A group of two dozen student award winners and Dean Stephen Carpenter arrayed in two lines – one standing and one kneeling – with Penn State's Forum and Stuckeman Family Building in the background.

A&A Awards

Student, faculty, and staff award winners

Friday April 12, 4:00–5:00pm

Spring 2024 Awards Ceremony

Join us at the Music Recital Hall or via livestream to celebrate faculty, staff and student award recipients, acknowledge A&A retirees, and enjoy our vibrant community.

View the Livestream

The College of Arts and Architecture is pleased to announce its student, faculty, and staff special scholarship and award winners. It is an honor to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of these remarkable individuals in the arts and design community.

University Faculty and Staff Awards

John Simpkins

President’s Award for Engagement with Students

John Simpkins, head of musical theatre in the College of Arts and Architecture's School of Theatre, has received the 2024 President’s Award for Engagement with Students. Nominators said Simpkins is dedicated to educating students and is constantly creating ways for them to further interact with the arts.

“Simpkins has been an innovator in creating ways to engage with our students outside the classroom and also traditional settings for the students in the BFA Musical Theatre programs, one of the most highly ranked programs of its kind in the nation.”

Read the President's Award article
Anna Divinsky

Teaching and Learning with Technology Impact Award

Anna Divinsky, assistant teaching professor of art in the College of Arts and Architecture in the Office of Digital Learning, is the recipient of the 2024 Teaching and Learning with Technology Impact Award.

In 2013, she created Penn State’s inaugural Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), “Introduction to Art,” which benefited 50,000 virtual learners across the globe. Nominators said her approach demonstrated flexible education without barriers is possible. It brought art to a wide age range of audiences from diverse locations. Divinsky also gathered data and testimonials from students to improve the immersive virtual class experience.

“She challenged what it meant to communicate with students.”

Read the TLT Impact article
Bonnie Collura

Faculty Scholar Medals for Outstanding Achievement

Bonnie Collura uses her art to drive empathetic connections among people. She uses traditional and digital approaches to create art that allows people with different backgrounds to intersect. She earned the Faculty Scholar Medal for Arts and Humanities.

Nominators cited Collura’s collaborative project “Together, Tacit” – which includes students and faculty members from engineering, computer science and technology – as a groundbreaking accomplishment.

“Professor Collura is exploring ways to bridge the world of individuals with low vision and blindness with that of sighted individuals to create a shared language for artmaking.”

Read Faculty Scholars announcement
Liz Agler

Excellence in Advising Award

Liz Agler, academic adviser in the College of Arts and Architecture, has been selected to receive the 2024 Penn State Excellence in Advising Award. Selection criteria are based on excellence in general advising, academic and career guidance, enthusiasm and assistance in decision making, and goal setting.

“Liz has been an excellent academic adviser...I am so grateful to have her support throughout my Penn State experience and I know that many of my peers share the same sentiment. Her reputation amongst students is excellent.”

Read Advising Award article

A&A Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards

Headshot of Andreas Oeste, Lecturer of Music, Oboe

Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching

Andreas Oeste, lecturer in oboe, is an active performer and chamber musician who began his musical studies on the clarinet and cello but ultimately switched to oboe. Andreas has performed with orchestras across the United States and is currently principal oboe of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. As a soloist, Andreas holds prizes from several prominent international competitions. Most notably he was awarded Third Prize at the International Barbirolli Oboe Competition (2017), received Honorable Mention at International Double Reed Society’s Hugo-Fox Gillet Competition (2017), and was the only American oboist invited to compete in the Muri International Oboe Competition (2016). Andreas graduated with his Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan.

Baljinder Sekhon's Head Shot

Award for Excellence in Advising and Mentoring

Baljinder Sekhon, associate professor of music composition, joined the School of Music faculty in 2019 and teaches courses in composition and electronic music. Since fall 2019, more than 160 premieres of his students’ compositions have been presented on campus and have also been heard nationally and internationally at more than forty concert events spanning six different countries. Baljinder’s music has received more than 600 performances in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Seoul Arts Center (Korea), and National Recital Hall (Taiwan). Seventeen commercial recordings of his work have been released, including two full albums dedicated to his saxophone and percussion music: Alchemy and Places & Times. He holds a Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music, and previously taught at the University of South Florida.

portrait Catherine Adams

Staff Award for Outstanding Service

Catherine Adams is the digital support specialist for the Center for Virtual/Material Studies in the Department of Art History. She assists with the center’s research by procuring, maintaining, and organizing the supplies, collections, and equipment used in research. She helps with the research of the graduate students assigned to the center and has helped oversee the work of undergraduate interns in the School of Theatre Fashion Archive. Prior to joining the college in 2007, she worked in the Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library. She has served as the chair of the College of Arts and Architecture Staff Advisory Council and is currently chair of the Visual Resources Association Mid-Atlantic Chapter.

Dan Robinson

Barbara O. Korner Award for Faculty Outstanding Service

Dan Robinson, professor of theatre, joined the faculty in 1992, teaching scenic design, scenic art, and period styles. Currently he serves the School of Theatre as associate director for academics and director of graduate studies. Prior to Penn State, he was assistant professor of scenic design at Ithaca College, and adjunct professor for the Sargent Conservatory of Theatre at Webster University. As a scenic designer, he has designed Off-Broadway and for more than twenty regional theatres, university theatres, and international festivals. Television work includes design and scenic art for WPSU-TV. He received his M.F.A. from University of Missouri-Kansas City, and his B.F.A. from Webster University. He is a member of USA Local #829 in the Scenic Design and Scenic Artist Divisions.

Rebecca Simpson – Seaweed and Me

Staff Morale Award

Rebecca Simpson (she/they) is the visitor experience manager at the Palmer Museum of Art and current chair of the College of Arts and Architecture Staff Advisory Council. She earned two B.A. degrees at Penn State in four years, in art history and public relations, and later an M.A. in museum education at Tufts University. Rebecca has worked in the arts on both coasts, including Boston Ballet, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, and San Diego Theatres. Rebecca and her wife traveled the country before buying a little home in State College to settle with their multiple rescue dogs and growing collection of crystals and essential oils.

Mike Fleck

Rising Star Award

Michael Fleck is a multimedia specialist in the Center for the Performing Arts. His experience includes more than seventeen years in the academic environment and seven years in the corporate environment, and more than twenty years as a freelance designer and photographer. Mike’s love for sharing knowledge is evident in peer mentoring and workshops held for photography and digital media interns in the College of Arts and Architecture, and he always looks forward to engaging with students. His interests include bird photography, motorcycling, home remodeling, and…mowing grass.

A&A Sustainability Awards

2024 University-Level

Graduate Recognition Awards

2024 Penn State Graduate School

Graduate Exhibition Awards

Design Option

First Place

  • Andre Brandao de Castro, College of Arts and Architecture / Theatre, “The Scenic Experience of ‘Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812’”

Second Place

  • Michael Ciaramitaro, College of Arts and Architecture / Theatre, “When Stars Collide: Designing Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Performance Option

First Place

  • Zephyr Wills, College of Arts and Architecture / Performance, viola, “Zoltán Kodály's Serenade for Two Violins and Viola Op. 12,” performed with Allison Smith, violin and Vinicius Vieira, violin

Second Place

  • Isabella Scotti, College of Arts and Architecture / Performance, percussion, “‘Derivative’ by Jlin from the Album ‘Perspective’ - Electronic Composition to Acoustic Performance,” performed with Jack Kerness, percussion; Paul Robeson, percussion; and Michael Valente, percussion

Third Place

  • Jonida Lazellari, College of Arts and Architecture / Piano Performance, piano, “Emma Lou Diemer- Toccata for Piano (1979)”
  • Rui Zhang, College of Arts and Architecture / Piano Performance, piano, “Zhao Zhang’s Numa Ame and its Exploration of Eastern and Western Musical Elements”

Research Poster Option

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Third Place

  • Sana Ahrar, College of Arts and Architecture / Architecture, “Mapping Community Dynamics: Integrating Social and Spatial Perspectives in decoding the functioning of Mixed-income Informal Neighborhoods”

Visual Arts Option

First Place

  • Negar Dehghan, College of Arts and Architecture / Art, “Bake The Night Away: A Yalda Celebration Festival”

Second Place

  • Forough Yazdanpanah, College of Arts and Architecture / Art, “Welcome to my world”

Third Place

  • Elizabeth Krick, College of Arts and Architecture / Art, “Climate Changed: II-IV; and Untitled: I & II”

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award

Second Place

  • Negar Dehghan, College of Arts and Architecture / Art, “Bake the Night Away: A Yalda Celebration Festival”

Third Place

  • Forough Yazdanpanah, College of Arts and Architecture / Art, “Welcome to my world”

View complete list of Graduate Exhibition winners

Reuben and Gladys Golumbic Scholarship

Valley Family Scholarship

Valley Family Scholarship Honorable Mention

  • Robert Beihl
  • Jasmine Ward

Alumni Society Scholarships

Department of Architecture

Hely Parmar is a fourth-year Bachelor of Architecture student minoring in architectural history. She is grateful for this scholarship, which allows her to focus on the most important aspect of school: learning.

Department of Art History

Hails Reilly will graduate with a B.A. in art history, minor in Italian, and certificate in museum studies in May 2025. Her studies are a direct reflection of her professional and personal passions. Her goal in life is to relate her academic passions to her professional endeavors and create a broader community through a shared passion for the arts.

Department of Graphic Design

Isabella Everett is a New Jersey native studying graphic design and film production. Over the past four semesters, she has achieved the Dean's List, demonstrating her commitment to academic excellence. Her dual major in graphic design and film production has provided her with a unique perspective and a diverse skill set. She is heavily involved in the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) as a public relations captain.

Department of Landscape Architecture

Julia Li is a fourth-year Schreyer Scholar majoring in landscape architecture and minoring in meteorology. By merging her design and technical skills, Julia hopes to create tangible solutions that mitigate the consequences of climate apartheid. She will stay at Penn State to earn an M.S. in landscape architecture, researching how the perception of climate change affects the way people interact with built and natural landscapes.

School of Music

Xander Popko is a third-year student pursuing dual degrees in music studies and advertising/public relations with a minor in arts entrepreneurship. Xander is the School of Music's marketing and production intern. He manages the school's social media, designs promotional materials, and strategizes advertising techniques to attract audiences to performances. As a member of the Penn State Clarinet Studio, Xander performs in the Chamber Orchestra, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also a resident assistant for Business and Society House and a Presidential Leadership Academy Scholar.

School of Theatre

Trinity Lyn Jackson (she/her) is a third-year B.F.A. Acting student from York, Pennsylvania. She has grown so much as a creator, student, leader, and, most importantly, human in the College of Arts and Architecture community. She looks forward to continuing her work with organizations such as the Performing Arts Council, serving as president, and the Student Programming Association, serving as director of internal affairs. In her free time, she enjoys discovering new music, trying out a new recipe, and crocheting.

School of Visual Arts

Greta Miller is in her fifth year pursuing dual degrees in general science (B.S.) and sculpture (B.F.A.). Outside of her roles as president of Sculpture Club and student representative for the SoVA alumni group, Greta is very involved in poetry and sustainable research at Penn State. After graduation next spring, she hopes to attend textile artist residencies before applying to graduate programs either in fine arts or sustainable design.

World Campus

Samantha Leone earned her first bachelor’s degree in business marketing at Le Moyne College in upstate New York. While working full-time she got a glimpse of graphic design and was inspired to make it her career. From there she chose to enroll in Penn State World Campus’s Digital Multimedia Design program. After graduation she hopes to work full-time in graphic design and part-time as a portrait photographer.

Creative Achievement Awards

Department of Architecture

Mia Fantasia has dedicated her undergraduate studies to obtaining a Bachelor of Architecture degree, complemented by a minor in architectural history and residential construction. During her time at the Stuckeman School, she has served as a research assistant for Professor Mehrdad Hadighi on the Mill Owners’ Association Building project. Mia is a recipient of the Alma Heinz and August Louis Pohland Scholarship, as well as the SchraderGroup Award for Excellence in Architecture. Mia gained professional experience as an architectural intern at HDR in 2022 and KTGY in 2023. Beyond her architectural pursuits, Mia expresses her artistic talents through oil paintings, graphite drawings, and murals. Following graduation, she plans to embark on her professional journey with a firm in the Baltimore, MD area.

Arjun Kizhakkemarakkattil Janardhanan is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Science in Architecture and serves as a graduate assistant at the Hamer Center for Community Design. His research focuses on urban building energy models, energy poverty, and spatial justice, demonstrating a commitment to innovative solutions for societal and environmental challenges. Outside academia, Arjun is a licensed architect from India with architecture design practice experience in India, UAE, and the United States.

Richard Sodeinde is a fifth-year architecture student with a minor in architectural history who will graduate in May 2024. He worked as an architectural intern with LRK in summer 2022 and 2023. In fall 2023, Richard studied abroad at the Pantheon Institute in Rome. After graduation, he plans to pursue employment with a firm in New York City, Philadelphia, or Baltimore.

Department of Art History

Emily Hagen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History. Emily completed her master’s degree in art history at Penn State in 2018 under the supervision of Professor Robin Thomas. Her research situates Pietro da Cortona’s church dedicated to Saints Luke and Martina within the culture of Barberini patronage and religious reform in seventeenth-century Rome. The recipient of the Susan W. and Thomas A. Schwartz Endowed Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Art History, Emily recently spent eight months in Rome consulting correspondence, manuscripts, and newsletters preserved in the Barberini Family Archives at the Vatican Library. Her contextual analysis of the church of Saints Luke and Martina demonstrates how architecture participated in the reinvention and revitalization of sacred history in the era of Catholic reform.

Megan Neely is a fourth-year art history student with minors in Italian and international and global studies who will graduate in May 2024. In 2022, she interned at the Center for Virtual/Material Studies, where she researched and cataloged the School of Theatre’s 3000-piece Fashion Archive. In spring 2023, she studied abroad at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. During her time at Penn State, she served as the College of Arts and Architecture representative on the University Park Undergraduate Association during the 2021-22 school year and vice president of the College of Arts and Architecture Student Council during the 2023-24 school year. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, dance, and ceramics. After graduation, Megan will pursue graduate studies in art history at Florida State University.

Annalise Palmer is a second-year master’s student in the Department of Art History. In 2020, Annalise received her Bachelor of Arts from Centre College in Danville, KY, where she wrote her undergraduate thesis on analytical models of choreography in the work of Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer. Her current research focuses on the rise of experimental dance practices throughout the twentieth century, emphasizing choreographers whose works realized, and often embodied, the conceptual and aesthetic concerns of the art world. Annalise’s background as a dancer influences her research of choreography, combining corporeal practice with critical theory to navigate topics of kinesthetic autonomy, physical limitation, and expressive fallacy. After her graduation in May, Annalise plans to pursue doctoral studies in art history at Penn State.

Department of Graphic Design

Colette Albertson is a third-year graphic design major who will graduate in May 2025. This past February, she had the opportunity to work with Cosmopolitan magazine on a photoshoot in Brooklyn. Colette is involved in designing for organizations such as Camp Alvernia and The Music Academy. She is also the social media assistant chair for Design Association and a team dancer for the KPMD club. She received the Penn State Undergraduate Graphic Design Scholarship and Graphis New Talent Silver Award. After graduation, she plans to work as a graphic designer in the fashion industry.

Megan Dale is a fourth-year graphic design student graduating in May 2024. Megan is focused on creating a more accessible world with design. This year she was a second-place winner in the Gallery@104 juried exhibition for her children's book, “Boon's Big Adventure.” As part of a whole experience, this book was created for children with colorblindness and focuses on bringing kids together to celebrate their differences. This semester, Megan is animating a 3D short film focused on the everyday struggle of invisible disability. After graduation, Megan aims to become an art director, and eventually begin her own design firm.

Negar Dehghan is a second-year M.F.A. candidate in graphic design at Penn State. With an interdisciplinary academic background, her research interest is applying interaction design principles to promote various sustainability-related issues. Her thesis involves developing an application for Type 1 Diabetes management, addressing both physical and mental health aspects to empower young patients and ensure they can live more confidently and have better control over their diabetes. Negar has co-authored several journal articles. She serves on the College of Arts and Architecture Sustainability Council as a graduate student representative, committed to promoting a culture of sustainability.

Department of Landscape Architecture

Andrew Kuka is a master's student in landscape architecture, graduating in May 2024. He is an AmeriCorps alum and former student of sociology and community and economic development. After graduation, he plans to join a firm with a healthy workplace culture, and continue experiments in playful mobile app design to support place-sensitive public engagement and civics.

Xuanjun Liu is a fourth-year landscape architecture student who will graduate this year. She has consistently proposed creative design solutions and ideas in various studio projects. With a focus on nature and empathy in design, she strives to cultivate diverse atmospheres, experiences, and warm memories for people through the creation of spatial environments and vegetation. She is also interested in urban design and climate change adaptation and hopes to bring benefits to the environment, society, and people through her designs.

Tegan Lochner is a fourth-year landscape architecture student graduating in May 2024. Tegan has worked on the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing as an intern at Living Habitats LLC (Chicago, Illinois) and on the Saratoga National Cemetery Masterplan as an intern at PASHEK + MTR (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). While at Penn State, she studied abroad in Peru, Tanzania, and Germany. Tegan is an active member of Penn State's American Society of Landscape Architects student chapter (treasurer 2021, president 2022) and the undergraduate representative for the A&A Sustainability Council. She also served as the Landscape Architecture Alumni Group undergraduate representative. She works part-time for Campus Recreation and as a Stuckeman School teaching assistant and research assistant. In her free time, Tegan likes to upcycle clothing and cook with her friends.

School of Music

Han Hitchen is a composer who writes for a wide range of genres, including various acoustic settings and electroacoustic works for fixed media and live processing. Han’s music has been presented at several festivals and workshops, including MUSLAB: Complex Planet, New Music Mosaic’s Timbre: Vol 3, and the Penn State New Music Festival and Symposium. His music has been performed throughout the United States, as well as in Ecuador, South Korea, Japan, and Mexico. Han is completing the M.M. in composition, studying with Baljinder Sekhon and Sarah Genevieve Burghart Rice. He also holds a Professional Performance Certificate in music composition and technology from Penn State and a Bachelor of Music in composition from the University of South Florida.

Vinicius (Vinny) Vieira is a master’s student in violin performance and graduate teaching assistant for violin and music theory. A performing chamber, solo, and orchestral musician, he is invested in musical collaboration and innovation. His playing is characterized by a rich, passionate, energetic, and aesthetic interpretation. As a member of a youth orchestra in Brazil, he toured to Argentina, the United States (Carnegie Hall), and Paris, France.

Piper Weldon (she/her) is a fourth-year music education major with an emphasis in elementary general music, and primary instrument of voice. While at Penn State, she has received multiple awards for her vocal performance, in addition to being named the Presser Scholar in November 2023. Piper is a proponent of promoting female composers and performing works by underrepresented women in music. She seeks the opportunity to collaborate with instrumentalists and composers, creating new and significant works for performer and audience alike. She has held leadership positions in the Penn State Concert Choir and Empow(h)er Committee, and served as primary chair of a THON organization. Piper will pursue an M.M. in voice in the fall.

School of Theatre

Arushi Grover is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in theatre studies, English, and comparative literature who will graduate in May 2024. She worked as a Literary Fellow at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center (Waterford, CT) in summer 2023. During her time in the School of Theatre, Arushi has been the dramaturg for six Penn State Centre Stage shows, and she has worked on various projects (readings, festivals, cabarets) with the Theatre Studies program. She is a previous recipient of the Golumbic Scholarship for Humanistic Achievement. After graduation, she plans to pursue further studies in Shakespeare and dramaturgy.

Minju Michelle Lee is a fourth-year musical theatre major who will graduate in May 2024. They are a proud Korean American artist born in Boulder, Colorado. Throughout their time at Penn State, they've been an active student leader and board member for Kesem Central PA, in addition to serving on the School of Theatre's Student Diversity Committee and the Student Advisory Board. After graduation, they plan to pursue their theatrical career in New York City.

Erin Stumm is a third-year M.F.A. costume production candidate. Originally from San Diego California, she completed her B.F.A. in theatre design/technology at Otterbein University in May 2021. She has worked across the country with the Santa Fe Opera, the Goodman Theatre, and the Old Globe. In addition to her work in costume construction, Erin is an avid knitter and has knit for both personal and stage use. Erin is currently working on her thesis project, titled “Knit Fast, Die Warm: An Examination of Historical Knitwear and the Clothing Worn with It,” to be presented on April 16, 2024. After her graduation in May 2024, Erin will join the staff of Goodspeed Musicals as a staff draper.

School of Visual Arts

Adl “K☉” Balogun is a graduating fourth-year student who will receive a B.F.A. in art (drawing and painting) and a B.A. in African studies. He does not remember a time when he was not making art, but he started his college experience as an engineering student. He is now the president of SoVA BIPOC and Penn State Painting. K☉ creates studio work, performance, and public art that embodies an interrogation of notions of value and hierarchy. He enjoys making art that invites communities to come together and have dialogue, which he has done with the collaborative sessions on the third floor of the Visual Arts Building and especially the Mending Walls project.

Alexis Oltmer-Bergmann is a second-year Master of Fine Arts student who will graduate in May 2024. Alexis is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice reconsiders relationships between humans and environment. She is a 2024 College of Arts and Architecture Sustainability Graduate Student Fellow. Her thesis exhibition, “in-site: a study of the occurrence of superfund sites,” will be on view at the Zoller Gallery, April 15-19. Alexis’s research into local, state, and federal superfund sites led to an Environmental Protection Agency website update. After graduation, she plans to continue her research-based art practice and collaborate with scientists to amplify topics of our moment in time.

Casey Burton is an artist from the South Side of Chicago. She received her B.F.A. in ceramics from the University of Iowa in 2019. Continuing exploration with clay, Casey was a post-baccalaureate student at the University of Kansas. From 2020 to 2022, Casey was an artist-in-residence at Cobb Mountain Art and Ecology project, where she raged wood kilns with the community and helped with land management. Casey is currently a second-year graduate student at Penn State, graduating this spring.

A&A Awards Archive

2023 Awards

2022 Awards

2021 Awards

2020 Awards