This story is featured in the Spring 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s David Hayworth College of Arts and Sciences offers students connections with industry professionals and endless opportunity.
HPU’s College of Arts and Sciences connects students with real-world practitioners and opportunities for success.
They don’t always recognize him at first. In fact, Michael Tourek says it’s sometimes weeks into a semester before one of the students in his theater class will finally ask.
But, like clockwork, one of them will stumble upon Netflix’s hit show “Ozark.” They’ll take a deep dive into the gripping plot and then, they’ll spot Tourek — their HPU theater professor.
At the start of their next class, that student will raise their hand. “So, I saw you on ‘Ozark’ — what was that like?”
On the show, he plays Ash, one of many antagonists to Jason Bateman’s lead character. But during the average week on HPU’s campus, you can find him inside the Hayworth Fine Arts Center teaching and mentoring students.
He brings with him more than 20 years of theater experience, including roles in numerous television shows and major motion pictures.
“I use my stories and the life lessons I’ve gained to back up what I give them in the textbook,” says Tourek. “I’ve found it’s a lot easier for students to grab onto a topic and apply it if they’re given a real-world experience upfront.”
From the Cast List to the Classroom
Tourek teaches the foundations of theater to HPU students and focuses many of his lessons on the importance of relationship building.
“In theater, you can’t emphasize the importance of networking and connecting with industry professionals enough,” he says. “I teach students how to build and maintain connections they’ll need, and beyond that, I enforce training. Honing your skills and owning what makes you stand out is essential in any industry.”
Tourek makes himself available to students whenever needed and has found that being a mentor is as much about being a cheerleader as anything else. The competitive theater industry brings its share of uncertainty and rejection, but Tourek is there to encourage students to persevere and never take anything too personally.
“As someone who aims to be a professional actress, learning from a working professional is an unbelievable experience,” says HPU freshman Becca Korn. “Mr. Tourek’s combination of knowledge and experience creates a learning opportunity beyond what I’ve ever hoped to have.”
Whether students are pursuing an acting career or earning their general education credit as part of the liberal arts curriculum, they walk away inspired by Tourek.
“Learning from someone who’s starred in a hit Netflix show is an extraordinary experience in itself,” says freshman Taylor Sweet. “You can see Mr. Tourek’s enthusiasm carried into his teaching, and when you’re learning from someone who’s actually involved in acting and production, it helps you better apply the material in your personal growth.”
And growth isn’t only seen in theater majors — it’s a primary focus for all professors in the David R. Hayworth College of Arts and Sciences.
Brekk Hayward is an example of that.
Growing Passions into Careers
Hayward, a Class of 2019 actuarial science major, came to HPU all the way from Okauchee, Wisconsin.
Her major became her passion, and she soon fostered a vision for beginning HPU’s first Actuarial Science Club. She came to HPU because she knew the opportunity for growth existed and trusted that her professors would be there to help her dreams turn to reality.
Enter Dr. Ron Lamb, Hayward’s mentor and professor of actuarial science in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Under his advisement and assistance, Hayward founded the Actuarial Science Club and became the organization’s first president. Her leadership role in actuarial science made her resume a standout when it came time to apply for jobs.
The outcome? Three job offers in one week, and her decision to accept a job as a property and casualty actuarial analyst with Milliman, a 71-year-old actuarial consulting firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
But before she could begin her career in actuarial science, Hayward was required to pass two Casualty Actuarial Society exams.
On a Monday morning after hours of studying, she sat for the second exam. She passed. After texting her parents, she drove back to campus and headed straight to Lamb’s first-floor office in Couch Hall.
“Surprise!” she said standing in the doorway, holding her certificate from passing the exam.
When Lamb tells that story today, he shakes his head and smiles.
“The tangible thing with college is that you go to get a job, and with three job offers in one week, I felt accomplished,” Hayward says. “But High Point University has prepared me for so many other things in life.”