As part of our Wellesley in Art Series, Wellesley Underground founder Shelly Anand ’08 interviewed Shavanna Calder ‘08, creator of the website Arts in Color.
Photo by: Matthew Dunivan
WU: Hello, Shavanna! Thank you for agreeing to answer questions for Wellesley Underground’s Wellesley in Art Series. First of all, tell us a bit about your background in theater.
SC: I started performing at the age of 5. While at Wellesley I performed professionally in Boston, and I had the blessing to be featured in the Boston Globe during my sophomore year. After school I worked at North Shore Music Theater with a group of Broadway actors and, from there, moved to NYC to continue a career in the arts. Since being in NYC I’ve performed regionally, toured with the national tour of Hairspray and recently received my Masters in Musical Theater from NYU.
Like so many other Wellesley in Tech contributors, I never would have guessed that I’d end up in this industry.
Prior to Wellesley, I attended an arts high school in Portland, Oregon, where I double majored in creative writing and theater. I arrived in Boston and knew I wanted to study something related to language—something that would challenge me to write impeccably and creatively every day. I had no idea what kind of career options were even available to me, so I figured I’d choose a major that would build the skills crucial for any field. So much pride, fellow English majors. So much pride.
My introduction to the tech world came the summer after junior year. Miraculously, I scored a perfect communications and tech writing internship at a software company back in Portland. The office was amazing. The work was awesome. My team was filled with former MFAs, one of whom had a novel published that summer. I felt like I had found the holy grail of English major fantasies. Here was a team of creative people being paid very comfortably to work on interesting writing projects.
Looking back on it now, it’s outrageous to me that I never once was like, “Hey Sara! You’re working at a tech company. Maybe you should, you know, learn the tech part of it.” For whatever reason, it just didn’t dawn on me.
Stress is a trigger for depression. Hahahahahahahaha.
Welcome to stressville, depression style. Welcome to feeling crazy out of control scared crying lost afraid angry. Welcome to the worst spikes of anger and just marveling at what the fuck am I doing. Is this really happening. Wow. Craziness. Welcome to feeling lost and hopeless and anxious. Welcome to thinking about suicide and how good it would be to not have to deal with this fucking shit anymore.
Goddamnit. You know, when you deliberately omit telling your therapist that you’re going off your meds… you know that it’s really not a good idea. And yet.
There’s that pride or that hope or that prayer that this time I can do it, now I have the tools, now, this time, it’s going to be different.
Thanks to Wendy Gao ‘09 (@WendyBikes) for this month’s submission!
For September, I would like to nominate Ali Barthwell. I haven’t met Ali personally, but I am consistently impressed with her eloquent posts on Wellesley’s numerous Facebook groups regarding feminism, fashion, relationships, and micro or macro aggressions concerning race. Ali’s article,”I DON’T KNOW HOW TO TALK TO WHITE PEOPLE ABOUT FERGUSON" on xo jane (a must read it if you haven’t already) was incredible, and I hope it inspires many fruitful and honest conversations on race between persons of color and non-POCs.
Know an awesome Wellesley alumna/alum? Nominate her or him for YAOTM here.
I downloaded the Kindle version of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt a few weeks ago to read on the train on my road trip. I had really enjoyed Tartt’s writing style in The Secret History with the vivid characters and captivating plot. It was the kind of writing that you stay up all night for and remember for years to come to poetic lyrical nature of it all. And so I went into reading The Goldfinch expecting something along those lines.
I started my education at Wellesley College with ambitious plans to be the next Cokie Roberts, or perhaps even Barbara Walters! At Wellesley we all seemed to mold our careers in the footsteps of a select few famous alumnae and those ended up being my selections. Despite offering a complete liberal arts education, it often seemed like your (successful and ambitious) career options were depressingly scarce. Most of my classmates seemed to lean towards Hillary or Madeline and immediately moved to Washington, D.C. soon after graduating. Me? Right after graduating I was still bent on becoming a renowned journalist and so I uprooted myself and moved to New York City with A Plan.
But, I soon found myself not liking The Plan. I didn’t like my job as a junior reporter, I didn’t like my work environment, and my extracurriculars didn’t provide adequate distraction. And so I decided to change course. A friend (an Olin graduate, interesting enough) referred me and helped me get my first job in tech at a company called HubSpot. I started as a Support Engineer and helped provide customer phone support on the HubSpot product.
And while this wasn’t exactly using my Sociology degree, I would say that Wellesley prepared me to adapt to anything thrown my way. I could tell you that it was my experience serving as Tech Director of WZLY or that the single Computer Science course that I took while at Wellesley was what set me up for success. But honestly, I think it’s something more nebulous than that. Because while those things look good on paper, they don’t really do anything for you in an interview. Instead, I’d stay it was the implicit sense of confidence and the excitement to learn that Wellesley instilled in me from the very beginning.