Grand Valley theater major Bridgett Vanderhoof’s hard work both on stage and behind the scenes has put her in the spotlight for a much different reason.
Vanderhoof, originally from Ludington, Mich., was chosen as a 2012 McNair Scholar. The national program was established by the U.S. Department of Education in honor of Ronald E. McNair, who died in the 1986 USS Challenger space shuttle accident. The program helps fund graduate education for first-generation college students with financial need. Vanderhoof plans to pursue a doctorate degree in theater studies and become a professor of theater or a theater historian for a playhouse.
“Throughout elementary and high school I couldn’t really rely on my parents for academic advice and I always had to figure things out for myself,” said Vanderhoof. “A lot of my schooling has relied on asking for help from outside sources and the McNair Scholarship is just another form of that.”
Karen Libman, theater professor in the School of Communications, said the selection of Vanderhoof as a McNair Scholar is most fitting, because she exemplifies the program’s mission. “Bridgett aspires to intellectual and creative achievements that require further study,” said Libman. “She has the drive, will and talent to succeed.”
Vanderhoof has played important roles both on and off the stage in Grand Valley’s theater program. In 2010 she served as the assistant stage manager for productions of “Rhinoceros” and “Founding.” In 2011, she was cast as Acroteleutium in “The Braggart Solider” and was the assistant to the managing director for the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival.
Vanderhoof has also received the Shakespeare Scholarship for the past two consecutive years. This scholarship recognizes students who do outstanding work in both the theater program and the festival. She was also nominated for the ‘I am Grand Valley’ award.
Vanderhoof said that there are two main reasons she enjoys theater so much. “Plays are usually used to get a message out to the public and as a means for social change,” she said. “Theater is a kind of collaborative art. You get to work with a lot of different people to get a common goal accomplished.”
First-generation college students face many challenges and Vanderhoof encourages other students, like her, to reach out and ask for help when needed. “I know how hard it is to drop your pride and ask for help, but that is when you find the people who are willing to give it to you, and in the end it will really pay off,” Vanderhoof said.