Professor Spotlight: Sherry Harper-McCombs

Professor Spotlight: Sherry Harper-McCombs

Simran Dali ’22, Life and Style columnist

Raised in a small town called Clifton Forge in Virginia, Professor Sherry Harper-McCombs started her journey at Dickinson 19 years ago in 1999. 

As a Professor of Theatre and the Costume Designer, Harper-McCombs always had a passion for theater and stories since she was a kid. During her school years, she had some roles under her belt, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and Paul Revere’s daughter in The British Are Coming. “I did a lot of acting while in college; but later I realized there’s a whole lot about performing that you don’t have the ability to change, especially about yourself,” said Harper-McCombs.

Initially, Harper-McCombs was a double major in English and Theater at Averett College, Va., but later turned to costume designing and technology during her graduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she received her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in theater. After designing for several theaters in the Richmond area and trying out her hand in films like Forrest Gump, she began her teaching career at Barry College in Georgia, eventually leading her to Dickinson on a full-time tenure-track position. Her special interests lie in costume design and technology including a passion for mask-making, puppetry and fabric painting. 

At Dickinson, Harper-McCombs teaches two classes during the academic year, introductory classes on Stage Technology in the fall and on Stage Design during the spring semester. For the Stage Technology class, which is the prerequisite for the design class, she teaches the sewing and craft components, while for the latter, she teaches the costume components. Harper-McCombs also teaches first-year seminars and independent studies, but most of her teaching also comes from design work for the theater productions at Dickinson. “My position is a little unusual in that way; a lot of my teaching is actually within what is our co-curricular with what we do on stage,” she adds.

For Professor Sherry Harper-McCombs, teaching classes, even with numbers nearing the hundreds, as a graduate student made her realize how much she enjoyed it. “It was hard; some of the students didn’t really want to be there because it was a class all first-years had to take. The challenge as a teacher was to figure out ways to get them interested and I liked that challenge,” said Harper-McCombs.

Outside of her interests in theatre and designing, Harper-McCombs enjoys going hiking, camping, mountain biking and going on beach trips. “I love to be outside and I think that’s because I spend so much inside the door backstage.” She also foster cats for the Furry Friends Network and does animal rescue. At the moment, she has six cats, of which two are her daughter’s and one is a foster cat, and three rescue dogs. 

On asked about her favorite part about being an educator, Professor Sherry Harper-McCombs said, “I like watching people’s skills grow and their confidence in their abilities because I think that translates into confidence in other things too. I think it gives you a confidence in yourself.”