College of the Arts Honors

2021 COA Honorees

2021 College of the Arts Honors Day Virtual Celebration 

Congratulations honorees and graduates! The journey to this day has been filled with many successes and challenges. Your hard work, dedication, and perseverance have paid off. You are the leaders of today and tomorrow, we want you to know that Valdosta State University and the College of the Arts is very proud of your accomplishments. 

We recognize those students who have been selected by their program faculty as having achieved an exemplary level of performance, who have represented their disciplines as leaders. Dedication, excellence, hard work, discipline... these are just a few of the necessary attributes that a student must possess in order to be successful in their future.

Download the 2021 COA Honors Program (printable pdf)

2021 College of the Arts - Honors

  • Congratulations from Dean Blake Pearce

    Congratulations 2021 COA Honorees and Graduates!

    The artist Chuck Close stated:

    “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”

    The gift of talent is just that, a gift. How we use that talent and refine it to be something special is our responsibility, our calling. The awardees recognized below are those individuals who felt that they needed to run through it one more time, even though no one asked them to do so. They knew that there was always more out there; that re-working, reviewing, or doing it again was an opportunity, not a burden.

    These students worked to the point of exhaustion, through late hours in a studio, lab, practice room, the library, or in the field, but despite the level of exhaustion, there was no other place they would rather be. They recognized how valuable the experience of discovery, of failure, and resulting growth can be in an academic environment. You may not believe this today but you will miss it, and look back on the hardest days with fond memories.

    Congratulations again to our outstanding COA students. Have a wonderful summer, and please stay healthy and safe.

    A. Blake Pearce - Dean, College of the Arts

    Dean Blake Pearce

  • '21 Department of Art & Design


    Outstanding BA-Art Student: Christian Perry

    Hometown: Blackshear, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Art

    Post-Graduation Plans: Freelance graphic design and photography

    Christian is a very cerebral maker. His approach to process is masterful and awe-inspiring. His quiet demeanor becomes amplified with the socially conscious topics he chooses to create his art around. He exemplifies what a Bachelor of Arts is meant to be by crossing over many disciplines to help communicate his message. It has been a true pleasure watching him in the studio. - Evelyn Davis-Walker

    Sophia Dong

    Outstanding BFA-Art Student: Sophia Dong

    Hometown: Manhattan, NY
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Art

    Post-Graduation Plans: Starting a Business in Art/UI Design.

    Faculty Comments: I’ve had the pleasure of having Sophia Dong in many of my art history courses over the years. While she is a kind person and a good student, the trait I have always appreciated most is her thoughtfulness, which allows her to visualize worlds from other times and places -- both real and mythical. While I will feel her absence from my future courses, I look forward to seeing her share her own visions with others. - Glenda Swan

    Sarha Williams

    Dept. of Art & Design Excellence in Service Award: Sara Williams

    Hometown: Valdosta, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Art Education

    Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to teach elementary art at Northside Elementary School in Cairo, GA, where I was recently offered the position. In addition, I plan to attend Kennesaw State University for my MA in Art and Design with an emphasis in Art Education.

    Faculty Comments: Sara Williams is simply one of those people. One of those people who always makes you smile. One of those people who really listens. One of those people who always puts other people before herself. One of those people who inspires you to be one of those people. Thank you, Sara, for sharing so much of yourself with all of us. - Glenda Swan

    Anna Alyse Bowman

    Outstanding BFA-Art Education Student: Anna Alyse Bowman

    Hometown: Chickamauga, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Art Education

    Post-Graduation Plans: After graduation, my goal is to become a high school art teacher. Furthermore, I want to continue my career as an independent artist. My plan is to continue to push myself as an artist by entering art shows, working on commissions, and using my art in a charitable way!

    Faculty Comments: While there are many things to admire about Alyse Bowman, I was struck by the way in which she approached her coursework with the mind of an educator. Like so many excellent students, Alyse always made sure she understood directions, set goals, remained mindful of deadlines, and responded effectively to feedback. With Alyse, however, it was not uncommon to receive notes expressing how helpful an activity or resource was to her learning, or how she appreciated the time taken to provide her with feedback. I am so pleased to know that other students will soon be having such a gifted educator at the head of their own classroom. - Glenda Swan

    Allison Caughron

    Outstanding BFA- Interior Design Student: Allison Caughron

    Hometown: Sarasota, FL
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Interior Design

    Post-Graduation Plans: I recently accepted a job at Eridel Design Studio as a Junior Designer in Sarasota, FL.

    Faculty Comments: Allison is a very dedicated and hardworking student. She has been the treasurer for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) VSU Student Chapter, showing her strong leadership skills in this role. She has maintained a strong professional demeanor and a high level of skill in her student work. - Tommy Crane

    Hyejin Jeong

    Meritorious Accomplishment Award-Interior Design: Hyejin Jeong

    Hometown: Busan, South Korea
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Interior Design

    Post-Graduation Plans: While I will participate in the undergraduate ceremony on May 07, 2021 my actual graduation is August 2021.

    Faculty Comments: Hyejin has a strong design sense with unique creative approaches to using materials and finishes to produce strong design solutions. She has a well defined approach to her design thinking process and commitment to professionalism. - Tommy Crane  

    Madelynn Tahsler

    *College of the Arts Banner Carrier

    Outstanding Art Student - Overall: Madelynn Tahsler

    Hometown: Kennesaw, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Art

    Post-Graduation Plans: After Graduation I will be continuing my dedication to the ceramic arts and research as I teach workshops and attend artistic residencies across the nation. My career goals are to open a teaching studio and work in glaze research and development.

    Faculty Comments: Maddy is a relentless seeker of knowledge, who loves to hunt for that knowledge almost as much as the discovery itself because she finds so many new ideas along the way. However, she does not forge that path alone, as her enthusiasm for learning easily draws others into her investigations. The halls of this department will certainly miss the echo of her shared thoughts and queries, but we all look forward to hearing much more about what Maddy goes on to discover after graduation. - Glenda Swan

  • '21 Department of Communication Arts

    Olivia Rosenthal

    Creative Excellence – Dance: Olivia Rosenthal

    Hometown: Memphis, TN
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Dance

    Post-Graduation Plans: Stay Tuned!

    Faculty Comments: Olivia is intelligent, inquisitive, creative, driven, and humble – all of the makings of an artist. As a student at VSU she constantly pushes the faculty and her peers to continue questioning and creating. She has dedicated her time at VSU to explore herself as an artist and to refine her technique and performance skills as a dancer through countless hours of self-discovery and practice. She isn’t afraid to dig deep and draw out the hidden parts of herself that come through in her choreography and performance. At her best, she is fearless.
    – Sarah Wildes Arnett

    Olivia is an incredibly gifted student who is kind, creative, driven, reflective, and insightful. Her intelligence and intuitive abilities not only span her academic work, but allow her to exude creativity in her assignments for class and beyond to her personal interests in dance. She has been exceptional in all that she does in the dance program at VSU in her class work, performance, and personal research. It is clear that the dance field will gain an incredible artist and contributor when she graduates from VSU. – Nina Kossler

    Rachel Tessin

    Service Excellence – Dance: Rachel Tessin

    Hometown: Byron, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Dance

    Post-Graduation Plans: Upon graduating in May, I will be returning to Middle Georgia where I will be a full-time dance teacher at my home studio, Peacock's Performing Arts Center.

    Faculty Comments: It is rare to find a student so invested in the growth of their program of study beyond their own time at an institution. Rachel has shown time and time again how she dreams of the success of the dance program at VSU and has worked to establish new organizations, improvements, and a solid reputation for the BFA Dance. She was primary in establishing a new chapter of the National Honors Society for Dance Arts at VSU and has been a vital thread between the admissions office and the dance program. Always the first one to ask what needs to be done or what help is needed, it will be tough to see her go!
    – Sarah Wildes Arnett

    Rachel is one of the most empathic students and knows how to foster inclusion and raise the enthusiasm of anyone she is around. She is so dedicated to the growth of the dance program at VSU, as well as constantly raising the standards for excellence of our students. She is a role model and leader both in and out of the classroom, and she has been primary in building the National Honors Society for Dance Arts at VSU. She will be successful in whatever she sets her heart and mind to. She is incredibly intelligent both academic and socioemotionally, and will bring people and communities together wherever she goes. – Nina Kossler

     Laura Avila Rozo

    Academic Excellence – Dance: Laura Avila Rozo

    *Outstanding College of the Arts Award
    The College of the Arts Outstanding Student Award is selected from the College departmental award recipients. The student receiving this award is recognized for their academic achievement, research, and service activity within their departments, the university, and community. 

    Hometown: Bogota, Columbia
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Dance

    Post-Graduation Plans: I will start Masters Program in Dance / Movement Therapy at Rider University, New Jersey in Fall 2021.

    Faculty Comments:Laura is the kind of student every professor dreams of – she's driven, smart, talented, creative, and inquisitive. Graduating with a 4.0 GPA is only a small taste of her successes as a student in the BFA Dance at VSU. She cannot be outworked and her critical understanding of how the body exudes creative communication is incredible.
    – Sarah Wildes Arnett

    Laura can (and does) do everything. She is exceptional in her time management, organization, and dedication to her work. She is creative, curious, deeply reflective, and able to make connections across many aspects of her studies. Laura’s hard work does not go unnoticed by anyone, and her incredible research both embodied and written are unparalleled. She is going to make waves in the field! – Nina Kossler

    Catherine Senne

    Academic Excellence – Interpersonal Communication: Catherine Senne

    Hometown: Conyers, GA
    Degree/Program: BFA in Communication w/emphasis in Interpersonal Communication

    Post-Graduation Plans: I graduate in May 2022 - Stay Tuned!

    Faculty Comments: Cat was an excellent student, obviously, who not only worked hard academically but also represented the university well as a "Red Hot" (VSU Dance Team) while in my classes. She contributed to class frequently and put a considerable amount of effort into everything she did. I could call on her any time and know she had the answer ready.

    Ahyonna Pitts

    Academic Excellence – Organizational Communication: Ahyonna Pitts

    Hometown: Raleigh, NC
    Degree/Program: BFA in Communication w/emphasis in Organizational Communication

    Post-Graduation Plans: Working in Austin, Texas at Griffis Residential.

    Faculty Comments: Ahyonna was one of those students you are happy to have in class. She took control of her education and demonstrated she was here to learn by her actions. If I asked about a reading assignment in class, she had something thoughtful and meaningful to say about it. The work she turned in was exceptional, and it was obvious that she understood what was expected.

    Ahyonna is a very impressive young woman who immediately stands out in class. She is a hard worker, very fun, and always contributes. She will no doubt do great things and make an impact on whoever she meets.

    Kate Zerbian

    Academic Excellence – Theatre, Kate Zerbian

    Hometown: Orlando, FL
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Theatre (Performance)

    Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to work in Dallas over the summer and then will be part of a gap year program called The Forge from August 2021, to April 2022.

    Faculty Comments: Kate Zerbian is an Orlando based actor set to graduate from Valdosta State University in May 2021. She has had the opportunity to work in numerous shows at VSU as well as work at multiple summer camps over the past four years.

    Kathalina Thorpe

    Creative Excellence – Theatre: Kathalina Thorpe

    Hometown: Richlands, NC
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Theatre (Production)

    Post-Graduation Plans: I have been accepted to Kent State University in the fall for my MFA in Scenic Design.

    Faculty Comments: Kat’s skills as a student designer are surpassed only by her willingness to give her all to every task she undertakes. Not only is her work in class excellent, but her efforts in presenting her creative research outside of our production season is unprecedented by other production and design students. She has been a trailblazer for our students in demonstrating how to bridge the perceived gap between the work of creative artists and traditional research and scholarship. She has demonstrated impressive collaborative skills in working with her peers and with faculty, making every project she touches better for her contributions.

    It has been a pleasure and honor to work with Kat. We were nominated for the BSRI (Blazer Summer Research Institute) this last summer where we took on discovering if Worms would compost fabric waste. Kat did an amazing job collecting data and synthesizing it into the final presentation. She has taken that research and has submitted it to several undergraduate research opportunities and we were selected to share our research at SETC (Southeast Theatre Conference) in March. Kat is an amazing creative woman whose passion fills a room; she gives her all to every project. Kat is motivated and inspiring to those around her. I am so grateful I have been able to work with her and see her grow as a researcher and as a designer.

    Emma Marsico

    Service Excellence – Theatre: Emma Marsico

    Hometown: Orlando, FL
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Theatre (Production)

    Post-Graduation Plans: This summer I will be the Stage Manager for Peach State Summer Theatre.

    Faculty Comments: Emma is one of the finest students we have had in the Theatre program in recent memory. She not only works above and beyond the scope of her positions as a Student Assistant and a Stage Manager for our production season, but she is also leader among her peers. Her maturity, dependability, and excellent interpersonal skills have made her invaluable to our program. And while we are beyond proud of the bright future of theatrical work that is assuredly ahead of her, we will feel her loss sorely as a program as she has made herself an indispensable part of our world.

    Emma exhibited outstanding service when she, as a freshman, stage managed the very first show of her first year on campus. This production, with her help, was presented at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region IV the following semester. She has continued outstanding service throughout her time here at VSU by supervising various auditions processes, meeting prospective students and providing facility tours, and through her membership in the local chapter of USITT. - Duke Guthrie

    Cameron Davis

    Excellence in Production – Mass Media: Cameron Davis

    Hometown: St. Augustine, FL
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree with a Major in Mass Media

    Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to work as a videographer and video production director at universities in the United States, focusing on marketing for athletics.

    Faculty Comments: Mr. Davis has shown a genuine love of production since his first day
    on campus. Over time he has worked for the University creating content and started his
    own business. Each year, he continues to learn the latest trends and research the
    history of various production aspects. - Dorrian Baber

    Mr. Davis has demonstrated himself as an excellent student and person.
    Along with being a joy to work, seeing him reflect his family through his production has
    been a joy. His documentary about the family that migrated from Southeast Asia to
    America was technically proficient and full of heart and hope. - Jason Brown

    Tiana Larmond

    Academic Excellence – Mass Media: Tiana Larmond

    Hometown: Gwinnett County, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree with a Major in Mass Media & Dance

    Post-Graduation Plans: I will be moving back home and hopes to pursue a career in Mass Media.

    Faculty Comments: Tiana's decision to dedicate her MDIA 3100 blogs to analyzing the influence of media across various aspects of daily life demonstrated an advanced level of media competency. Furthermore, the standard to which the blogs (and nearly all assignments) were completed is worthy of acknowledgement. Combined with her professionalism and eagerness to learn, I believe these traits make Tiana a strong candidate for our writing award. - Joe Culverhouse 

    Tyesha Hines

    Overall Excellence – Mass Media: Tyesha Hines

    Hometown: Covington, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree with a Major in Mass Media

    Post-Graduation Plans: I would like to start my entrepreneurial journey as a freelance photographer/videographer and take the time to travel if possible.

    Faculty Comments: Tyesha Hines is a highly motivated aspiring media professional
    who is dedicated to working hard inside and outside of the classroom. She accepts constructive
    criticism and produces high quality work. She also works well with her peers, and we look
    forward to seeing more of her work after she graduates.

    Christian McGill

    Excellence in Writing – Mass Media: Christian McGill

    Hometown: Sandersville, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree with a Major in Mass Media

    Post-Graduation Plans: Right now, my plans after college are to work as a freelance video editor, working on my skills with Adobe Suite and gaining more experience. Eventually, I would like to move to Atlanta and find work as an editor for a post-house working on feature films.

    Faculty Comments: Christian's work was impressive for a handful of reasons. First, he effectively and accurately applied course methodologies and theories--no easy feat for an undergraduate student. Second, his work was both critical in nature and creative; the former was certainly an endgoal of the class, the latter was a bonus! Christian was able to think outside of the box and move beyond predictable topics for his media analyses, and instead examined topics such as the growth and cultural influence of emojis--as demonstrated (in part) in the film, Emojis. In another assignment, he explored the cultural growth, influence, and representation of "involuntary celibates" in media (ergo,"nice guys" in film), and questioned their cultural trajectory and impact moving forward. For these reasons and more, I would argue that Christian's work was not only effective in terms of his research, claims, and applicability of course concepts, but also that his ideas were original and thought-provoking. I always looked forward to reading his work and, when I did, time flew by because it was so well-written. I believe that he deserves recognition for his accomplishments and for the ways in which he took a topic like media criticism and made it his own. - Nicole Cox

    Christian McGill has the most substantial media writing knowledge of any person I know. In his second year here, he took on the task of writing two full-length scripts. With this challenge that he completed in 16 weeks, he had to research certain tropes of the genres he tackled to maintain authenticity. Through his excellent research, his scripts came out well. - Dorrian Baber

  • '21 Department of Music

    Larissa Jones

    Department of Music Outstanding Undergraduate Musician: Larissa Jones

    Hometown: Valdosta, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Music

    Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to attend Manhattan School of Music for a Master of Music in Jazz Voice.

    Faculty Comments: Larissa Jones, the 2021 VSU Outstanding Musician, has worked extremely hard to develop her musical and artistic skills as both a classical and jazz vocalist. Larissa's dedication and willingness to explore and learn are admirable. She has been a joy to teach, and her hard work has paid off by being chosen to be one of only seven singers in the Master of Music Vocal Jazz program at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where she will begin in the fall. Bravo Larissa! - Mark McQaude

    Before her junior year at VSU, Larissa Jones met with myself and Dr. McQuade to ask if she could be more involved with the Jazz program at VSU. We developed a plan for her final two years, where she took courses in jazz improvisation and secondary jazz piano, and also performed with the VSU Jazz Ensemble and Combos. In addition to those courses, Larissa dedicated herself to studying the great jazz masters and learning the repertoire. She has been an model student and it has been a pleasure to watch her initial interest blossom into a passion for the music. We will miss her at VSU, but look forward to seeing what she does in the future!
    - David Springfield

    Brooklynne McGonagle

    Outstanding Undergraduate Service, Music: Brooklynne McGonagle

    Hometown: Melbourne, FL
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Music with a Major in Music Performance (Horn)

    Post-Graduation Plans: Stay Tuned!

    Faculty Comments: Brooklynne has been Section Leader, Drum Major, and a member of the Visual Team for the past three years in Blazin' Brigade. She has also played bass for Hot Shots during basketball season as needed. She has been an invaluable member of Blazin' Brigade and the band department. Her leadership, talent, and dedication are present in all she does. Brooklynne has been a role model for her peers both in and out of the classroom.
    - Skye Holmes

    Brooklynne has been a responsible section leader in Wind Ensemble. She requires her section to have weekly sectionals, assists individuals with learning their parts, and instructs her section during rehearsal. Because of Brooklynne's leadership, the horn section is consistently the most prepared and cohesive section in Wind Ensemble. Brooklynne is a true asset to the band program. - Ben Harper

    Brooklynne McGonagle is a jewel. She has been the Peer Tutor in MUSC 2012 and has done a stellar job.  In MUSC 3010 Analysis she has also been a star. She just gave a paper today on the relationship between the principles of Greek rhetoric and Bach's fugues! She is a student leader and a catalyst for intellectualism among the music majors. She takes the initiative to do extra work. - Ken Kirk

    Eddy Castellanos

    Outstanding Student, Music: Eddy Castellanos

    Hometown: San Pedro Sula, Honduras
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Music with a Major in Music Performance (Violin)

    Post-Graduation Plans: My future plans are keeping my studies on a Master in Music Production and a Master in Business Administration.

    Congratulations Eddy Castellanos!

    Heroldany Artiga Jr.

    Billy Walker Band Award: Heroldany Artiga Jr.

    Hometown: Douglas, GA  
    Degree/Program:  Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Music (Education Track)

    Post-Graduation Plans: Dany plans to pursue a Master of Music at Bowling Green State University.

    In addition to performing with the Wind Ensemble, Blazin’ Brigade and Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, Dany Artiga has also been an important member of the VSU Jazz Ensemble. He is a solid and dependable lead trumpeter who is also capable of taking improvised solos. His versatility as a performer began at Coffee County High School, continued at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, before finishing his degree at VSU. I want to wish him the best of luck with his continued musical education, and I know his versatility as a performer will be an asset wherever he goes. - David Springfield

    Dany Artiga has served as co-principal trumpet in the VSU Wind Ensemble and a member of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra trumpet section. He has provided great leadership and mentorship to the underclassmen in the trumpet studio. He has been offered and accepted the graduate assistantship for the Graduate Brass Quintet position at Bowling Green State University. It has been a pleasure working and getting to know Dany these past two years, and I can't wait to see where life takes him. - Javian Brabham

    Ebony Bennett

    Outstanding Student Teacher, Music: Ebony Bennett

    Hometown: Columbia, SC
    Degree/Program: Master of Arts in Teaching in Music Education

    Post-Graduation Plans: My post graduation plans are to move to Athens and teach orchestra at W R Coile Middle School.

    Faculty Comments: I was Ebony Bennet’s supervisor for clinical practice (student teaching). Ms. Bennett also was in my string methods course. She is completing her clinical practice at Scholars Academy in Thomasville, Georgia under mentor teacher Dr. Sally Hernandez. Ebony is working with string students from 4th-12th grade and has conducted several pieces of music in concert. She has received high marks from my observations. She will graduate with the MAT degree and, most importantly, Ebony Bennett has signed a contract for employment as Orchestra Director for Coile Middle School, in Athens, Georgia; she begins August, 2021!
    - Tod Leavitt

    Robin Harrison


    Department of Music Outstanding Graduate Musician: Robin Harrison

    Hometown:  Houston, TX
    Degree/Program: Master of Music in Performance (Choral Conducting)

    Post-Graduation Plans: Stay Tuned!

    Faculty Comments: Robin Harrison has finished a strong first year of her master's degree in choral conducting. In addition to her responsibilities in the theory area, Robin serves as the student director of Spotlighters, our auditioned vocal pop/jazz choir. In her role as director, Robin organized the first full concert by this ensemble and also directed them for a performance to be featured on the Fund-Raising campaign, Shine Bright Like a Blazer. She arranged the music for that performance. She also writes and arranges music for the ensemble. Ms. Harrison also gives assistance and serves as assistant director for both Chamber Singers and Concert Choir. She enjoys the respect and admiration of the students and the other graduate students.- Clell Wright

    Catherine Yara

    Outstanding Graduate Service, Music: Catherine Yara

    Hometown: Ibague, Tolima, Columbia
    Degree/Program: Master of Music in Performance (Violin Performance)

    Post-Graduation Plans: Stay Tuned!

     Congratulations Catherine Yara!

2020 COA HonoreesDownload an archived 2020 COA Honors Program (pdf)

2020 College of the Arts - Honors

  • '20 Department of Art & Design

    Nariel Tribble

    Outstanding BA-Art Student: Nariel Tribble

    Hometown: Savannah, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Arts in Art

    Post-Graduation Plans: I graduate in Spring 2020. After these unfortunate circumstances the world is facing, I'm hoping and planning to study abroad in a year to attend a private metalsmithing course in Italy.

    Faculty Comments: Nariel is a wonderful student, arriving to class early, staying late, and always doing more than is asked of her for each assignment. Nariel never fails to help someone who is struggling, both during class and in her free studio time. More important than any of that, she is a kind and generous person. I have never met anyone that doesn't get along with Nariel. She has the power to unify a room full of disparate voices, just with her generosity, kindness, and easy wit. Nariel genuinely cares about her studies and gives everything she has to each endeavor she undertakes. Her absence will be felt in the metals studio for semesters to come.

    Shelby Coulter

    Outstanding BFA-Art Student: Shelby Coulter

    Hometown: Jackson, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art

    Post-Graduation Plans: To build a career in Graphic Design.

    Faculty Comments: From the very first day of classes, I immediately knew Shelby had a serious approach to learning how to be a professional artist. Shelby has developed into a risk-taking, taboo-breaking, force. She welcomes highly constructive criticism of her work both from group and one-on-one critiques. In the two years I have known Shelby, she has transformed into a confident and fierce seeker. A seeker of knowledge, of oneself, and of others.

    Viola Davis

    Dept. of Art & Design Excellence in Service Award: Viola Davis

    Hometown: Kingsland, GA
    Degree/Program: BFA in Art Education w/minor in Psychology

    Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to teach high school art in Georgia, and slowly work my way to graduate school, to get a masters in art therapy.

    Faculty Comments: Viola Davis is an incredible student and dedicates herself to serving the community. She works to raise critical consciousness inside and outside of the classroom. She dedicates herself to teaching others community events with Plough Gallery, the afterschool program at the Turner Center for the Arts, and VSU’s BioBlitz event. Beyond giving back to the community and providing quality art education, she works to develop professionally through her involvement with the VSU Art Education Student Chapter and her attendance at professional conferences like the Art and Education for Social Justice Symposium. Viola will change lives through her innovative curriculum and her culturally relevant pedagogy. Because of her exemplary service work in the program, department, and community, she has earned the Department of Art & Design Excellence in Service Award.

    Abby Mickler

    Outstanding BFA-Art Education Student: Abby Mickler

    Hometown: Jasper, FL
    Degree/Program: BFA in Art Education

    Post-Graduation Plans: Graduating May 2021.

    Faculty Comments: Abby Mickler is an amazing student and preservice teacher. She engages thoughtfully in all class assignments and discussions, shows in juried art shows, and excels in the k-12 classroom.

    Brooke Goins

    Outstanding BFA- Interior Design Student: Brook Goins

    Hometown: Douglasville, GA
    Degree/Program: BFA in Interior Design

    Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to get a job at a design firm and work towards getting my design certifications, as well as, eventually, starting my own house flipping business!

    Faculty Comments: Brooke was part of the team to receive the first place regional award for the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) student design competition. Her restaurant project design was also accepted into the VSU Juried Student Design Competition. Brooke continues to impress me with her outstanding work ethic and commitment to her interior design projects by going above and beyond project scope requirements.
    Brooke is a very dedicated student who shows a diligence in taking feedback and improving her designs and herself.

    Hae Seong Lee

    Meritorious Accomplishment Award-Interior Design: Haeseong Lee

    Hometown: Busan, Republic of Korea
    Degree/Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Interior Design

    Post-Graduation Plans: I’m searching for the job!

    Faculty Comments: Haeseong was one of two students to have his project selected for entry to the Steelcase NEXT Student Design Competition and was also in the top three submissions for the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) student design competition. His restaurant project was also accepted into the VSU Juried Student Design Competition. Haeseong has an amazing work ethic and continues to produce professional quality work. Haeseong shows a huge dedication to his work where he integrates his cultural background. His work shows very strong architectural influence.

    Rachel McKenzie Mathis

    *College of the Arts Banner Carrier

    Outstanding Art Student - Overall: Rachel Mathis

    Hometown: Nashville, GA
    Degree/Program: BA in Interior Design

    Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to stay with my current employer, Chicken Salad Chick, and transition into a management position with the opening of the Tifton location.

    Faculty Comments: I have witnessed Rachel maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA during this time, placing her on the Dean’s list every semester she has been at VSU. She has been nominated as a representative for the 2020 Georgia Legislative Academic Recognition Day and nominated for the Anne Powe Hopper Award. Rachel also holds the honor of having some of her art shown in the Dedo Maranville Art Gallery here on VSU’s campus.

    Rachel is the type of student that an educator realizes has a clear focused goal in life not just school. She is receptive to constructive criticism, shows a desire to succeed, and questions existing methodologies to discover ones that work for her. Determined, resourceful, energetic, and unyielding in her quest for knowledge are just a few ways to describe Rachel. With her skill set and with her desire for learning, she is capable of achieving success at anything she applies herself to.
    Rachel received an Honorable Mention award for her Steelcase NEXT project as part of the VSU Juried Student Design Competition completed in the Interior Design Studio V course. She is an extremely strong student who is especially detail oriented in her research and is very gifted with working with color and pattern in her work.

  • '20 Department of Communication Arts

    Taylor Sanders

    Academic Excellence – Dance: Taylor Sanders

    Hometown: Valdosta, GA
    Degree/Program: Dance Major

    Post-Graduation Plans: I will continue teaching dance until eventually move on to dancing professionally.

    Faculty Comments: Taylor Sanders is the finest example of when hard work, determination, and dedication intersect. Her perseverance to go from a raw and inexperienced freshman stepping in for her first formal ballet class to an artist who knows who she is, ready to put her mark on the world.

    Erykah Finklea

    Service Excellence – Dance: Erykah Finklea

    Hometown: Palmetto, FL
    Degree/Program: Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Dance

    Post-Graduation Plans: I have taken a position at the Bradenton Branch YMCA of Manatee County as the Director of the dance program as well as dance instructor. I am currently in the process of getting my educators certification in Florida to then have the ability to teach dance in a public or private school setting. I will continue teaching dance until eventually move on to dancing professionally.

    Faculty Comments: Erykah was always the first student to respond to any need of the program, no matter how large or small. She regularly stepped up as a student leader to serve the program through clubs and organizations and assisted the faculty in Open Houses, and in any other way that she could.

    Xenia Dickey

    Academic Excellence – Organizational Communication: Xenia Dickey

    Hometown: Copiague, NY
    Degree/Program: BFA in Communication w/emphasis in Organizational Communication

    Post-Graduation Plans: Attend grad school in the Fall of 2020 at VSU in pursuit of a MAIC

    Faculty Comments: Xenia is one of the hardest working students in our department. She is wonderful in the classroom and incredibly helpful to her peers, assisting them in any and every way she can.

    Natalie Roberts

    Academic Excellence – Public Relations: Natalie Roberts

    Degree/Program: BFA in Communication w/emphasis in Public Relations
    Hometown: Valdosta, GA

    Faculty Comments: Natalie is so thoughtful and creative in her work. She goes above and beyond and exemplifies what an outstanding student is.

    Presley Lovins

    Academic Excellence – Interpersonal Communication: Presley Lovins

    Hometown: Villa Rica, GA
    Degree/Program: BFA Communication/Interpersonal Communication & Dance Minor

    Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to pursue a career in creative feminist media in Miami, FL. I hope to teach somatic dance classes and write online articles as well.

    Faculty Comments: Presley Lovins is a self-motivator who is perceptive, and reliable for quality work. Her bubbly personality also makes her a real delight to people around her.

    Jackson Whipple

    Academic Excellence – Theatre, Jackson Whipple

    Hometown: Melbourne, FL
    Degree/Program: BFA in Theater - Emphasis in Performance

    Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to write a play to submit at a variety of contests. I also want to audition at a variety of theaters once the social distancing threat has decreased enough.

    Faculty Comments: Jackson has had a significant presence both on our stage and in the classroom. It has been a pleasure to watch him develop his skills and mature as an artist. He will be greatly missed.

    Allyson Broyles

    Research Excellence – Theatre: Catherine “Allyson” Broyles

    Hometown: Hahira, GA
    Degree/Program: Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Theatre Performance, Theatre Management, and History

    Post-Graduation Plans: After my graduation in May 2020, I plan to work as a Literary Intern with the Florida Studio Theatre during their 2020/2021 season.

    Faculty Comments: Allyson has contributed mightily to the theatrical experience at Valdosta State University with her dramaturgy by assisting actors, directors and designers as well as the community at large. Her recognition for this work is evident through the response of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. We are so proud of you!

    Olivia Rosener

    Academic Excellence – Mass Media: Olivia Rosener

    Hometown: Fort Mill, SC
    Degree/Program: Mass Media Communications

    Post-Graduation Plans: I will be graduating in December 2020!

    Faculty Comments: Olivia’s videos, assignments and performances in our various production classes were accomplished with high quality, good humor, and a relaxed ease. Students like Olivia make our teaching jobs rewarding and memorable. She is a born leader.

  • '20 Department of Music

    Caleb Harris

    *College of the Arts Outstanding Student

    Department of Music Outstanding Undergradaute Musician: Caleb Harris

    Hometown: Sylvania, GA
    Degree/Program: BA Music, Education Track

    Caleb was selected as the Department of Music Outstanding Musician for his excellence in performance area and general outstanding work throughout his time at VSU. Caleb has accepted an Assistantship at Columbus State University and also was offered an Assistantship at Arkansas State University. This is the highest honor of the Department of Music and Caleb was also chosen by College of the Arts as Outstanding COA graduate.

    While at VSU, Caleb was an active member of many ensembles and a leader in his performance area. He performed with the Blazin’ Brigade Marching Band, baritone section leader 2 years, staff member 1 year; Wind Ensemble, principal chair-euphonium all four years; New Jazz Ensemble, trombone;
    Jazz Ensemble, trombone; Opera Orchestra, “Hot Shots” Basketball Band; Tuba and Euphonium Ensemble; Trombone Ensemble; Euphonious Quartet; Blazin’ Brass Quartet. Caleb was also selected to perform at the Honors Recital for the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra in 2019 as well as being selected a s Southeast Regional Tuba/Euph Conference Finalist for 2018 and 3rd place Young Artist winner in 2017.

    “Caleb has consistently shown determination to improve and curiosity about music in all forms. He has proven himself to be a leader in the department and set a high bar for those around him to try to meet.” Dr. Charles Goodman”

    Chelsie Jenkins

    Outstanding Service, Music: Chelsie Jenkins

    Hometown: Port Richey, FL
    Degree/Program: BA in Music with an emphasis in Education

    Post-Graduation Plans: I will be attending Texas Tech University in the Fall to pursue a Masters in Music Education
    Congratulations to Chelsie Castellanos (formerly Jenkins), percussionist and graduating with her BA in Music in the education track in May. Chelsie has been a vital and active member of the Department of Music family since the day she arrived. She has participated in the Blazin' Brigade, Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble and Steel Band. She served as Front Ensemble Captain and also assisted as technician for the Front Ensemble with Ware County High School. An active member of Sigma Alpha Iota, she is always around our building either assisting one of our ensembles, practicing or just generally helping others. She is one of the few students in our program history to serve as a member of the stage crew for Wednesday Recitals since her freshman year and has been a wonderful representative for our Music Major Experience. Chelsie accepted an offer to begin her Master of Music in Education at Texas Tech University.

    “Chelsie has been a joy to work with during the last four years. I have watched her grow into a confident musician and excellent leader to her peers. She has served the Department of Music in so many ways, this honor and recognition is well-deserved. I wish her the best in her future endeavors as a music educator, wherever it may take her.” Dr. Ryan Smith

    Andrew Copeland

    Outstanding Student, Music: Andrew Copeland

    Hometown: Jacksonville, Fl
    Degree/Program: BA, Music Education track

    Post-Graduation Plans: Continuing on into the MAT program at Valdosta State University.
    Andrew will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Music in the education track. Andrew won the Outstanding Student Award for the Department of Music based on having the highest GPA of any graduating senior with a 3.88. His work has been consistently outstanding over four years and he has performed with the Blazin’ Brigade Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, Opera Orchestra, and the Sonorous Brass Quintet.
    He will begin his teacher certification in the MAT in Music Education this summer.

    “Andrew has talent and an outstanding work ethic. With these attributes I watched him improve and grow each week in the horn studio. He was an absolute joy to teach.”
    Dr. Kristen Johns

    Breanna Hagy

    Billy Walker Band Award: Breanna Hagy

    Hometown: Perry, GA
    Degree/Program: BA, Music General (Percussion) emphasis in Media

    Post-Graduation Plans: Pursue a Masters in Audio Engineering
    Breanna was selected for her broad and consistent excellence in serving the band program during her time at VSU. This award is given to one student each year who has demonstrated outstanding musical growth and leadership in all aspects of the band program at VSU. Breanna has served in Wind Ensemble as principal percussionist, as drum major and percussion captain in Blazin’ Brigade marching band, and in the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra. Breanna graduates this spring and will continue her education in music production.

    “Breanna has served the bands in almost every capacity possible, most notably as drum major of the Blazin’ Brigade and percussion section leader in Wind Ensemble. She has demonstrated outstanding musicianship and leadership during her tenure. Breanna is a dedicated musician, a thoughtful leader, and a good human being. We will miss Breanna greatly next year!” Dr. Benjamin Harper

    Hope Lamb

    Outstanding Student Teacher, Music: Hope Lamb

    Hometown: St. Simons Island, GA
    Degree/Program: Masters of Arts in Teaching in Music Education

    Post-Graduation Plans: Following graduation, Hope plans to stay in Valdosta where she has accepted a job at Moulton-Branch Elementary School as the music teacher for grades kindergarten through 5th grade. Hope will graduate with the MAT in Music Education this summer.  She received her BA in Music from VSU last spring and looks forward to her new job here in Valdosta. She has been offered and accepted a position at Moulton-Branch Elementary School as their new Music Teacher! 

    “Hope Lamb is extraordinarily dedicated to professional growth as a musician and educator as seen throughout her VSU undergraduate and certification programs. Her readiness today assures her embarking upon a career of music teacher leadership for the 21st century. With a deeply embedded passion for teaching and learning, she designs, adapts, and delivers a curriculum that is diverse, creative, and rigorous to engage all whose pathway leads her classroom. We celebrate her numerous accomplishments, and eagerly look forward her career as that teacher who can make the difference.  Congratulations, Hope!”  Dr. Anita Davis

    Hunter McGuary

    Department of Music Outstanding Graduate Musician: Hunter McGuary

    Hometown: Hernando, MS
    Degree/Program: Master of Music Performance-Trombone

    Post-Graduation Plans: I have accepted a Trombone Studio Teaching Assistantship at Florida State University, where I will be pursuing a Doctor of Music in Trombone Performance under the tutelage of Dr. John Drew.

    Hunter was selected as the Outstanding Graduate Musician due to his outstanding performances and leadership role in many ensembles. Hunter performed with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Opera Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Presidential Brass Quintet, Trombone Ensemble as well as with area churches, the Albany Symphony Orchestra and occasionally with Joe Smothers duo. Hunter also won the 2020 Valdosta Symphony Orchestra concerto competition and was featured soloist early in spring of 2020. 

    Based on his successful spring auditions, he was admitted into the Doctor of Musical Arts programs at Florida State University, University of Colorado at Boulder and Indiana University. 

    “Hunter worked extremely hard every week to improve his abilities, expertise and musicianship as a trombonist, and his efforts paid off by his acceptance into three of the most prestigious music programs in the United States.  I am excited about his future and acceptance of the offer to begin his Doctorate of Musical Arts degree at FSU.”  Dr. Doug Farwell

    Hilary Brooks

    Outstanding Graduate Service, Music: Hilary Brooks

    Hometown: Folkston, GA
    Degree/Program: Master of Music in Performance Degree in Vocal Performance

    Post-Graduation Plans: Accepted new teaching position at Camden County teaching science and AP Music Theory.
    Congratulations to Hilary Brooks-M.M.P. Voice. Hilary holds the B.A. in Music and B.S. in Chemistry degrees, both summa cum laude, and the M.A.T. in Secondary Education, all from VSU. She will graduate with her M.M.P. degree in Vocal Performance in May. She has been the Graduate Teaching Assistant and Instructor of Record in the Music Theory Area, taught applied voice, and held other assistantship duties in the Opera, Choral, and Perspectives Areas. A former high school chemistry teacher, she loves being in the classroom and has filled in on short notice on multiple occasions.

    “Hilary Brooks is the perfect music theory teaching assistant. A former high school chemistry teacher, she has a fine analytical mind, which is invaluable for her understanding and teaching of the subject matter. She is conscientious to a fault, and if she tells you she will do something, you don't need to give it another thought.” Dr. Kenneth Kirk