Celebrating with Stephenie: Studying, Enterprise and Socially Engaged Art!

At Shetland College UHI, we were delighted to hear that MA Art and Social Practice student Stephenie Pagulayan had won the top prize at this year’s University of the Highlands and Islands Business Competition. Showcasing her social enterprise “The ALICE Theatre Project” at the grand final in Inverness, Stephenie won £1000 as well as a combined legal and accountancy package from Harper Macleod and Johnston Carmichael.

see full size image
Stephenie with her winner's certificate at the University of the Highlands and Islands Business Competition grand final in Inverness.


Stephenie’s social enterprise was launched in August 2018 to deliver fun, creative theatre and performance classes to the Shetland community.  It was founded with a desire to support individuals to learn skills and confidence in theatre practice which could then be used in local community productions and in other areas of life and learning. The ALICE Theatre Project (which stands for Act, Learn, Imagine, Create and Excel) was the winning business idea amongst 15 finalists and 110 entries throughout the Highlands and Islands.

Following the final, we caught up with Stephenie back in Shetland over a coffee to hear all about her fantastic achievement, how this tied in with her course and to learn more about The ALICE Theatre project.

Studying MA Art and Social Practice

As well as being the Artistic Director of The ALICE Theatre project, Stephenie is also an Employability Officer at Shetland Islands Council and a part time MA Art and Social Practice student. She is also a mother and is in the throes of nightly pantomime at the moment - we can’t help but admire her! With a background in retail, theatre and community work Stephenie was drawn to the MA Art and Social Practice course where she can combine knowledge and experience with her love of creative industries as well as a desire to study the arts.

The MA Art and Social Practice is an online course where students study through supported online learning using the university’s virtual learning environment (VLE) and is aimed at those who are interested in a career in an art practice that creatively engages with the community. The fact the course can be done part-time and is online has made a huge difference to Stephenie who says she wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise. She excitedly chats about how the course has helped her understand what she does in the theatre in more depth and loves learning about how art theory relates to professional practice. “I was already doing it but I just didn’t realise! Social engagement is at the heart of all my work as a theatre practitioner”. With the ALICE Theatre project, this new knowledge has been invaluable. Developing her business with a further understanding of the theories behind the art has given Stephenie more confidence and understanding to pursue this.

The Link Between Universities and Enterprise

Stephenie explains that she has a “real feeling that universities wants to support innovation and enterprise” and has particularly noticed that in the creative industries. “The people I’ve met really want to help you succeed and see you do well”. Describing it at as a “hive of activity”, the connections between enterprise, business and studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands is something which she is hugely thankful for: “If I wasn’t a student, I’m not sure these avenues would have opened up for me”. When asked how she found out about the competition, Stephenie said that she just happened to stumble across the opportunity on Blackboard (the university’s learning portal). From there, she went on to be the overall winner and is completely over the moon. 

Supporting Community

Grateful for all the support, Stephenie said “I want to thank the University of the Highlands and Islands and Create Highland for the incredible opportunity and Roxane and the fellow students and tutors on the MA Art and Social Practice for their support”. She loves that on her course, her coursemates are all from different art backgrounds but that “the parallels are amazing” in what they all do whatever type of socially engaged art they practice. Roxane Permar, the course leader said: “I am so happy for her. It’s great to see the coursework enhancing Stephenie’s theatre work. She is a great student and we are all very proud of her at Shetland College.” Stephenie explains that the course helps you to promote yourself as an artist which by default has helped The ALICE Theatre Project and of course the entry to the University of the Highlands and Enterprise Business Competition.

The ALICE Theatre Project and Next Steps

To learn more about The ALICE Theatre project, take a look at the website. Stephenie hopes to expand the business on mainland Shetland and explore opportunities in Orkney with the business support she has won in the competition. Stephenie has also applied for the Converge Challenge KickStart programme where projects benefit from a 2-day practical business-training programme to help develop their proposition. Since we met, her project has been announced as one of 33 shortlisted projects and two of these are from the University of the Highlands and Islands. Congratulations to Stephenie for being shortlisted especially as there were a record 139 applications!

Links to other articles and websites:

Harper MacLeod 

Press and Journal

Inverness College website 

The ALICE Theatre Project website

Converge Challenge

Scottish Institute for Enterprise 

The ALICE Theatre Project Facebook page

MA Art and Social Practice Course