Displaying items by tag: Outstanding Seniors

It is our great pleasure to present the 2021 Outstanding Seniors from the University of Utah College of Fine Arts. Each year, our five academic units nominate an outstanding senior for their academic achievements, artistic and scholarly accomplishments, and ongoing commitment to their craft. These graduating students continue the CFA's tradition of sending strong creative leaders out into the art world. Congratulations, we can't wait to see how and what you achieve next! 


F21 Outstanding Seniors blog headers2Name: Malithi Gunawardena
Degree: Bachelors in Fine Arts with an emphasis in graphic design
Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
Three words that describe me: Brave, thoughtful, dedicated
Most impactful professor: Michael Aberman. I had the privilege of taking Michaels class at the very beginning of my design education, a period of time when I constantly felt scared and out of my element. Michael’s talent, guidance, and immense kindness, in what was a very vulnerable moment in my education, continues to stick with me today. 
A CFA moment I’ll never forget: Sitting in my first zoom editorial class the morning of the earthquake last spring and wondering when I was going to wake up from the bizarre fever dream I was in. 
What inspires me: I am inspired by the people around me who are creative in every sense of the word. I am so lucky to learn from and love them. 
Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus:
2017-2021: Carmen Morton Christensen scholarship
2018-2019: departmental scholarship
2018-2019: Fine Arts Advisory Board scholarship
2018-2019: Intern for the College of Fine Arts
2019: Speculative app project chosen to present to a panel of local prominent designers
2019-2020: Designer for Wasatch Magazine
2020: Infographics project chosen for exhibition at Winter Innovation Summit
2019-2021: Designer for University of Utah’s Adthing
2019-2020: 2020 Sundance Film Festival design intern
2020-present: Designer for Modern8 

"Malithi sets a very high standard for herself and in turn serves as a wonderful example for her classmates, who also hold her in high regard. The Graphic Design curriculum is rigorous, and Malithi consistently meets these challenges with enthusiasm, curiosity, and a strong work ethic. Malithi is detail-oriented, a strong conceptual thinker, and her work exhibits maturity and insight. She is more than worthy of the honor of outstanding senior for the Department of Art & Art History."

— Professor Carol Sogard, Associate Professor Dan Evans, Assistant Professor Henry Becker

F21 Outstanding Seniors blog headers3

Name: Brooke Wertwijn
Majors (including emphases) and minors: BFA in Ballet, Business Minor, Ballet Studio Teaching Certificate
Hometown: Edina, MN
Three words that describe me:  dedicated, passionate, intuitive
Most impactful class or professor (and why): Dance Studies with Kate Mattingly – I learned how to look at and think about our art form critically. This class opened my eyes to different perspectives on dance and taught me how my appreciation for this art form only grows deeper when we question its norms and seek change.
A CFA moment I’ll never forget: Going to Prague with Character Dance Ensemble was one of the best experiences! Looking back now that travel is restricted, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel abroad and learn more about Czech and Slovak folk dance. 
What inspires me: music, emotions, people who are passionate, hope, being in the moment, intelligence.
Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus:
Performed in classical and contemporary works by Katlyn Addison, Jay Kim, Rick McCullough, Susan Jaffe, Christopher Always-Ramsey, Bruce Marks, Victoria Stocki-Kim, Jan Fugit
Choreographed “Existence” in 2019 and “still processing…” in 2020 for Ballet Showcase
SALT Contemporary Dance’s Pre-Professional Training Company Member 2020-2021
Women’s Artistic Leadership Initiative Fellow 2020
Co-President, School of Dance Student Advisory Committee 2020-2021
Vice President, Dance Studies Working Group 2019-2021
Representative, Fine Arts Fees Grant Funding Committee 2020-2021
Character Dance Ensemble Member 2018-2021
Panelist, Speaking Through Movement 2021
Ballet Department Scholarship 2019-2021
Fine Arts Advisory Board Scholarship 2019-2020
Alice Walton Call Scholarship 2018-2020
Freshman Academic Achievement Award 2017-2018

"Brooke Wertwijn is an exemplary student in the School of Dance. She is an inquisitive artist who demonstrates a genuine desire to understand her art form more deeply. An immensely talented dancer, Brooke possesses a maturity within her artistry that is far beyond her years. Brooke consistently steps up as a leader within the School of Dance and serves as a role model for her peers. I am excited to see the ways in which she will impact the field of dance in the future."

— Melissa Bobick, Assistant Professor, School of Dance

F21 Outstanding Seniors blog headers4

Name: Bella Parkinson
Major: Film & Media Arts, Animation and Media Arts Production Emphases
Minor: Arts Technology
Hometown: Clearfield, UT
Three words that describe me:  Methodical, technical, chill!
Most Impactful Class/Prof: Professor Ha Na Lee! She taught me so much about interactivity in multimedia and helped me foster my 3D graphics/imaging skills. I even got to teach her students about photogrammetry--the art of making 3D models from photographs.
A CFA moment I’ll never forget: I'll never forget CFA's trip to the Creative Talent Network (CTN) Animation Expo in 2019. I had an absolute blast and made some great friends. Plus, my two years living at the Emma Eccles Jones Fine Arts House were the most fun I've had in college!
What inspires me: City views, thunderstorms, and my friends!
Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus:
Contributed 3D models (made using photogrammetry) to a virtual recreation of the John Jarvie National Historic Site through the Utah Division of State History (2019)
Along with fellow CFA student Katie Singta, created an interactive showcase of 3D models made using photogrammetry (2020)
Created, from scratch, the beginning of a voiced, animated, and interactive web comic for a senior project (2020)
Created video lectures on photogrammetry for Prof. Ha Na Lee and helped guide her students through the process (2020/2021)

"Bella Parkinson has shown great promise as an independent media artist and animator. She is highly motivated and passionate about her art practice. Her senior capstone project entitled "Sigma" illustrates her skill with interactive storytelling. The animation and web UI design is visually compelling, complex and polished."

— Ha Na Lee, Assistant Professor, Film & Media Arts

F21 Outstanding Seniors blog headers5

Name: Ammon Helms
Majors (including emphases) and minors: Music Composition/Instrumental Performance
Hometown: West Point, UT
Three words that describe me: Driven, Creative, Detail Oriented
Most impactful class or professor (and why): Donn Schaefer, He played a major role in my progress as a trombonist and was a huge mentor for me throughout my undergrad
A CFA moment I’ll never forget: Performing at the UMEA conference with the Wind Ensemble
What inspires me: Seeing all the amazing things in the world
Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus:
Selected to compose a piece for the UMFA call for proposals
Commissioned to arrange solos and a quartet by trombonists in the Utah Symphony
Commissioned to compose work for a trombone choir
Selected to perform a trombone solo for the School of Music 2020 End of Year Showcase

"During a trombone lesson early in Ammon's degree I said 'you want to be a composer? OK, write something to play for your next lesson.' From there, Ammon composed a new duet, etude or part of a solo for each lesson. His growth on trombone helped inform his compositional skills. On his upcoming senior recital, he will premiere the original composition for trombone and piano entitled 'Wasatch.' This is a demanding and solid work that showcases his development as a performer and composer."

— Donn Schaefer, Professor, School of Music

F21 Outstanding Seniors blog headers6

Name: Francesca (Chessie) Hsieh
Major: Theatre, Musical Theatre Emphasis
Hometown: Brookline, MA
Three words that describe me:  kind, hardworking, driven
Most impactful class or professor (and why): My two most impactful professors (I can’t choose just one!) were Andra Harbold and Penny Caywood. They taught me about the expanse and variety in the world of theatre that I hadn’t explored and showed me what it means to be a leader, a role model, and an artist in the fullest sense of that word. They are both the epitome of grace, creativity, and forward thinking. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.
A CFA moment I’ll never forget: Creating crazy Zoom skits with my student group at the beginning of the pandemic – finding a way to still create and connect every day was amazing.
What inspires me: Seeing people work with complete joy and safety. When I have been lucky enough to see someone feel free to create work unapologetically, fueled by their own curiosity and voice, rather than by a need to impress or fit in, it is glorious. It re-focuses my own passion and makes me want to create more spaces where that kind of work is possible.
Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus:
Founder, President, Vice-President for Open Door Productions, student run production company and sponsored student organization
Co-founder of BIPOC Artists for Awareness
Student representative for Department of Theatre JEDI committee
Won Outstanding Live Production at the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival in 2020 for directing original adaptation Cocaine Triptych
Cast in one department musical (Chess) and one department play (The Night Witches)
Assistant Director for The Odyssey in the Department of Theatre
Assistant Director for Mary Stuart at Pioneer Theatre Company
Dramaturg for The Night Witches in the Department of Theatre
Student Advocacy Workshop leader for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region 8
Video from CFA gala Fall 2020

"I have worked with Francesca extensively since last fall, and have witnessed her deep and engaged scholarship in her course work, creative practice and community service. Last fall, Francesca was a student in my Beginning Directing class and my Assistant Director for the Department of Theatre's production of Mary Zimmerman's The Odyssey. Throughout the course and The Odyssey rehearsals, her observations on text, movement, the creative process and production were generous, rigorous and astute. This fall, Francesca is my teaching assistant for the Beginning Directing class and is serving both as dramaturg and acting in a pivotal role in Rachel Bublitz's The Night Witches that I am directing. Whatever the charge, Francesca meets the challenge with attention and skill." 

— Alexandra Harbold, Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre

Published in Finer Points Blog

The College of Fine Arts is delighted to present the 2020 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher award to Alicia Ross from the School of Dance.

In 2015, The Office of Undergraduate Research established the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award to recognize an outstanding undergraduate researcher from each college. Faculty mentors are invited to nominate students, and awardees are selected by committee. The criteria for the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award include: a record of sustained commitment to developing research skills and knowledge under the supervision of a faculty mentor, evidence of independent and critical thinking, active participation in research-related activities on campus, and positive contributions to the research culture of the department, college, and university.

Alicia's impressive accomplishments as an undergraduate researcher and student leader in the College of Fine Arts center around her commitment to her work as a movement researcher and performer.  In the last three years, Alicia has engaged in 14 research related activities, as a performer, collaborator, choreographer or participant.  These include her being selected to participate in work by internationally recognized artists Doug Varone and Anouk van Dijk.

“Alicia is the first undergraduate artist-scholar that I can remember who has made such a compelling case for movement research as a valid form of critical inquiry. Her proposal for the Outstanding Researcher Award articulated the multifaceted modalities that artists draw on at all times when creating and dancing in movement—physics, musicality, psychology, design, spatial-awareness, history, physicality, kinesiology— all at the neuromuscular level. Her work in the department has exemplied this multiplicity, as she has shone as a performer, maker of dances, and writer/scholar. It was a joy to see her synthesize all of this vast body-mind knowledge at receive this deserved award.”
-Satu Hummasti 
Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs and Associate Professor, School of Dance


In Her Own Words 

Name: Alicia Ross
Major: Modern Dance
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Three words that describe you: imaginative, passionate, intuitive 
Favorite CFA class or teacher: My favorite College of Fine Arts class is improvisation because I get to explore all kinds of movement and the infinite possibilities of the body.   
Most memorable moment at CFA: My most memorable moment here was performing "CLEANSLATE" by Satu Hummasti. It was a significant work that encouraged kindness and equality in today's world. 
One thing you learned at CFA: The most important thing I've learned at the College of Fine Arts is that I can make a difference as an artist. I have a powerful voice as a dancer and choreographer that can be used to enact change in society.  
What inspires you: I'm inspired by all of the courageous and graceful women in my life.
Summary of major accomplishments both on and off campus: On campus I have performed in works by Stephen Koester, Anouk van Dijk, Satu Hummasti, Eric Handman, and more. I have also choreographed and performed a solo entitled Introspection, and showcased two of my dance films in our Modern Student Concert. Off campus I have participated and performed in programs such as the Ririe Woodbury Summer Intensive and the Doug Varone Summer Workshop. Lastly, I look forward to continuing my off campus performance career after graduation in a local show at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.    
One sentence that describes your work: My work aims to convey the beauty, complexity, and intensity of the human experience through movement and emotion.

“Throughout my four years here I have been able to explore the potential of the body for creating art that is meaningful and alive. Studying the creative process with my professors has allowed me to make discoveries and figure out what it means to be a movement researcher and performer. Each professor has taught me a new way to study dance and produce material that conveys a message to the audience… Being able to physically create and feel movement that portrays intellectual thoughts and ideas is complex yet fulfilling. Through my corporeal research I have found a deep understanding and appreciation for the creative process and the expression of the dancing body within my discipline. The guidance I have received from my professors and mentors to develop that will definitely impact my future projects and long-term artistic career.”
-Alicia Ross, Class of 2020

Published in Finer Points Blog

It is our great pleasure to present the 2020 Outstanding Seniors from the University of Utah College of Fine Arts. Each year,  our five academic units nominate an outstanding senior for their academic achievements, artistic and scholarly accomplishments, and ongoing commitment to their craft. These graduating students continue the CFA's tradition of sending strong creative leaders out into the art world. Congratulations, and our hats off to you! 

A Message from Liz Leckie, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Student Affairs

Pisti Gamvroulas AAH

 Name: Pisti Gamvroulas
Majors and minors: Art with Graphic Design Emphasis, Minor in Arts & Technology
Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
Three words that describe you: Loyal, Hard-working, and Compassionate
Favorite CFA class or teacher: Xi Zhang’s Drawing 1 Course. Xi is an exceptionally kind and genuine human who cares for each and every one of his students. He is consistently pushing them to do their best work, and experiment in their process. His instruction allowed me to explore my strengths and to understand my weaknesses and how I could improve myself. 
Most memorable moment at CFA: Learning about and working in the wood shop during my Foundations year and somehow leaving with all my limbs attached. 
One thing you learned at CFA: Community matters. It’s important to connect with others that can understand and support you through the challenges you face in a creative industry, and that can cheer you on through the successes you accomplish. Being connected with others helps you grow as a creative and find spectacular humans that you can form relationships with for years to come. 
What inspires you: Humanistic Design/Art/Research/Places that motivate people to connect with one another and/or share human experiences. Designers like Timothy Goodman, who’s work expresses his emotions and tells stories that everyone can relate to, is very inspiring. Spaces like the National Museum of American History that focus on visitor interaction offer multiple forms of insight into how we can create spaces that bring people together. Podcasts like “The Happiness Lab”, that offer scientific insight into how we can live more content lives and connect with others. 
Summary of major accomplishments both on and off campus: During my time at the University of Utah, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with campus programs such as the Office of Student Success & Empowerment, The Muse Project, Bennion Center, and Intramural Sports. I created my own student organization called “U Got Game?” based on bringing students together to learn a variety of sports, and am the VP of the UofU AIGA, helping create a community amongst all design practices at the U. In the summer of 2019 I was fortunate enough to intern with the exhibition design team at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in Washington D.C. I will be interning with an interdisciplinary architectural company, Sasaki, in Massachusetts this upcoming summer. 
One sentence that describes your work: Human centered design/art that uses humor, color, and/or bright subjects to create positive solutions for a variety of people. 


"Pisti’s participation in class, enthusiasm and diligent work habits set a wonderful example for her fellow classmates. She consistently goes above and beyond what is expected of her, both academically and beyond. It is not very often that we have the opportunity to engage with such a committed student. This same commitment to learn is also demonstrated in her pursuit in a career in graphic design. This led to landing a coveted, nationally competitive design internship at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. This demonstrates her high degree of self-motivation and professionalism. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Pisti is a pleasure to work with. She engages with her teachers and fellow students with a smile on her face. Even in  the midst of tackling a difficult design problem, Pisti enthusiastically takes on the challenge. Upon solicitation of faculty members for nominations for this award; we received multiple glowing reviews of Pisti. Her love for design is obvious and her positivity is contagious. In addition to her success in the Graphic Design Program and fulfilling the Interdisciplinary Capstone Project in Arts and Technology, she is highly involved in campus life. She is a MUSE scholar, serves as the AIGA (professional organization for design) student body president, and was the lead ambassador for the U of U’s  Undergraduate Studies Student Success and Empowerment Program. This are just a few of the many contributions she has made to the campus community." 

- Carol Sogard
Professor, Department of Art & Art History 

“Pisti is a kind, intelligent, passionate, and brave artist and designer. Pisti’s highly artistic achievements reflects these qualities. I do not doubt she will be a celebrated star in the design community.”
- Xi Zhang
Assistant Professor, Department of Art & Art History 


Cameron Mertz SoD

Name: Cameron Mertz
Majors and minors: Modern Dance major with a minor in Psychology
Hometown: Walnut Creek, CA
Three words that describe you: Compassionate, hard-working, resilient
Favorite CFA class or teacher: Junior year improv with Stephen Koester 
Most memorable moment at CFA: Performing “The Middle Way” choreographed by Molly Heller in the 2018 School of Dance Gala at Kingsbury Hall.
One thing you learned at CFA: I learned the importance of allowing myself to be vulnerable in my artmaking even when it’s uncomfortable and scary because, ultimately, that has led me to create work that is personally meaningful and memorable to me.
What inspires you: I’m inspired by things that I experience in my daily life, specifically interactions with people around me, whether intentional or not. I think it’s more fun to be inspired by the mundane than grandeur.
Summary of major accomplishments both on and off campus: 

  • 2017-2018 Before She Sleeps in the Sand Choreography by Pamela Gaber-Handman, Performed as part of Legacy Assembly/ Performed as part of American College Dance Association Northwest Conference, selected for Gala Performance/ Performed as part of Breaking Ground Dance & Film Festival/ Performed as part of Performing Dance Company
  • 2017-2018- Awarded the Departmental Scholarship from the Modern Program of the School of Dance at the University of Utah
  • 2018- The Middle Way Choreography by Molly Heller, Performed as part of School of Dance Gala Concert
  • 2018- The Wallflowers Choreography by Brooklyn Draper, Performed as part of the Graduate Thesis Concert/ Performed as part of 12 Minutes Max/ Performed as part of Mudson
  • 2019- A Collective Resilience Choreography by Daniel Do, Performed as part of Repertory Dance Theater’s Emerge
  • 2019- Surge Choreography by Anouk Van Dijk, Performed as part of The School of Dance Gala/ Performed as part of Salt Spring Concert2019- Gaga Summer Intensive (Tel Aviv, Israel)
  • 2019- Parachute Princess Choreography by E’lise Jumes, Performed as part of the Graduate Thesis Concert2019- Becoming Choreography by Joanna Lees, Performed as part of the Graduate Thesis Concert
  • 2020- Grey Raven Choreography by Eric Handman, Performed as part of the School of Dance Gala

One sentence that describes your work: For me, I find it important that my work remains honest, explorative and evolving.  


“'WHO IS SHE?!' I remember asking when I first saw Cameron perform on stage at the MCD—she was a newly arrived freshman dancing in a piece by LA hiphop artist Jackie Lopez. Even then, a month into college, her maturity, clarity, fierceness, and stage presence was palpable. She shone on stage. And this star quality has grown exponentially while at the School of Dance. Cameron is a consummate dance artist--- a creative contributor who posseses an absolutely compelling stage presence, a deep thinker, and someone who shows grace and humanity in everything she does." 
- Satu Hummasti
Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs and Associate Professor, School of Dance

"Cameron’s committed, vibrant energy draws people to her. She is incredibly hard working and a curious, questioning artist at heart. Cameron is an exceptionally invested artist, one with great integrity, who seeks new research opportunities and mentorship to broaden her dancing life. She not only inspires others with her expansiveness as a performer, but she also exudes humility and perseverance. Inside the classroom, onstage, and within a creative process, she has earned the deep respect of her peers and faculty."

"Faculty feel that Cameron has been, '…an integral part of my choreographic research, influencing the direction, intensity, and depth of the research itself,' and, 'She raises everyone’s game. Inspiring, indefatigable, tirelessly creative and physically powerful.' Her peers feel that she, '…is truly a poetic movement artist. She is incredibly insightful, filled with creative guttural decision-making abilities. Cameron has the ability to always include her unique voice, physical quirks, textures and tonalities in anything that she does. It is a superpower of hers, to always include herself in anything she does; transcending ideas beyond movement, making dance seem otherworldly at times.'" 
-Michael Wall
Modern Dance Program Head & Associate Professor, School of Dance


Katie Phillips FMAD

Name: Katie Rose Phillips
Majors and minors: Film and Media Arts Major, Production Emphasis
Hometown: Midland, Michigan
Three words that describe you: Creative, Confident, Candid
Favorite CFA class or teacher: Sonia and Miriam Albert-Sobrino
Most memorable moment at CFA: When I was studying abroad in Italy one of the students, Brady Brown, had a scene in his film where he had to jump through a fence and every student on the trip came and helped film that one shot. It was hysterical.
One thing you learned at CFA: Always double check that the camera plate is secure on the tripod.
What inspires you: Telling stories that are important to me and having people connect with those stories.
Summary of major accomplishments both on and off campus: Film, Seeing Eye Guy, featured at the Block Festival. Film, Grieving A Broad, showcased in Italy and the United States. Forward for the Utah Howl Women’s Ice Hockey team.
One sentence that describes your work: Rediscovering yourself is the first step to overcoming loneliness.

“During her time in the Department of Film & Media Arts, Katie has proven to be a very valuable member of this community. In class, she is always engaged and her willingness to learn is contagious; her films have a maturity level that is unseen in filmmakers of her age; and she’s always advocating for female empowering stories that reflect the different facets of the female experience. She is a strong talented young filmmaker who uses cinema to provoke positive change.”
- Sonia and Miriam Albert-Sobrino 
Assistant Professors, Department of Film & Media Arts

"Our Department is committed to empowering students to tell stories that matter to them. Katie has done just that. Her creativity, ambition, and perseverance have earned her the respect of her peers and instructors. We expect great things of her in the years ahead." 
- Andrew Patrick Nelson 
Chair, Department of Film & Media Arts 


Tony Elison SoM

Name: Tony Elison
Majors and minors: Honors BMus in Jazz Composition, minor in Computer Science
Hometown: American Fork, UT
Three words that describe you: open-minded, reflective, curious
Favorite CFA class or teacher: Jazz Composition and Arranging
Most memorable moment at CFA: premiering original works at senior recital
One thing you learned at CFA: how to network
What inspires you: real, sincere, hard-working people who love what they do
Summary of major accomplishments both on and off campus:

  • Learned how to learn
  • Developed a love for reading
  • Sharpened writing skills
  • Widened my musical palette
  • Established a reputation for professionalism in the SLC music community

One sentence that describes your work: It’s my hope that my work reflects authentic, musical expression, capable of moving and elevating the listener.

"I’ve known Tony as a work-study student who works at the front desk in the Music Office, and a scholarship recipient as a member of the Michie Jazz Quintet, which plays at many events on campus, including the Presidents Office. I’ve always been very impressed with his jazz piano playing and arranging. He's very unassuming, and I didn't know until recently of his impressive performance credits (including Carnegie Hall and Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center in New York!) or his minor in computer science. He is an Honors student with a GPA at the very top of his graduating class. Behind his unassuming manner there is a tremendously talented and intelligent jazz musician who has already reached some impressive milestones. He has a bright future ahead of him!" 
- Miguel Chuaqui
Director, School of Music 

"What makes Tony Elison a special student to me is his ability for synthesis. He can take inspiration from musical ideas, syntax, and traditions while filtering them through his own distinctive voice. I have been honored to help him achieve his goals and continue to expand his artistic horizons for the future."
- John Petrucelli
Visiting Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies, School of Music 

"Tony has the ideal demeanor for a working colleague--he is an amazing musician, always prepared, and a positive person to be around. He is already playing professionally in and around Utah."
- Donn Schaefer
Brass and Jazz Area Head & Professor of Trombone, School of Music 


Matthew Rudolph DoT

Name: Matthew Rudolph 
Majors and minors: Musical Theatre
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Three words that describe you: Loyal, Passionate, Hard-working
Favorite CFA class or teacher: David Schmidt
Most memorable moment at CFA: Getting to perform with the cast of Bring it On! and represent the department of theatre at the opening of the Eccles theatre downtown.
One thing you learned at CFA: How incredible it is to be an artist. As artists, we have the opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level and create change within them and in the world. We have the chance to entertain those around us and make people feel something.
What inspires you: Seeing the passion other CFA students put into their craft everyday and getting to work on something that I am so passionate about fuels me with excitement to work hard and give my everything.
Summary of major accomplishments both on and off campus: SAC Representative- President, Vice-President, class representative, FAF Grant Representative, Emerging Leadership intern, cast in 7 department of theatre musicals, member of the National Society of Leadership and Success.
One sentence that describes your work: I am an artist and collaborator who is passionate about creating change and allowing people the opportunity to escape reality and be entertained.

"Matthew has proved to be an outstanding student and leader within the Department of Theatre. He serves as President for the department's Student Advisory Committee (SAC). He also serves as the student representative at the College Council meetings. Besides being an excellent representative for his fellow students and the department, he is a talented performer. He has been cast in a number of department productions including, Chess, Company, Dracula and Floyd Collins. On behalf of the department and myself, we wish him the best of luck." 
- Harris Smith
Chair, Department of Theatre

"Freshman Matt Rudolph peaked his head into a rehearsal of "BRING IT ON" in August of 2016 when I had just lost the entire Cheerleading squad who had agreed to do the show….I said, “Howdy, can you tumble?” He said “sure”  …..and that is the way it has been for the last 4 years….. Matt is forever willing to give anything asked of him his best shot. Always with a smile, Matt is one of a very few students who have been cast in just about every departmental show of his college career. BRAVO MATT!" 
-Denny Berry
Musical Theatre Program Head, Department of Theatre

"I am so happy that Matthew was chosen as the outstanding student for the Department of Theatre. I have had the privilege of being involved with Mathew from the time of his audition for the department until now at his graduation. I have been his Private Applied Voice teacher for the 4 years. Matthew has an incredible work ethic, a passion for his art and the talent to make it all work. He is also a generous leader amongst his peers. I am sure he will have a brilliant future. Break legs Matthew!!" 
-David Schmidt
Associate Professor, Department of Theatre


*Look out for our feature of Alicia Ross, Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher!  And please join us tomorrow when we will hear from our two student convocation speakers, Jacob Weitlauf and Sydney May, right here on the blog.* 

Published in Finer Points Blog
April 25 2017

2017 Outstanding Seniors

As our senior’s head towards the end of their last semester, days away from convocation and the beginning of a new adventure we take a moment to highlight the College of Fine Arts 2017 Outstanding Seniors. We also want to recognize Jack Bender, the ASSU Student Body President, who is graduating with a degree in Film & Media Arts. We’re excited he’ll be attending the College of Fine Arts convocation as a member of the University of Utah Board of Trustees.

CH UnknownCatherine (Cate) Heiner, Department of Theatre, 2017 Convocation Speaker
Cate Heiner grew up in Salt Lake City, and feels been lucky enough to pursue what she loves here at the U. Heiner works as a dramaturg, where she gets to explore the historical background and context of theatrical texts and work with casts and creative teams in creating productions. This allows her to analyze and observe the production in new and innovative ways. She is also a playwright and loves using theatre as an opportunity to open dialogue about current events and differing points of view.

Heiner chose to pursue Theatre Studies because she saw it as a way to connect her love of theatre with her love of history and writing. She believes that in order to have successful productions, it is important to create an understanding for the cast and creative teams in regards to historical context and connection to community. Next fall Heiner will be attending Carnegie Mellon University ato pursue an MA in Literary and Cultural Studies. She hopes to continue working in dramaturgy and playwriting, and hopes to return to Salt Lake since there are so many academic and artistic opportunities here. Heiner’s ultimate goal is to teach on a college level.

“I feel very lucky to have gotten my degree from the University of Utah. I have worked very closely with excellent faculty like Dr. Tim Slover and Dr. Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell, and I have had opportunities to expand my horizons as a playwright and as a dramaturg. I have loved being able to work on a variety of productions with directors and creative teams that bring different tools and skills to their work. I have also loved working for the Chronicle and exploring how the arts relate to journalism and how the arts community can connect with their local audiences. I am constantly amazed by the work my peers are pursuing, and I look forward to collaborating with them as we move toward our artistic careers.”


AB DSC0039Alyssa Bertelsen, School of Dance
Alyssa Bertelsen is 22 years old and graduating with her BFA in ballet with an emphasis in teaching. Some of her favorite things in life are people and challenges, and that is why ballet clicked with her so intensely.

“There is always something to be working towards that feels just beyond my grasp.”

Finding the balance between her drive to achieve and being at peace with herself in the process of growing has shaped her self image during her college years. Bertelsen has found freedom to try, fail, and enjoy the process with the understanding that her value isn’t dependent on what she accomplishes. A huge part of what keeps her dancing is that ballet is a powerful way to connect with people be it through performing, teaching or standing together at barre. Bertelsen is known for giving away hugs and for her passion for quality boba tea and little panaderias.

Two years ago Bertelsen started a ballet outreach (Kids Community Ballet) teaching free ballet lessons in a low income neighborhood and now has forty students attending weekly. After graduation, she hopes to be granted nonprofit status and continue developing a meaningful and sustainable way to make quality ballet lessons accessible to underprivileged children in Salt Lake City. Ultimately, Bertelsen wants to see ballet be a part of healing the brokenness in Salt Lake City. Her goal at KCB is to challenge the status quo such that each student feels seen, known, and loved. She is currently a teacher at Bountiful School of Ballet and intends to continue teaching and broadening her experience as a ballet instructor until she is able to focus in the neighborhoods fulltime. Outside of teaching and working in the community, she would love to be a foster parent, own a border collie, and become a better swing dancer.

“While my classes have been truly excellent, the opportunities that launched me into involvement with the community (both on and off campus) have had the greatest impact on my university experience. I have loved being involved on campus through serving on the leadership team for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and investing in the School of Dance community. Being in a community of people who I could be authentic with has made all the difference as I’ve undergone the exciting highs and devastating lows we all experience in college. Choosing to devote time to meaningful experiences outside of classes have made the incredible academic enrichment I’ve experienced exponentially more impactful. The mentorship of my professors and IVCF staff paired with close friendships with peers gave me the support I needed to fully realize the path of life I want to walk. I am beyond thankful for all the people who went above and beyond to invest in me as I’ve grown into a stronger leader with a more compassionate heart than I had before. These have been the most transformational years of my life. It is bittersweet to see them coming to an end.”


NL IMG 1451Nicole Lavely, Art and Art History Department
Nicole Lavely grew up in West Point, UT and moved to Salt Lake City, UT to pursue a career in Art Education. She is half Korean; her mother is from Korea and her dad is from Pennsylvania, and is the eldest of four. She is the first in her family to receive a college degree. Lavely is an artist and an educator. In her free time, she enjoys outdoor activities, reading, and being with loved ones. It was during her junior year of high school that she decided she wanted to become an art teacher.

“There was a moment within myself that a light just clicked on about art making, and I wanted to be able to share it with others. I am passionate about art and believe that it has an extremely important role in education. Art has the power to give people voice, and a means to express and think critically about themselves and the world we live in.”

Lavely’s plan after graduation is to begin her new position as a Visual Arts teacher at Taylorsville High School and to work on her practice as a studio artist. She wishes to travel and experience the world so that her practice as an educator and artist can grow. Lavely will continue to work for Bad Dog Arts, a non-profit organization that provides in-school and after-school arts programing for students within the Salt Lake Valley community. In the future, she plans to pursue a Masters of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing in hopes of becoming a professor at a university level.

“My time at the University of Utah has been an uplifting and positive experience. I have made lifelong friends and have established professional relationships that will help me in my career. The Art & Art History Department has been a supportive community for me to be a part of and has helped me become the person I am today. The Art Teaching program has shaped me to become a strong educator and artist, and has provided me with opportunities that will allow me to find success in the coming years.”


TC UnknownThomas Call, School of Music
Thomas Call is 26 years-old, has been married for nearly four years, and a father of a four-month old. He was born and raised in Bountiful Utah to parents who encouraged participation in the arts. He attended Utah State University for three years with a break for an LDS mission to Philadelphia. Call transferred to the U to study Jazz exclusively, as well as recording and sound engineering, and hit the ground running on his own projects. He has always been a project person, and thinks often about the big picture and purpose of his music. He has a wide variety of musical interests, from punk and ska to modern Jazz to heavy metal, and everything in between. Recently he recorded and produced an album of all original music based on his favorite author’s fantasy novels.

Call became a music major because he had many positive musical experiences in his life, and music has played a large part of who he has become. He continued to pursue music after his mission, wanting to focus on Jazz composition and performance.

“The arts are an essential part of our society and need to be pursued and sustained. Music and art provide people with reminders of why they are alive, what they love and live for, and give them hope and inspiration for who and what they want to be. I became a music major because I want to provide that opportunity and experience for people the world over.”

Call’s future plans include graduate and doctoral degrees, then teaching jazz and composition on the collegiate level. He is considering attending Michigan State University, New York University, and Rutgers University, to pursue a degree in jazz studies. Regardless of where schooling takes him, he has many multi-faceted projects in mind for the future. One such project is a series of albums with accompanying short stories and graphic novels to tell a large story, meant to inspire and give hope to the readers. He also wants to produce a big band concert with modern/contemporary dance as part of the performance, as well as a string quartet plus jazz quartet performance, with an accompanying multimedia, musically responsive presentation, and many other similarly involved projects.

“When I was a young music student, the USU orchestra did a combined concert with the U of U orchestra, to perform Mahler’s Symphony number V. Duringthe combined rehearsals and performance, I saw/heard the quality of musicians atthe U. I decided that I might come to the U for my graduate school. After more life changes, It became apparent that my wife and I needed to move down south, for her to attend culinary school, so I transferred to the U. It has been a very rewarding experience, educationally and creatively. I was able to pursue so many of my own projects, as well as receive the education I needed to make my creative dreams into realities. I was able to get a work study position, working as an assistant for the Music Tech department, and I’ve learned so much about capturing sound, as well as producing albums and recordings. So much of what I have learned here, as well as all the wonderful relationships and connections, will be very helpful in my chosen career path, and all of my creative endeavors in the future. I’m so glad I made the decision to come to the U!”


JH 4Jordan Hanzon, Film and Media Arts Department
Jordan Hanzon is an editor, an appreciator of all aspects of film, but at the end of the day, will always choose sitting in front of a computer for a few to ten hours putting together effects and stories. Some of his favorite classes were Connie Wilkerson’s Final Cut Pro class, Sonia and Miriam Sobrino’s After Effects, and Brian Patrick’s Avid course. During is junior year he made a video which was a re-cut of Disney’s “Inside Out” without the emotions which ended up going viral overnight reaching over three million views and being featured on sites like Buzzfeed, Time, USA Today, and more. Currently he is working for the J. Willard Marriott Library in PR & Marketing where he makes videos, manages social media, and more. Originally, he had wanted to be a dentist, seeming like the perfect career until he realized how much it involved being in people’s mouths. Film had always been a passion of his since middle school when he made a video to run for Student Body Officer. Although he lost, he learned how much he loved making videos. He enjoys the process of editing and putting together a story from a bunch of clips and sounds.

“It’s lovely seeing what stories can be told especially from those in minority communities who don’t feel like they have a voice (including my own as both a member of the LGBT community and being part Indian).“

Hanzon plans to continue his education in film and communications and continue telling stories through video. He and his fiancé have also started an organization, Friends of Earth, where every Saturday they go to a different park with friends and pick up trash around the park. He plans to continue making efforts to help environmental efforts in order to make our earth a little bit cleaner.

“I have loved my experience at the University of Utah. It seems like a safe haven for diversity that thrives on people who think differently. I’ve felt that all of my professors have encouraged me to try something different with every film I make and to not be afraid of making mistakes. The University has also helped provide me with the means through many scholarships that have helped me finish my college education, without which, I don’t think I would have been able to attend.”


Published in Finer Points Blog