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Hadiya Bynoe-Seabron and Karla Roberts Win Graduate Excellence Awards

July 15, 2021

Interiors graduate students Hadiya Bynoe Seabron and Karla Roberts were selected as recipients of 2021 Research Excellence Awards presented by Drexel University to recognize student work with a significant impact on the field or society. The awards honor graduate students who have completed original and innovative research, scholarship, or creative work during their career at Drexel. Awardees receive a cash prize and are announced during Commencement. Four other students, Shannah Bowers, Mizuki Davis, Tiffany England, and Emily Grigsby, were also nominated for Graduate Awards.

Hadiya Bynoe-Seabron was recognized for “excellence in her research and deep engagement with pressing contemporary concerns.” During her studies Hadiya has worked towards “decolonizing design”—a critical issue facing our field—undertaking research into designers who do not fit the traditional canon but have contributed significantly to design. Her thesis further takes on questions of belonging, considering the context of hyper-mobility and intersecting identities, in an underserved neighborhood in North Philadelphia. Focusing on a group of nineteenth century rowhouses in Philadelphia’s Sharswood neighborhood, her project emphasizes the importance of home, community, and belonging in an area of historical displacement. In addition to this work, Hadiya was previously recognized by Metropolis Magazine among the Future 100 designers, and has served as a Graduate Assistant in the Interiors program. 

Karla Roberts received the award for Most Original and Creative Work on the strength of her thesis, which uses the visual medium of graphic novel to highlight a speculative world, basing the project in a historical moment. Fourteen African women freed themselves from a slave ship during their transatlantic crossing. In Karla’s narrative, eight of these women survive and pass through a portal to an alternate universe called the Sovereign Republic of Uhuru. The narrative embeds the dual nature of their lives and freedoms on Uhuru with the lives they might have lived had they been recovered to the slave ship. The actual spaces Karla has chosen to tell her story, highlight Black struggle and triumph, from plantations and slave auctions to free Black communities such as Seneca Village. These recaptured spaces in Karla’s narrative now nurture and feed Black life and creativity, and are no longer rooted in trauma. Karla has drawn upon this research in curating a Westphal College film series highlighting different aspects of the BIPOC Experience.