It didn’t take long for freshman Griffin Shoemaker to make himself at home as a Red Hawk. As the Class of 2023 gathered on their first day, there was Shoemaker, an actor used to being in the spotlight, bringing his Texas spirit and a new cheer called the “Hawk Squawk” to Montclair State’s athletic fields.
Shoemaker is studying in the prestigious BFA in Musical Theatre program, which combines conservatory training with a liberal arts education. He performed at Sunnyvale High School near Dallas and auditioned for 19 college theater programs. He chose Montclair State after receiving a National Student Scholarship, which guarantees that academically qualified out-of-state college students pay in-state tuition.
“I am so lucky to have ended up exactly where I belong,” says Shoemaker, one of nearly 150 freshmen who received the award. After his pep rally college debut – “school spirit is a huge thing where I’m from, we go all out” – come December, the curtain will rise on his second act. He’s been cast as a lead in the student-directed production of the musical The Last Five Years.
Shoemaker represents a growing breed of out-of-state students who are studying at Montclair State because of its top-tier programs, New York City connections and the new National Student Scholarship that provides a savings of nearly 40% for out-of-state students, effectively supporting their passions in theatre, dance, fashion and the arts, TV and film, and business.
The financial support made all the difference for Amina Kolenc, a Dance major from Jacksonville, Florida. “I don’t think coming to Montclair State would have been possible without the in-state tuition,” she says. “I fell in love with the program and the campus, but rationalizing out-of-state tuition was hard. Even though Montclair was my No. 1 choice, I had to start looking at schools closer to my home.”
Students say New York City and the Montclair State internships and career options on Wall Street and Broadway and throughout the New York City metro area are a big draw. Others say they like the diversity.
“When it was time to pick a college, I was very confident in my choice,” says Rabakah Rodriguez, a Nutrition and Food Science major born and raised in the Bronx, New York. “What attracted me to Montclair State was the diffusion of people, multiple opportunities and that there’s always something going on campus.”
Guidance counselors and college fairs are also spotlighting Montclair State’s possibilities. “I looked more into it and thought it would be a good fit,” says Naya Vazquez, an Animation/Illustration major from Greenwood Lake, New York.
For some of the out-of-state students, having family living in New Jersey has made the move easier. “My parents are originally from New Jersey, so I have family here and lots of connection to New Jersey,” Kolenc says. “I was able to come and stay with my aunt and uncle who live close to campus. Having family here has definitely made the transition easier.”
A strong sense of community and diversity has helped the out-of-state students get used to living in New Jersey. “It was really scary to move a thousand miles away from where I had lived my entire life, but I couldn’t be happier that I did,” says Kelley Israel, a pre-major student from Austin, Texas.
Israel is exploring her academic options and is considering a teaching career in Secondary Education. “I’ve met so many kind, empathetic and positive people who make this campus and New Jersey feel like home already,” she says.
Learn more at montclair.edu/national-scholarship.