Business Ethics for the Mindful Dance Professional

Once upon a time, a dance teacher opened her own studio down the road from her former employer's school, taking advantage of her former teaching position to start her own studio. Sound familiar? This is an all too common story in the dance studio business and unfortunately, this is no fairy-tale.

We have all heard a version of this story or perhaps experienced it first-hand. Poaching students – direct or indirect solicitation of another's students – is a practice that mindlessly fragments and divides the dance community. In addition to poaching students, other subtle, but just as divisive, practices include: making negative remarks about other teachers / schools, misrepresentation of the self by making false, exaggerated, or ambiguous claims, and making disparaging comparisons or references about others.

What drives otherwise enterprising individuals to engage in business practices that burn bridges, sow the seeds of deceit, and model mindless behavior?

Darwin. You heard me – Darwin is to blame. Well, not really Darwin himself, but the misinterpretation of his theories into a business context is at the root of this dilemma. When the business world adopted the neo-Darwinian philosophy of "survival of the fittest", they unleashed a ready-made excuse for unethical action.

As a culture that witnessed the "cola wars" first hand, we picked up the idea that anything goes when it comes to business and marketing. Ethics and morals need not apply. "That's business" they say while defending their actions. They fail to see the big picture: to look mindfully at the situation. They unknowingly hurt the larger dance profession and therefore themselves. It is a case of one's right hand shooting one's left and thinking this is good.

What makes one feel justified in approaching the business of dance studios in this mindless manner?

At the root of the neo-Darwinian business approach is a sense of isolation and scarcity. These teachers believe that it is "them against the world" – or, more directly, "them against the other local studios / teachers." Add to this sense of isolation a sense of scarcity – that there are not enough students to go around – and you start to understand how one begins to rationalize why stealing students is necessary for survival. However, these twin concepts – isolation and scarcity – are illusions in the dance world.

Studios fighting over the same group of students create a negative atmosphere in the community. Parents sense this negativity and choose alternative activities for their children because they seem more wholesome: the potential young dancer takes up soccer. However, in a community where more than one dance school thrives without negativity, a greater number of students enjoy dance as an activity. This greater number of students translates down the road into a greater number of future dancers, dance teachers, and, most importantly, audience members. If dance studios stopped seeing each other so much as competitors and more as colleagues, the entire dance profession would benefit.

The solution starts as simply as making replacements: replacing mindless …

How to Mess Up Your Personal Statement for Graduate Or Professional School Applications

When you applied as an undergraduate, your personal statement probably did not make much of a difference, because undergraduate admissions are heavily based on numbers (GPAs, test scores, etc). Graduate and professional school admissions are different! Your competitors will have grades and test scores similar to yours, because most people who have the motivation to pursue an advanced degree did well as undergraduate students. As the number of applicants rises and academic budgets are cut, every year there's more competition for fewer admissions openings.

How does the committee determine that you have what it takes to succeed in advanced studies? You guessed it. Your personal statement will play a determining role in whether or not your application is successful.

So you know you need to write the strongest, most persuasive personal statement you can. But here are two facts you may not know. First, most reviewers will spend only a couple minutes skimming your personal statement. Second, because their job is to weed out the majority of applications, reviewers are looking for reasons not to recommend you for admission.

Avoid common mistakes that will get your application put in the reject pile. Read on for 10 simple ways you can mess up your personal statement:

1. Say thank you

Your parents and elementary school teachers taught you to be polite in writing, and you know it's a good rule to follow. But don't waste words thanking the committee for reading your application. It's not the same situation as applying for a job, because you're paying the school to review your application so that, hopefully, you can pay them to educate and train you. Starting or ending your statement with phrases like 'Thank you for reviewing this application' or 'I appreciate your consideration' can make you come across as immature, obsequious, or ignorant of academic culture.

2. Make excuses

Lots of applicants have weaknesses in their application files, especially in their transcripts. Maybe you got low grades your freshman year. Maybe you had to leave school and work for a while. Maybe you got an F in that statistics class and had to retake it. Or maybe you got a degree in one field and are applying to grad school in a different field; or you did not pass your medical residency exams the first time.

Whatever your weakness is, do not offer excuses and do not bad-mouth anyone. So it was not your fault that the professor lost your final exam and flunked you, or jobs dried up in your original field of study, or you had the flu when you took the GRE. Don't say anything that sounds like an excuse or sounds like you are blaming someone else for you failing to achieve a goal. Even when it is true, it may make you seem whiny and unable to accept responsibility for your actions. Instead, address the weakness at the end of your statement, and explain how you have overcome it, learned from it, and are a better …

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