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Campus Celebrity: Chelsea Brown

“Compassionate, curious, and authentic,” is how senior Chelsea Brown would describe herself, and if you’ve ever met her, you know she’s all of those things and more.

While balancing a busy schedule as a dance and psychology double major, Brown is also involved in numerous campus activities here at the University of Maryland. She brings those self-described qualities to the table in whatever she does.

Brown is the president of Delta Chi Xi Honorary Dance Fraternity, Inc., a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a Program Assistant in the Denton Community, a participant in Relay for Life, a performer in the UMoves undergraduate dance concert, and most recently an Experience Leader for UMD Alternative Winter Breaks in Guatemala.

Alternative Breaks is a program that the University of Maryland offers during winter, spring, and summer breaks that are “substance-free, community service-learning trips.” These experiences are offered both nationally and internationally, according to UMD’s AB website. There is a big emphasis on education about the social issue at hand, working with the community, and reflection about the new perspectives gained as a result of the experience.

Specific to Guatemala, the trip focuses on “sustainable community development”, sending students to visit Los Andes, a private nature reserve. In Los Andes, the university works alongside the members of the community to help improve the small school in Los Andes.

Brown first learned about Alternative Breaks from her sister, who attended UMD and had a really positive and life-changing experience with her AB trip. So, during Brown’s sophomore year, she went to Boston with AB, and then went to Guatemala with the program as a junior.

“Having been a participant on the trip last year, I had high hopes and expectations –and the 2015 experience blew me out of the water,” Brown explained. “Being an EL for UMD AWB to Los Andes, Guatemala was probably the most important experience in my entire life.”

Brown acknowledged that organizing the experience with her co-leader, Paulina Grajewski, and the trip’s staff advisor, Nathan Bunch, was a lot of work, but the responsibility and hard-working nature of the 13 participants made it all worth it.

“I think about this experience multiple times every day and still feel like I’m on cloud nine,” Brown said.

According to Brown, her favorite memory of the trip occurred on the third day of service when a little boy, Nestor, recognized her from the previous year. All afternoon they played with dirty, decapitated action figures and other things they could find in the school yard. After lunch, when the UMD students returned to the school to continue working, Nestor sat with Brown on a bench and put his hand up to her mouth. When Brown looked at his hand, she realized he was feeding her a tiny crumb of bread he had saved for her from lunch.

“This was the most generous gesture that I have ever received,” Brown said. “Here I was, traveling abroad to work side-by-side with a community doing service, and this 7-year-old boy had given me more than I can ever give him. I know it sounds cheesy, but that miniscule crumb of plantain bread changed my life and he has no idea.”

With so many extracurricular activities, Brown admitted that she has struggled in the past with making time for herself, but it is something she is working towards making a habit of.

“I’ve learned the hard way that it is important to find a balance between taking time for myself and my billions of interests…so I’m in the process of cutting back, which is hard but important,” Brown said.

In her new-found spare time, Brown said she reads, meditates, spends quality time with her friends, and improvises in the dance studio.

After graduation, Brown plans on pursuing a professional dance career.

“I had never planned to dance professionally after graduation until less than two years ago, when a Dance MFA graduate student, Meghan Bowden, told me that I could.

“It’s scary, pursuing a field that does not always have solid, long-term jobs, but I’ve decided to take the ‘leap’ and dive into the professional dance world…after all, I’ve spent 20 years of my life dancing, why stop when I’m at my peak?” Brown said.

Brown estimates she’ll be able to dance professionally for three to five years, and afterwards she plans on attending graduate school for counseling psychology and getting certified in Dance/Movement Psychotherapy, also known as DMT.

DMT is defined by the American Dance Therapy Association as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual.” In simpler terms, DMT is using the body and movement to learn what an individual is dealing with psychologically, as opposed to talk therapy.

“Often, our body can tell us more about what we are feeling, thinking, experiencing than our words can,” Brown said. “The body is the basis of feeling, relating and expressing.”

Brown further explained that certain parts of an individual’s body and movement, like our posture, can indicate what parts of their psyche they are protecting or exposing.

Brown was recently an assistant choreographer for the Lost World, a play held at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, and described it as “beautiful work” and a “beautiful finished product.” Brown said she loved being able to bond with the cast of the production and watch the piece grow over time.

“Finally seeing that show was like watching the last month of rehearsals summarized in two-hour performance,” Brown said, and explained that the bonds she formed with the cast “were the icing on the cake.”

This past weekend, Brown performed her solo piece called “My Something” at the American College Dance Festival. Brown will also be performing in numerous upcoming performances at UMD. UMoves will be April 24 7:30 pm, April 25, 7:30pm, April 27 at 3 pm and at 7:30pm. There will also be a free performance of UMoves at Maryland Day.

“Seeing a performance transports you to a different universe for an hour or so,” Brown said, “and shows you the world in a new or fresh light.”

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