after submitting your thesis are you allowed to call yourself a dance/movement therapist. Until then, you are simply an MA candidate in Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling.
As an MA candidate working on thesis you are required to enroll for thesis credit each semester you are working on it. (Of course, you also have to pay for that credit *imagine sad face accompanied by sad music here*). Not registering for the class means that you are dropping out of the program. Therefore, you are continuing to be a current “full-time” student until you finish your thesis. In total, you can take up to 5 years to finish your thesis, but it is recommended to finish within a year. Also know that you do not have to be present in Chicago, Illinois, or the US during that time. It is totally OK to check in with your thesis advisor using Skype or other forms of communication. But because of these circumstances, there are 3rd, 4th, or even 7th year DMT&C students. The later one is rare though and most members of my cohort will be done in December, so half a year after graduation.
And that is my current situation! I finished all my coursework, walked across the stage, received an empty graduation folder, and am now working on my thesis. Would I have chosen a different school if I would have known this prior to starting the program? NEVER! ;) If you continue to follow this blog, you will read about the process of conducting thesis research and how it feels to be a 3rd year (international) DMT&C student. Sounds exciting? I think so too! Stay tuned and watch me grow professionally in the process of doing it.