Antoinette Westphal College Welcomes New Faculty Members for Academic Year 2022-23
September 16, 2022
Drexel's Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design welcomes fourteen new faculty members for the 2022-23 academic year. The incoming faculty represent programs across the College's departments, and come from impressive careers in the industry and higher education.
Kaisha Blackstone, Assistant Teaching Professor, Music Industry
Kaisha Askins Blackstone is the embodiment of the phrase “well rounded musician.” She has been a touring background singer for Billboard topping artists and is an accomplished businesswomen specializing in music and media publishing, branding, and finance in the music business.
While recording and singing around the world, her desire for business never faded and her strength in cultivating and promoting quality music grew. In 2001, Blackstone launched Ray’s Sister Publishing, LLC, a Music Publishing Administration and Web, Print and Media Branding company. In 2009 Blackstone partnered with her husband, to start BASSic Black Entertainment, LLC (BBE). BBE is a full music service company that provides live music production, connecting artists and musicians, and studio production. Under the same moniker, they launched BBE Records in 2013.
In 2020, Kaisha sought to find a path for the next generation in the music and entertainment business and established The Youth Creative Initiative (501c3). She currently sits on the executive board of the Recording Academy (Grammys) Philadelphia Chapter and has served as an ambassador on their National Diversity, Equality & Inclusion committee. She was honored as a 2020 Top Women in Business by Delaware Today Magazine.
Kaisha's expansive background keeps her as a sought after resource for the music community and as her core values of faith and family center her, she continues to expand her musical empire.
Rachel Mednick Higgins, Instructor of Design and Merchandising
Rachel Mednick holds a BS from Drexel University in Fashion Design & Merchandising and a Master's Degree of Professional Studies in Business of Fashion from LIM. Rachel is an advocate for circular fashion and after building and selling her children's clothing brand, she switched her focus to fashion education in order to make a bigger impact on creating change within the industry. Rachel currently teaches at Drexel University in the Design & Merchandising Program. She is active in the Philadelphia fashion community leading the Sustainability Committee for the Philadelphia Fashion and Garments Task Force and is the Clothing/Textile Coalition Leader for All Together Now PA where she is working on building out the textile supply chain for the state of Pennsylvania, working to unite rural and urban communities through textiles.
Monika Julien Assistant Teaching Professor, Music Industry
Over the past decade, Monika has been creating, executing, and overseeing music marketing strategies and programs for globally-recognized brands such as Red Bull, Converse, and more. Her creative and forward-thinking mindset towards the music business landscape has allowed her to work on some of the world’s most prolific branded music campaigns – from unique concert series to artist collaborations.
Before joining Drexel University’s Music Industry faculty, Monika led Red Bull’s culture marketing strategy and programming in New York City. Monika oversaw multi-disciplined project teams and campaigns for events including Red Bull Music Festival, Red Bull Culture Clash, Red Bull BC One, and Red Bull Skate NYC Stages. Additionally, she empowered independent music creators, promoters, and cultural scene leaders through building and nurturing community partnerships and supporting local events.
Prior to her time at Red Bull, Monika was an Account Director at Cornerstone Agency and The FADER, a strategic marketing and creative agency and a leading cultural media company that have been at the forefront of facilitating brand and music partnerships for over two decades. At Cornerstone and The FADER, Monika oversaw music marketing campaigns and programs for brands like Converse, Sonos, Spotify, and Pabst Blue Ribbon, among others. Notably, she played a major role in expanding Converse’s groundbreaking community-based program Converse Rubber Tracks from a single recording studio in Brooklyn to a global music platform for emerging and established artists.
Monika is an alum of Drexel University’s Music Industry program. While she was a student, Monika served as Program Director and DJ at the university’s award-winning college radio station WKDU.
M. Marie Mastrobattista, Assistant Teaching Professor, Interior Design
M. Marie Mastrobattista is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Interior Design at Drexel University. Marie holds two M.S. degrees from Drexel University in Interior Architecture & Design and Design Research and a B.A. in Art History from Rutgers University with a minor in Entrepreneurship. She is a certified LEED Green Associate and prioritizes environmentally and socially sustainable design, place-based design, and interdisciplinary collaboration in both her teaching and design practice.
Marie’s professional scope of work includes senior living, multifamily affordable and market-rate housing, single-family residential, educational, and commercial design. She practices as an Interior Designer with Kramer+Marks Architects and maintains private consulting projects where her work has been featured in Philadelphia Magazine.
Previously serving as an adjunct with Drexel’s program, Marie has taught studio, technology, and design history courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and has served as a juror for many design reviews, including graduate thesis. She has also taught interior design and has been invited as a guest lecturer on design for primary, middle, and high school students. Prior to her career as an interior designer, Marie worked in museums, art galleries, and auction houses. As a historian with a specialization in design history and material culture, she brings her encyclopedic knowledge to the program’s design history sequence.
Marie is an active member of the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC), the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), and is pursuing her NCIDQ license. She also serves on the board of the local non-profit, Youth Design Philly. With the philosophy that everyone deserves access to good design, the organization prioritizes expanding access to design education for local Philadelphia students and provides pro bono design services to low-income families in the city.
Ricardo Zapata, Assistant Teaching Professor, Studio Art
Ricardo Zapata is a Miami, FL born artist and educator currently living and working in Philadelphia, PA. Through an interdisciplinary studio practice, he explores notions of power struggle, displacement, transgression, and anxiety through investigations of personal and historical events and the history of urbanism, activism, and colonialism. The resulting work in painting, drawing and sculpture find common aesthetic ground in the use of naturalistic representation, text, and the fracturing of space and form. His work has been exhibited in the United States and abroad and featured in the Washington Post. He is a member of Pink Noise Projects, a collectively-run project space in Philadelphia that aims to provide opportunities for emerging and under-represented artists. He received his MFA in painting and certificate in Graphic Design from PennDesign, the University of Pennsylvania and his BFA in painting with minor in Art History from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Before coming to teach at Drexel, he taught at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University; Pennsylvania State University in Abington; University of Pennsylvania, Arcadia University, and Moore College of Art and Design.
Alexus Aiken, Visiting Instructor, Digital Media
Alexus Aiken is a Visiting Instructor in Digital Media with a focus in animation and an interest in real-time collaborative animation. She earned a B.S. in Animation and Visual Effects from Drexel University in 2021 and an M.S. in Digital Media from Drexel University in 2022.
Antonio Martinez-Molina, Associate Professor of Architecture
Toni is a licensed architect with a PhD in Architecture gained in 2016 at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), Spain, and he is currently an Associate Professor at Drexel University, Department of Architecture, Design & Urbanism, where he leads the Architectural Technology Curriculum. He has broad international experience in sustainable architectural design obtained in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Denmark, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, and the United States. His research activities are focused on sustainable design, building technology, and occupant comfort, health and well-being. While he currently conducts the bulk of his research at Drexel University, he is also collaborating with The University of Auckland (UoA), The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Pennsylvania State University, and The California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) at The University of California-Davis. The majority of his research experience has been gained in Europe and in the United States. Notably, he spent two years as a Visiting Scholar at the Building Energy Technology Laboratory (BETLab) at North Carolina State University in the field of technology and sustainable design, worked as a Research Associate with the Welsh School of Architecture (WSA) at Cardiff University, United Kingdom, where he worked on UK's first low carbon, positive-energy, smart house. Additionally, he was an Assistant Professor of high performance building design at The School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) in The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), leading the Building Performance Laboratory (BPLab). Lastly, he is also a skilled educator with a Masters degree in teaching and with lecturing experience at Drexel, UTSA, NCSU, and UPV. His current role as an Associate Professor at Drexel brings together the skills he has honed in through his diverse pedagogical and research experience and allows him to implement low-carbon technologies into sustainable designs for the creation of a more comfortable, healthy, and efficient built environment, particularly focusing on vulnerable population.
Ali Howel Abolo, Associate Professor and Program Director of Fashion Design
Dr. Howell Abolo's research focuses on critical theory, intersectional theory, and social justice through examination of dress practices and behaviors among groups of womxn. She uses this framework to build pedagogical research that engages students in learning research methods through course work.
Her teaching philosophy centers on a compassionate pedagogy and promoting student centered teaching and learning. Her mission is to create access and equity in fashion education through diverse modalities and teaching methods.
Prior to joining Drexel University, Dr. Howell Abolo was an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the Fashion Merchandising and Design program, and the Director of General Education at Meredith College. She is active in the International Textiles and Apparel Association (ITAA) and National Retail Federation (NRF).
Joseph Marsini, Assistant Professor, Television & Media Management
Joe Marsini teaches media business to students across multiple departments, including Film & Television, Entertainment & Arts Management, and the Paul F. Harron Television & Media Management Graduate Program. His teaching style focuses on making complex business concepts more accessible to non-business majors. Joe’s finance and accounting background, combined with his television industry expertise, provides a unique perspective to Westphal students pursuing a career in the media industry. Joe always keeps his course content topical in response to the rapidly changing media business.
Joe was a practicing CPA while working for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Arthur Andersen before specializing in the media industry. He has served as the Director of Finance of NBC10 WCAU-TV, the NBC owned-and-operated television station in Philadelphia, where he was responsible for all financial operations of one of the leading television stations in the fourth largest market in the United States. His specialties include audience measurement, programming, market positioning, launching new show formats, sales forecasting, financial planning and analysis, and related industry and technology trends.
Joe attended the University of Delaware, where he also spent time as a DJ on the University radio station before deciding that his talents were better suited for a career in the business side of broadcasting.
Alesa Rubendall, Assistant Teaching Professor, Associate Director of Student Placement
Alesa Rubendall, AIA, LEED BD+C, joins the Antoinette Westphal’s College of Media Arts + Design community as an Assistant Teaching Professor and the Associate Director of Student Placement in the Department of Architecture, Design + Urbanism. In her role a professor, she will focus on teaching various design studios and is excited to explore the intersections of design agency and the public realm through urban design, landscape urbanism, and architecture. As the Associate Director of Student Placement, she will assist students in bridging between the classroom and the workplace, provide guidance on their professional development and support their ultimate transition into the design profession; steward connections between the Philadelphia design community and the department; and be a liaison for firms seeking suitable Drexel candidates for employment.
In addition to teaching, Alesa is a registered architect with over 20 years’ experience in a wide array of project scale and types that include institutional, civic, educational, commercial, residential, and master planning. In 2016, Alesa started her own practice, Design Moxie Architecture + Planning, which primarily focuses on educational and residential projects.
In her free time, Alesa is an engaged advocate and leader in the Philadelphia region. She has recently served in numerous leadership positions and different organization at the city and state levels, including serving as a board member for AIA Philadelphia, AIA Pennsylvania, and Green Building United. She also served as co-chair for the Philadelphia AIA Women In Architecture (WIA) committee for nearly a decade. Currently, Alesa serves as the Founder and Co-Director of PATINA (Philadelphia Architects Teach Innovation Networking + Agency), a mentorship program and endowed scholarship that was designed to build a pipeline in the architecture profession for talented young ladies attending high school who often come from under- and unrepresented communities.
She received her Bachelor of Architecture from Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science (now Thomas Jefferson University) and then attended the University of Texas at Austin to complete her Master of Architecture with a concentration in sustainable design and planning.
Daniel E. Coslett, Assistant Professor of Architecture
Daniel E. Coslett, Ph.D., is a scholar of architectural and urban history. His interests center on the place of the historical built environments within contemporary cities. He explores the ways in which surviving traces of the past are preserved, interpreted, experienced and exploited today, and how they contribute to urban life while inspiring urban identities. His research specialties include architecture and planning of the modern era, built environments of European colonialism, archaeology and heritage management, and tourism in North Africa and the Mediterranean region (particularly in Tunisia and Cyprus).
A native of southeast Pennsylvania, Coslett studied political science and classics at Davidson College and the history of architecture and urban development at Cornell University. He then received an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the built environment (history, theory, and representation studies) from the University of Washington. He joined the faculty at Drexel University in 2022, having previously taught at Western Washington University (2013–22) in the Department of Art & Art History. There he taught art and architectural history survey courses (on ancient, medieval, and 19th-century material), upper-level lecture courses (on modern architectural history and theory and built environments of colonial North Africa and India), and seminars on architectural analysis, monuments, and the architectures of tourism and travel. At the University of Washington (2018–22) in Seattle, Coslett offered courses on architectural history and theory, global built environments, and historic preservation at the Departments of Architecture, Urban Design and Planning, and the College of Built Environments.
Coslett has published several edited volumes and book chapters on colonial architecture, global built environments, and heritage, as well as articles in publications including the International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Public Historian, and the Journal of North African Studies. He is an active member of the Society of Architectural Historians and an assistant editor for the International Journal of Islamic Architecture.
Ivan Barias, Instructor, Music Industry
Ivan Barias is a music producer, songwriter, composer and engineer with over 20 years of music industry experience. His introduction to the industry came when he was introduced to DJ Jazzy Jeff and was then invited to be a part of his A Touch Of Jazz producer collective. It was there where he met songwriter Carvin Haggins with whom he went on to form a formidable songwriting and production partnership under the brand of Carvin & Ivan. He has received numerous awards and accolades for his songwriting and production and has been nominated three times for a GRAMMY in the Best R&B Song category. For his production work, he has received an additional nineteen GRAMMY nominations and has been recognized by ASCAP multiple times for his work as a songwriter and composer. He has produced and written music for artists such as Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Jazmine Sullivan, Justin Timberlake, Phony Ppl, Meg Thee Stallion, Chrisette Michele, Keyshia Cole, 2 Pac, Chris Brown, Mario, Mary J. Blige, Estelle, Raheem Devaughn, Ledisi, Jaheim, Faith Evans, Freeway, Rick Ross and many others.
As a composer he wrote the theme for the animated series “We Bare Bears” which was performed by Estelle and was also a composer for the film “Unfinished Business” which chronicled the history of the WNBA’s New York Liberty basketball team. Ivan is the former president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Recording Academy (’12-’15), and also served on the Academy’s Board of Trustees (’16-’20). He recently completed a 4 year term as the Co-Chair of the GRAMMY Producers & Engineers Wing and currently serves on the GRAMMY Songwriters and Composers Wing Leadership Council. In 2011 he was selected as a Creative Ambassador for the city of Philadelphia as part of the city’s GPTMC program and was also an Ambassador for the Philadelphia 76ers community Basketball League La Liga del Barrio. In addition to Ivan's musical achievements he helped establish a non-profit educational initiative called DASH (Destined to Achieve Successful Heights) which teaches high school students music production and songwriting in a partnership with Philadelphia School District.
Ivan believes it is important to bolster the music industry ecosystem by empowering the next generation of music creators and music executives. As a speaker, he has shared his music business experience at many industry related events and has been a guest speaker on several music industry panels (SXSW, Future of Music Coalition, Music Business Association,The Recording Academy, ASCAP) and has been a guest lecturer at various academic institutions (Drexel, New York University, Rowan and University of Pennsylvania).
Jeffrey Stanley, Visiting Assistant Professor, Screenwriting & Playwriting
Jeffrey Stanley is a screenwriter, playwright, performance artist, filmmaker, director, and 2022-24 Fulbright Alumni Ambassador. He was a 2018-19 Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in India where he researched theatre and film history, about which he is currently writing a book. He has won numerous screenwriting awards and has optioned or been hired to write scripts for Peter Farrelly & Charles B. Wessler, GreeneStreet Films, Barbara Kopple's Cabin Creek Films, Andrew Lauren Productions, and others. His award-winning short film Lady in a Box starring Sarita Choudhury has been licensed numerous times for international broadcast and distribution, and he has worked as a script consultant for UK-based Initialize Films and an analyst and judge for the Script Savvy Screenplay Contest. Stanley's stage play Tesla's Letters (Samuel French, 2000) premiered to rave reviews Off Broadway in 1999 and went on to national and international productions including the Edinburgh Fringe. He is a past president of the board of directors of the legendary New York Neo-Futurists experimental theatre ensemble, he has been a fellow at Yaddo, a Copeland Fellow at Amherst College, and a guest screenwriting lecturer at the Imaginary Academy summer film and theatre workshop in Croatia sponsored by the Soros Foundation. He was one of 24 writers chosen from over 16,000 entrants for the first Amtrak Writers Residency in 2014-15, and served as a residency judge for the 2015-16 competition. Stanley has appeared as a guest writer in the Washington Post, New York Times, Time Out New York, New York Press, Brooklyn Rail, and Contingent Magazine, he was a senior editorial adviser to Boston University's Center for Millennial Studies' book on apocalypse movements The End That Does (Equinox Books, 2006), and he is a member playwright of the invitation-only International Theatre Initiative (ITI), a UNESCO-sponsored world theatre education program. He holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University Tisch School of the Arts where he studied under playwrights David Ives and Tony Kushner, and a BFA from Tisch in Film & Television Production. He has taught a course he created, Theatre History for Actors, at the Lee Strasberg Institute. In addition to teaching at Drexel, he is an adjunct faculty at NYU Tisch.
Kimberly McGlonn, Instructor, Design & Merchandising
Dr. Kimberly McGlonn is an advocate for justice & environmentalism, advocacy that informs her approach to leadership in the fashion industry. As Founder & CEO of the manufacturing start-up & B Corp Grant Blvd, she oversees the creative direction and growth strategy of the brand. Ultimately, Grant Blvd’s mission is to construct stylish, sustainably sourced fashion by reducing waste to landfills and by creating living wage jobs for women, particularly those who are formerly incarcerated. Outside of these roles, Kimberly disrupts by guiding other social entrepreneurs in discovering their purpose, via her digital community, “Build It Boldly” and her podcast, "School for Disrupters".
Her work has been featured by Fast Company, Inc Magazine, WWD, and has been funded by Beyonce’s BeyGood Foundation. In 2022 she was a recipient of the Visa’s “She’s Next in Fashion Award” and she was also honored with the Black Enterprise “Business Disruptor of the Year” award.