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The Latest Shout-Outs: Westphal Student, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni Achievements

Celebrate the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design in this round-up of recent accomplishments.

October 18, 2022

Faculty & Staff 

Jeffrey Stanley, Visiting Assistant Professor of Screenwriting & Playwriting, was a featured speaker at the Fulbright Association Annual Conference, where he presented talks entitled Calcutta 1908: Apocalypse Now and Strange Love: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Lizard Roommates. 

June He, assistant professor of Product Design, was invited as a main stage speaker at the 2022 International Design Conference (IDC) in Seattle in September 2022. She presented the paper Making Diverse Voices Heard - Building Community-Based Co-Design Projects with Older Asian Communities in Philadelphia, written by her and her multidisciplinary students together. June was also invited to speak at the 14th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2022) in New York City in July, where she discussed how to expand knowledge of design thinking to non-design major students and introduced the methodology and evaluation criteria.

Assistant professor of Architecture Jacklynn Niemiec presented "Digital Twins: The Promise and Limits of 3d Scanning for Architecture" at the Design Communication Association Conference.

Laura-Edythe Coleman, PhD, program director of MS Arts Administration & Museum Leadership, was quoted in an Oct. 9 NPR story about striking Philadelphia Museum of Art workers. The piece was picked up by a number of affiliates, including WITF (NPR-Harrisburg, Pennsylvania). Link to story.

Associate professor of Digital Media Emil Polyak featured his artwork “Homeostasis” at The PASEO art festival, which brought projection, installation, and performance art to the streets of Taos, New Mexico, in September. This free, community-centered event featured local, regional, national, and international artists with work that is site-specific, context responsive, and participatory. “Homeostasis” is a speculative interactive visual experience that users manipulate using a real vapor cloud. It is a metaphorical representation of human interference with data interpretations. The animated artwork is generated in real-time using a dataset containing cumulative changes in sea level for the world’s oceans since 1880.

This summer, Art History professor Pia Brancaccio delivered lectures at the Dept. of Pali and Buddhist Studies, Pune University, and Jnanapravaha Mumbai, India, and Victoria & Albert Museum in London. She collaborated on the publication of the edited book "The world of the ancient Silk Road" just out by Routledge this month and published an essay in the catalog of the upcoming exhibition "Recycling Beauty" opening in November at the Fondazione Prada, Milano. Pia will be a panel discussant for a book presentation at Columbia University on October 24.

Interior Design teaching professor Ada Tremonte has completed several commercial projects this past year for an international fortune 500 consultancy firm. Locations included San Francisco CA, St. Paul MN, Austin TX, Appleton WI, Denver CO, and Chicago IL.

Art & Art History professor Jen Blazina has been invited to participate in the 3rd Annual Glass Art Fair. Jen is displaying a new piece, Cutting Ties, which is comprised of glass and bronze art with screen printing. The Glass Art Fair is celebrating its third year by partnering with Habatat Galleries Michigan. The exhibition runs from October 29 to December 10, 2022.

Product Design program director Raja Schaar spoke on a Design Panel at Black Tech Fest, which celebrates Black culture, showcases innovation, and creates pathways for underrepresented talent.

Assistant teaching professor and trombonist Brent White released the album code-switching, which explores the musical compositions of Francis Johnson. A prolific Black composer in 19th century Philadelphia, Johnson and his band would have engaged in musical “code-switching”—performing the same compositions differently before Black and white audiences. Prof. White collaborated with Philadelphia guitarist Matt Davis to create new freeform jazz arrangements that reimagine the influence of Afro-Caribbean rhythms on Johnson’s music. Listen here.

Harris Steinberg, distinguished teaching professor and executive director of the Lindy Center for Urban Innovation, authored a Oct. 7 Philadelphia Inquirer column about the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new effort to reconnect communities harmed by the creation of transportation infrastructure. Link to story.

The Mark Stockton: 100 People exhibition publication has been completed. This independent alternative publication of 100 sets has been completed with the support of a Westphal Mini-Grant and The Freddie Reisman Creative Award. The publication is in the form of a set of cards with an accompanying case and booklet.

Joseph Hancock, PhD, professor and program director of Retail & Merchandising, was quoted in a Sept. 23 Vogue Business story about the experience of workers in the fashion industry during Fashion Week. Link to story.

Professor Emeritus Blaise Tobia presents Exhibition "Facciate: Architectural Overlays in Italy" on Cherry Street Pier, with James B. Abbott, in connection with Photo 20/20 and Design Philadelphia. As part of ongoing work with the CETA Arts Legacy Project, and in recognition of Blaise’s work as a Documentation Unit photographer in 1978, he was part of a panel discussion at the NYC Municipal Archive entitled "Art X CETA."

Jennifer Morley, associate teaching professor, Director of Drexel Pilates, and Somatics coordinator for Drexel Dance, is a Finalist for the Pilates Method Alliance Innovator of the Year Award for her contributions to Pilates in secondary education.

Music Industry professor Toby Seay is mentioned in a blog post for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University on the Otteo Sound Project, through which Drexel co-op students are digitizing a database of insect recordings.

Visual Studies adjunct faculty member Rashidah Salam’s solo invitational exhibition is open at the Gallery at the Ann Felton Multicultural Center, Onondaga Community College, Syracuse New York. The show runs through Oct. 27.

Students & Alumni

MS Urban Strategy student Sasha C. Mendez (’23) has been reappointed to the Nina Henderson Provost Scholars cohort. Sasha says, “My role as a Nina Henderson Provost Scholar is rooted in an immense passion for partnership building. There is an ardent desire among the student body to build a bridge between the University and the West Philly community, as well as to expand the curriculum to include a more diverse offering of voices and texts by BIPOC academics."

Congratulations to Stuart Pollack (’22), MFA In Creative Writing in the Screenwriting track! His short film script, Cable Bill, took the Grand Jury Prize in the Bolt competition, which includes production of the film by Barnstorm Media. One of Stu’s other scripts, Beach Impressions, is a finalist in the Red River Script Competition 2022. A third script, Doctor Zoe, was recently named Best Sci-fi Script in the Hollywood Just 4 Shorts Competition. 

Alyssa Harden (’20), graduate of Screenwriting & Playwriting, wrote the forthcoming animated film, Oren’s Way.  

The Secret Coterie of Swans, the feature script written by Dylan Brown (’22), MFA in Creative Writing in the Screenwriting Track, as her graduate thesis project, placed in the second round of the Austin Film Festival. That’s in the top 20% of over 10,000 entries in one of the most prestigious screenwriting competitions in the world! 

Hanisha Rudhraraju, a graduate student in the Interior Architecture program entered her Commercial Studio project in the 2022 Next Work Environment Competition sponsored by Work Magazine. Hanisha won in two categories earning two scholarships: she shared a win in the WELLBEING category and was the sole winner of the Greatest Impact Student Award. 

Entertainment & Arts Management alum Yixin Wang brought famed Chinese hyperrealist painter Leng Jun to the Academy of Natural Sciences on Sunday, Oct. 16 for a live, public portrait painting.

The Philadelphia City Council has passed a resolution honoring A Legacy to Share, Navigating Life's Challenges & Celebrating Our Greatest Achievement, a book published by the Drexel University Black Alumni Council (DUBAC).

Jacob Deleon (Digital Media ’04) was profiled in the PHL INNO section of the Philadelphia Business Journal. In November 2020, Mr. Deleon launched Fila Manila, a line of Filipino sauces that has quickly gained market share and can already be found on the shelves of major retailers like Whole Foods Market and Sprouts Farmers Market. Not yet two years old, the Cherry Hill area brand counts the Kraft Heinz Co. as a backer and will launch in Target this month. Prior to founding Fila Manila, he launched his first start-up in 2015, a cold-pressed almond juice brand called Origin Almond which folded in 2020. An industry veteran, Mr. Deleon spent the first part of his career in marketing, working for some of the world's biggest brands, including Procter & Gamble and Starbucks. At P&G, Mr. Deleon worked on snack and pet food brands, including in Asia. He eventually joined Starbucks, where he was on the team working with new Frappuccino flavors as well as its rapid expansion in China. Link to Article.

Traci Connaughton (MS, Arts Administration, Westphal, 2005) is the founder of Without a Cue Productions. Keystone Development + Investment has signed a 3,346-square-foot, long-term lease with Without a Cue to bring the tech-enabled dinner theater to Center City Philadelphia and The Curtis in Washington Square West. The production company provides unique events from murder mystery dinner theaters to private parties. Link to Article


Ahsan Dowling (Film & Television ‘19), an accomplished video editor and writer, joined Tara Dowdell Group as senior public relations associate and video editor. In this capacity, he will lead video editing and production while also providing marketing and public relations for the agency's clients. Previously, he served as a video editor and content producer at Drexel University College of Computing & Informatics. Mr. Dowling has also led video editing projects for Major League Baseball, independent production companies and nonprofits. Additionally, he has written for online publications, including, where his focus was movies and television. Link to Article.


Jessica J. Dwyer (Fashion Design ‘17) debuted her collection "Welcome to New York" during New York Fashion Week on September 9, 2022. Link to Article.


Charlie Kenney (Fashion Design ‘22) was selected by CFDA's (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Fashion Future Graduate Showcase (FFGS) to showcase their collection in CFDA's RUNWAY360, which was launched for the 2022 New York Fashion Week. RUNWAY360 is a unique and innovative digital platform developed to support American designers by bringing together every aspect of a collection launch in a one-stop-shop environment. Mx. Kenney's 2022 senior thesis collection, Lamiar Flow, combined hand and machine knitting techniques to explore an experimental concept using the pliability of knits to replicate the rigid qualities of armor. Their collection previously received the Louise Piazza Fashion Technology Award, which recognizes the use of innovative technological practices to create the fashion. In 2021, Mx. Kenney was a Coach x CFDA Dream It Real Award recipient. Link to Article


Elizabeth Quinn (MS Fashion Design ‘06) joined Albright College as an assistant professor of fashion. Ms. Quinn is also the director of Impact at Grant Blvd, a sustainable apparel brand focused on training women in underserved communities for jobs in the fashion industry. She has over 15 years of corporate experience as both a merchant and a designer and has been teaching sustainable fashion design since 2018 at Drexel University and the University of Delaware. Recently, Ms. Quinn co-authored a paper titled "Transforming Fashion Education by the Evolution of Design & Merchandising Education," published in the Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice. In 2022, her research on bio-based and biodegradable materials, called "Material Innovation and the Impermanence of Fashion," was featured in Maake Magazine and the Ecological Citizen and received a nomination for Beyond Plastic's "Most Beautiful Design." Link to Article.


Maia Rivera's (Fashion Design ‘22) was selected by CFDA's (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Fashion Future Graduate Showcase (FFGS) to showcase their collection in CFDA's RUNWAY360, which was launched for 2022 New York Fashion Week. RUNWAY360 is a unique and innovative digital platform developed to support American designers by bringing together every aspect of a collection launch in a one-stop-shop environment. Ms. Rivera's collection, Body and Psyche, focuses on the complexity of the human body and psyche, with the goal to address the human connection between the brain and body and how it directly relates to our emotions, environment, and connections with others. Link to Article.