Alumni Profile: Karlie Tweeden

 Karli Tweeden (née Jenkins) is an SVSU alumni who graduated in 2013 as a theatre major and social work minor.

When asked about what initially interested her in going into theatre, she was happy to explain.

“I have been involved in theatre since I was a very young kid. In elementary school, I was painfully shy and had a lot of issues with making friends and speaking up for myself, but all of those problems seemed to disappear when I started doing theatre,” she said. “I’ve found that whether I was on stage or working with other theatre people, I had confidence that I didn’t seem to have for the rest of my life.”

She recalled her first experience with SVSU.

“That all seemed to change when my parents signed me up for SVSU theatre day camp, starting in elementary school,” she said. “I did that every year up until I graduated high school, at that point, the choice was easy about where I wanted to go [for college] because I had already dug [myself a place] with SVSU so I didn’t need to apply anywhere else. I decided to go to SVSU, because it already felt like home.”

She also talked about what she liked about SVSU.

“I feel like one of the really unique things about SVSU is that they empowered the learners and empowered us to do the work– follow our creativity and curiosity, and explore what we truly were interested in,” she said. “It’s a privilege, to have that as a very young kid, and all the way through college. This opportunity to frequently go to the professors and say, ‘I’m really interested in theatre for multi-generational audiences, can you help me?’ and for them to say, ‘Yeah, let’s put together an independent study– I’ll get you some books,’ sort of thing, is unique.”

She explained how the professors helped her.

“We would explore ideas and that area of study together, and that mindset has truly set me up for success as I’ve gone through my career,” she said. “Not only because I know how to find the answers myself, but to also invest into what I’m interested in, and find the answers that I need, instead of relying on others to provide the answers. It ends up being a lot of understanding problem solving– which when going into the arts and the non-profit space is really important because you’re always thinking ‘out of the box.’ You’re constantly asking ‘What can I do better?’ and ‘What’s the next step?’”

When asked about what Tweeden has done since she graduated from SVSU, she was happy to talk more about the question.

“Through the support of SVSU, the SVSU Career Center, and the Student Association, I was able to find and receive funding to go to Minneapolis for the summer and do an internship at the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC), which I now work for.”

She explained what CTC is.

“CTC is the largest theatre for young people in North America, and we are the only theatre that has a Tony Award,” she said. “I was able to work with the kids all summer, came back, and finished my degree at SVSU. They later offered me a paid position the following summer, and I moved out to Minneapolis permanently immediately after graduation– I’ve been here ever since.”

She then went on to talk about her position with the company.

“I’ve now been with CTC for ten years. I’ve been working with them, though in various ways, shapes, and forms ever since,” she said. “When I first started, I was hobbling together a full-time job, working part-time in the education wing, part-time with stage management, and part-time with new play development. In 2016, they offered me a full-time job in the education department of CTC, which then gave me the chance to work with the after-school classes and camps, teaching kids theatre for quite a few years, and later moved into a field trip space.”

She believes her time at SVSU helped prepare her for this job.

“I had the opportunity to run our field trip program, which serves about 70,000 kids a year, four days a week. I felt as though SVSU prepared me to do this work, initially as a part of the event team– conferences and presentations that came to SVSU,” she said. “Being a part of that team was really impactful, and then for me to go and run this field trip program, which is essentially an event managing position– getting kids in, making sure the show got going and handling all the paperwork that comes with it was really impactful.”

She was recently offered a promotion.

“As of a year ago, I was offered the promotion to run our script licensing department [for] plays for new audiences,” she said. “I knew at a very early age that I loved theatre, but never really wanted to be on stage. Even though I loved acting as a kid, when I got old enough to have adult roles, I decided.”

She ended by giving students advice.

“Grab onto all the opportunities that SVSU provides for students, and follow your curiosity, wherever it’s going to lead you. What and how I’ve learned so much has prepared me for life now, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.”

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