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Grad Student Masters Art of Juggling Work and School

August 7, 2012

In this 2012 Olympic season, Drexel graduate student Thom Wall has his own medal to boast about. In late July, Wall won a silver medal at the annual International Jugglers' Association festival in North Carolina. In the professional juggling world, this competition is considered the “world championships”—by that definition, Wall’s win makes him the second best juggler in the world.

“It’s definitely the most major juggling accomplishment I’ve had so far,” Wall said.

In between juggling acts at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, Va., this summer, Wall tells DrexelNow about how he’s able to balance a juggling career and life as a Drexel student pursuing his master’s degree online.

Photo by Matthew Ragan

His fascination with juggling traces back to the sixth grade and three rocks. A classmate demonstrated what’s called the three-ball cascade, which is the basic pattern for juggling. He was quick to master the skill and even quicker to give it up.

“I decided that I was finished with juggling and I wanted to do more interesting things,” he said.

As a teenager in St. Louis, Mo., Wall picked up the hobby again when he found out about a local juggling club called the Stanger Organization for the Study of Epistemology and Juggling. The members of the club became a supportive community of friends, Wall said, which is a common trait he has found in other clubs he joined along the way. His juggling career connected Wall with numerous non-profit organizations all over the country, many with another common trait.

“A lot of these organizations have great ideas, great hopes and great attitudes but they don’t have the business end of things squared away. There isn’t much strategic planning,” Wall said. He would often step in and help in a volunteer capacity, but realized he could be a bigger help if he knew more about arts administration.

“There are not a lot of master’s programs in non-profit arts administration out there—certainly not many programs online. Drexel has a great reputation for online learning, and I saw that its arts administration master’s program could be fulfilled online. The flexibility gives me time to pursue my other interests at the same time,” Wall said.

His goal, he said, is to use his degree to “help arts groups collaborate and succeed.”

Wall is pursuing his degree on a part time basis and is expected to graduate in 2013. As a performer at Busch Gardens this summer, Wall manages a heavy load of five shows a day with only one day off a week. Still, he finds the time to study.

“I do a lot of work backstage and in between shows. I usually spend my day off grocery shopping, doing laundry and doing homework,” said Wall.

When he’s not studying, Wall is busy on stage doing what he loves.

“I really like making people happy. If I can do that through juggling and through performing than that’s how I’m going to do it” he said.

To view Wall’s juggling skills on YouTube, click here.