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Alumna Profile: Angela Peavey

The transferable knowledge and skills attained through liberal arts higher learning are invaluable to students and employers in today’s fluid job-market of specialized careers. Combining a holistic educational approach with real-world experience, liberal arts education like that at Aquinas College turns students’ personal passions into fruitful and fulfilling careers. Take, for instance, Angela Peavey, a 2010 Aquinas alumna and independent filmmaker.

The performing arts are an important part of Peavey’s life. “I’ve been doing theatre since the fifth grade,” she said, “it always was something that I liked. I was really shy growing up, and theatre enabled me to step out of that comfort zone in a safe area, and helped me grow as a person.” She continued to foster her relationship with theatre and acting through her high school years, with hopes to continue her involvement through college.

While financial aid proved a factor to Peavey in her college application process - as it is for many prospective students - she wanted to find a place that shared her passion for the performing arts. Combining generous scholarships with personal connections, Aquinas quickly emerged at the top of Peavey’s list. “I actually knew the head of the Aquinas theatre department, Randy Wyatt, before coming to school here,” she said. “I had done community theatre with him. So knowing his caliber and talent ahead of time, actually working with him beforehand in theatre, was another deciding factor for me.”

Reflecting upon her college experience, Peavey recognized that there were many times when Aquinas’ small class sizes and community atmosphere positively affected her education, in a way that may have been impossible at larger colleges or universities. She recalled a particular time in her directing class, when she was having a difficult time understanding the coursework. Recognizing her struggle, Peavey’s professor “actually spent a lot of one-on-one time with me at the theatre annex and explain everything to me,” she said. “That was a really awesome moment since, at most colleges, you don’t get that one-on-one time with a professor.” Peavey eventually chose the children’s theatre track, and was the first student to graduate with this concentration in 2010, “which was really exciting.”

Peavey was presented many opportunities with theatre and media during her time at Aquinas, both in West Michigan and nationally. While involved with Aquinas College and Grand Rapids Civic Theatre productions, Peavey began to expand her horizons in filmmaking. “While at Aquinas I had the opportunity to direct a TV show on ABC, and some of the things I’ve directed have been on HBO. So for me it was a natural transition to go from theatre to film.”

This transition proved an easy fit for Peavey, and has been recently utilized to fulfill a personal dream. She used her directing skills to create a documentary film about her brother, Jonathan, who lives with cerebral palsy. The idea had been around for years, and the film entered production two years ago. The Michigan film community and her Aquinas family were both involved throughout the filmmaking process.

All of the filming occurred in West Michigan, and the narration for the documentary was provided by an Aquinas student. “We have received worldwide attention and support for this film,” she said. “We are having an international premiere in London, and a national premiere in Grand Rapids.” The movie, Our Beautiful Secret, was selected as a winner in the 33rd annual Telly Awards.

Peavey’s experiences at Aquinas also reflect her deep commitment to community involvement and outreach, the campus providing good opportunities for growth and formation. “I would say that my work can relate to all four of the charisms,” she said. “I’ve always had a servant’s heart, even before coming to Aquinas, and I’ve always been plugged into the nonprofit scene in the West Michigan region.”

Finding success post-graduation, the experience of an undergraduate student is still fresh in Peavey’s mind: taking classes, while considering the unsure nature of the future. She offers this advice to current students. “Create your own magic,” she said, “your own way in life, don’t wait for others to open doors for you.”