Monkey Mama is willing to risk an onslaught of vituperation from the Tea Party movement when she avers that the United States of America owes a great deal of its success to its early commitment to public education. Montclair State University (MSU) began life as a “normal school,” in 1908, dedicated to training teachers.
Today MSU is a full fledged university located on 252 acres in Essex County, New Jersey, 14 miles west of New York City. Those miles may be traversed aboard New Jersey Transit directly into New York Penn Station. The original architects balked at the ivy-clad traditions of other northeastern colleges and opted in favor of whitewashed, Spanish Mission-style buildings. Some newer buildings, including University Hall and the Student Recreation Center, mimic the older architecture, and even the imposing Alexander Kasser Theater, host to many concerts and performances by world-class artists, attempts to meld the Mission motifs with its modern design elements.
Although traditional pedagogical training is still prominent within the university, there are undergraduate colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, Business, the Arts, and Education and Human Services. MSU is in the process of remodeling several dormitories and constructing a new residence hall. The main campus is small and students can easily walk around. There are many dining options, including a traditional-style diner with 24-hour service during the school year. Tuition and fees for New Jersey residents in 2011-2012 is $10,646 with room rates ranging from $6,802 for a triple in the irresistibly-named Frank Sinatra Hall, to $10,140 for a single. Meal plan options range from several hundred dollars to about $4,000.
Monkey Mama and Son had arranged for a personal meeting with a representative of the theater department following our campus tour. She showed us the main theater, “black box,” and rehearsal spaces, and shared some insights regarding the audition and application process. MSU’s overall acceptance rate is about 50%, with roughly one-third of its accepted students enrolling. The average composite SAT score for admitted students is 1500 out of 2400, and the average unweighted G.P.A. was listed as 3.2.
The acting B.F.A. program, on the other hand, only accepts 14 to 16 students each year, and is considered highly desirable. MSU holds some auditions on campus and also participates in the regional Unified Auditions. The Unified Auditions give the university an opportunity to view a wider pool of the most talented candidates but as a state-funded college, it is not able to offer generous financial aid packages to out-of-state applicants, thus giving an advantage to private conservatories.