Staff Report

Surrounded by her family, fine-arts faculty and student members of the drama club, Hancock College student Jessica Garcia was presented with the college’s first degree in theater arts at a special ceremony in the college’s boardroom.

“When you receive this degree in your hands, it means your instructors know who you are and are rooting for you,” said President and Superintendent Kevin G. Walthers as he presented her with her diploma. “You have their stamp of approval and the stamp of approval of the college.”

The new degree is an associate in arts transfer degree (AA-T) in theater arts that guarantees priority admission into the California State University (CSU) system as a junior with the opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree with 60 additional semester units. Garcia is investigating several of the 23 campuses in the CSU system.

“Theater arts is something I feel connected to and it has helped me find my voice in so many ways,” Garcia said. “I’m generally a very shy person, and this major has helped me feel more comfortable in my skin than I ever thought I would.”

A writer, director and general jack-of-all-trades in the theater, she has been on hand for most of Hancock’s dance and performance productions over the last couple of years.

While Hancock is home to Pacific Conservatory Theater (PCPA), a world-class theater training company, the program is highly competitive on a national level, so many local students who are interested aren’t able to get into the conservatory. The college created the AA-T in theater arts to offer an accessible program that would allow any student to explore a wide variety of theater arts including writing, directing, acting and more.

“There are so many strong high school drama programs in the community, so it’s great that we can offer a degree that challenges these students and helps them build their skills and explore their talents,’ said Michael Dempsey, who teaches technical theater at the college. “This degree has been over seven years in the making, so I couldn’t be happier to see it begin awarded to Jessica as the first recipient. And there are many others in the pipeline as well.”

For more information on Hancock degrees for transfer, visit or call 1-805-922-6966, ext. 3363.