After starring in such productions as “The Will Rogers Follies,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Nine” and “Titanic,” Broadway singer and dancer Carol Smith Sparkman decided to start a family. But she always promised herself — and her parents — that she’d go back and get her college degree.
While a stay-at-home mom, Sparkman began taking dance and music classes at Pierce College in Los Angeles. When her son began high school, she decided it was time to pursue her bachelor’s degree in theatre.
At Cal State Fullerton, she found a supportive community in the Titan Scholars Program, which provides holistic services and support to community college transfer students from low-income, first-generation and racially underrepresented backgrounds. Funded by a Graduation Initiative 2025 Innovation Grant, the program focuses on academic skill development, professional development, advising, social integration and graduate school preparation.
“Titan Scholars allowed me to connect with like-minded students, provided an understanding of graduate school, and prepared me with options after earning my undergraduate degree,” explained Sparkman. “The program provided workshops on financial literacy, self-care and wellness, access to writing tutors and writing skills, and moral support through mentorships.”
Sparkman joins the Class of 2021, graduating cum laude, and credits “excellent, excellent, excellent” theatre and dance faculty as Maria Cominis, Marika Becz, Heather Denyer and Tony Fitzgerald for helping her grow in her practice and broadening her awareness of the responsibility of a theater maker.
“My favorite memories as a theatre major are the ‘ah ha’ moments in the courses I took — from finding the right embodiment of a character in an acting class to discovering new abilities while performing monologues in a voice and movement class,” shared Sparkman.
“I also appreciate the relationships I developed with professors, classmates and workmates on campus. Through many professors’ instruction, I really came to understand the importance of theater beyond entertainment: Theater shows us who we are in a wonderful way.”
This fall, Sparkman will continue her studies in the Master of Fine Arts program at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, studying musical theater-vocal pedagogy.
Her long-term goals are to return to performing in live theater; teach voice and movement at the college level; and teach healthy vocal practices to professional speakers, singers and actors. As an educator, Sparkman will participate in the movement to reconstruct the American history curriculum for schools and society to include “the cultures that have been diminished, buffooned or erased to support white supremacy.”
Sparkman’s advice for future Titans is to: “Treat your college education as you would on-the-job training for your career. ‘The only thing keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself about why you can’t have it.’ (Tony Robbins) Do that which is important!”