Master of Arts and Cultural Management graduate Kate Stephens is passionate about finding ways to make opera accessible and engaging.

“Opera is something that people can find alienating or elitist,” notes Victorian Opera Company Manager Kate Stephens. “I’m passionate about finding ways to make it accessible and engaging. Because I love it.”

Stephens recently graduated from a Master of Arts and Cultural Management at the University of Melbourne. She combined part time study with fulltime work, an experience she describes as “full on” but also rewarding: each experience informed the other.

Most notably, Stephens researched a minor thesis in her degree, using a case study drawn from her work at Victorian Opera.

Kate Stephens

“I looked at a production called ‘The Pied Piper’, which was a new opera designed to involve the regional Victorian community,” she explains. “So we had community singers, adults and children performing alongside the professional touring company.”

She examined the reasons why the  company undertook the project, and to what extent that matched up with the experience of the participants.

Her thesis was an opportunity to contextualise her very busy day job, she says. “In my job, I look at so many things – contracting, scheduling, travel, visas, child employment laws – everything you need to organise before you get everybody into a rehearsal room.”

She enrolled in the Master of Arts and Cultural Management after learning that a couple of her colleagues were studying the degree part time.

Kate Stephens

“It looked like a great way to examine the broader issues affecting the arts sector, and therefore my work. Things like cultural policy, funding, international case studies. It was a good complement in that way.”

Juggling full time work with study meant that Stephens did not immerse herself on campus the way she did as an undergraduate. But that didn’t stop her from finding a community at Melbourne.

“I was in a really supportive writing group when I was doing my minor thesis,” she says. “It was a combination of students, PhD students and teaching staff. It was really crucial for me. And it made me consider further study, which I had not considered at all before starting this degree! I got very into the writing, and regularly meeting other people who were also thrashing out projects.”

She says that new students should be unafraid of embracing the opportunities available on campus to everybody, including part time students.

“Use the resources here! There are a lot of people around ready to help you.”