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Meet Rakeem Hardy ’20: Thayer Fellowship Winner

The Dance major shares this year’s Thayer Fellowship award given by SUNY.

Each year, SUNY recognizes pending graduates who show great potential in the arts with the Thayer Fellowship. Two Purchase students, Rakeem Hardy (dance) and Elizabeth Cook (acting) were chosen as winners this year.

Rakeem Hardy answered some questions about winning the award and more.

Q: “The Thayer Fellowship selection is based on talent, achievement, and potential as a professional artist.” So how does it feel to have been selected for this award?

A: It feels monumental to have the arts recognized on a large scale and to know that there is belief in young art makers! I know that the Thayer Fellowship has acted as a great stepping stone in catalyzing the careers of many SUNY alum. I feel very grateful to be a part of that lineage.

Rakeem Hardy '20 (dance)

Q: What lesson or experience have you had here that you imagine will have the most lasting impact?

A: I have been really fortunate to have had numerous incredible experiences through the dance conservatory - I was given wonderful means to produce and present my creations, got to connect with amazing artists and perform phenomenal works, and even traveled across the world because of my craft. I would say that most of the experiences I wanted out of this school, I was lucky to have gotten.

But beyond that, to be a Purchase student is such a unique experience! One that is unlike any other college experience, and one that has taught me a lot about resilience, community, self-advocacy and awareness. I learned about how I want to hold myself in settings, both dance-related and not. I think the culmination of all these facets will carry on with me forever.


Q: What do you hope to do after graduation?

A: I have already begun to foster some very special relationships in the dance community and I hope to see those continue to develop. In my dreams, I see myself traveling abroad and performing. Somewhere along the line, I know that I will become more passionate about creating my own work and sharing what I think through my choreography.


Rakeem Hardy '20 (dance)

Q: Who inspires you? What’s your dream position in the dance world?

A: I think that inspiration exists all around me, everywhere. But right now, I’m really inspired by my intrinsic desire to move and make art, and to see it live in conversation with the artistic desires of others. Art is really my way of saying what I don’t always feel brave enough to address in speech or in writing. I’m excited by my honesty being in relationship with other people’s honesty.

My dream is really to just keep on dancing and making art for as long as I can!! I know that that will take shape in many different forms. I want to tour and perform not unlike many other young dancers. But I also know that I want to give back to communities that have offered me so much, and as I grow older, what my contribution to the dance world will be slowly becomes clearer. I don’t really come from much and I am in pursuit of my dreams become of people that made me feel like I could be. If I could maybe be that for someone else, I’d be very fulfilled.

Rakeem Hardy '20 (dance)

Q: What do you think you’ll miss most about Purchase (pre-coronavirus, or course)?

A: Before coming to Purchase, I’m not sure that I have ever been in such an environment that allowed me the permission to wholly discover the person that I wanted to be. Over the past four years, I had a lot of space to learn about myself, free of personal or social judgements. I found space for safety. I owe a lot of that to an amazing student body. I will greatly miss the people and this community that made me feel valid in many newly understood ways.

About the SUNY Awards

The Thayer Fellowship and the Patricia Kerr Ross Award are monetary awards given each year to outstanding candidates for graduation from The State University of New York, funded through endowments established in honor of Jeanne C. Thayer, Trustee of SUNY from 1974-1984, and Patricia Kerr Ross, former Artistic Director of the Thayer Fellowship. The Ross Award is administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts. The purpose of these awards is to serve as a bridge between study at The State University of New York and first-time entry into a professional career in the creative or performing arts: namely music, theatre, dance, film and video, creative writing, and the visual arts.

The Thayer Fellowship selection is based on talent, achievement, and potential as a professional artist. The Ross Award is given annually to an individual or divided among two exceptional applicants. The basis for this award is excellence, originality, and promise. The awards are available to seniors and graduate students in the arts who are about to graduate from the University and make a career in the arts. They are not intended for students going on to graduate school.