Amazing Students Profiles

Kristyl Tift

Kristyl Tift

Kristyl Tift is a performer and an academic, and the Ph.D. student from Hinesville, Ga., finds that she is able to successfully merge those disciplines at UGA.


Hinesville, Ga.

High School:

Liberty County High School

Degree objective:

Ph.D. in theater and performance studies, women’s studies certificate

Other degrees:

M.F.A. in acting, New School for Drama; B.A. in theater/minor in music, Georgia Southern University

Expected graduation:

Spring 2015

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Coordinator of “Impromptu Events” for the UGA Arts Festival (2012)
Graduate student scholarship from the Black Faculty and Staff Organization at UGA (2012)
Invited presenter at Black Queer Sexuality Studies Conference at Princeton University (2012)
S. Randolph Edmonds Young Scholars Competition second-place award, Black Theatre Network (2012)

Current Employment:

Graduate assistant in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies

Family Ties to UGA:


I chose to attend UGA because…

… UGA had the kind of doctoral program in which I was interested. The Ph.D. program in theater and performance studies at UGA encourages scholarship and performance, and because I am a performer and academic, the program here allows me to merge the two disciplines as opposed to segregate them.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… going to the main library to check out books. The UGA library always has the books I need (even if I have to request them through interlibrary loan).

When I have free time, I like…

… to go for long walks in Oconee Forest Park. The park is technically on campus, but it’s a home away from home for me. I was raised primarily in Hinesville, Ga., which is very rural—lots of trees, deer and other creatures—so when I go to Oconee Forest Park, I can actually think without the distractions of a busy campus.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

… when I was 22 years old, my family drove me to New York City and left me there for three years for graduate school. Being from Hinesville and having gone to undergraduate school only 45 minutes from home in Statesboro, I was truly like a fish out of water. There were times when I wanted to come back home to Georgia, but I learned really quickly to adapt and be pleasant in a very New York City way. I got to experience people, smells and sights that made me love my Southern upbringing all the more. While there, I learned to speak up for myself and developed a tough shell and a resilient spirit.

My favorite place to study is…

… Jittery Joe’s, honestly! I have no favorite locations—I have been to almost all of them. I love the coffee and the ambience. I am a coffee shop kind of girl. Too much silence is deafening for me, so people coming in and out, sounds of the espresso machine and coffee slurpers help me to focus.

My favorite professor is…

… Emily Sahakian, joint-appointed professor in theater and romance languages. I have taken three courses with her and she challenges me beyond belief. When I think that I can’t give anymore, she’ll ask me a question that will keep me pushing forward with whatever project or paper I am working on. My other two favorites are Freda Scott Giles and Marla Carlson because, again, they push me to be the best scholar that I can be, challenging me to formulate my thoughts in the most focused, well-supported and concise way I can, all the while offering encouragement and belief in my ability.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… Phylicia Rashad. I met her once and she was so poised and regal. To speak with her about her career for an entire afternoon would be a dream come true.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… open an acting studio in Atlanta.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… have a home in Germany that I could go to for six months out of the year. My mom is a retired Army veteran, and from the ages of 9 to 12, I lived in Stuttgart and Würzburg and I would say those were formative years for me. Living in a different country than my birth had such a profound effect on how I understand the world and relate to people. I think that experience early on of being a nomadic child made me a more ambitious person and someone who “never meets a stranger.”

After graduation, I plan to…

… apply for teaching positions in theater and performance studies and continue to perform. I love teaching and I love performing. It’s what I do, and I hope to be able to work at a university that will encourage both artistry and scholarship.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… working on “He Said, She Said, Ze Said: The Gender Stories,” a final class performance for Emily Sahakian’s Community-based Theatre course in fall 2011. Our class learned about the history of community-based theater, did research on a project that we all felt strongly about and wrote scenes based on our research, combined those scenes to create a performance in which we all participated, and finally wrote a paper about the entire process. It was the most rewarding experience of my life and the most difficult. The entire experience was scholarship and practice at its best.