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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.

April 17, 2024

Faculty & Staff 


Associate professor of Urban Strategy Andrew Zitcer, PhD, published the article “Centering artist voices: notes from a survey of artists and cultural workers in Philadelphia, PA, and Richmond, VA” in the prestigious journal Urban Geography. This article and the research behind it were supported by a Drexel Faculty Scholarly & Creative Work Award. Link to article.

Assistant professor of Architecture Daniel Coslett, PhD, received a summer research grant from the American Institute of Maghrib Studies for continued work in Tunisia on a book project entitled Antiquity as Distinction: Pre-Arab Pasts in Tunis’ Colonial, Postcolonial and Contemporary Built Environments. Coslett’s chapter entitled "The Colonial Marianne: Representing Liberté and France in Occupied North Africa," on public art in Tunis, has just been published in Breaking the Bronze Ceiling: Women, Memory, and Public Space. The volume was edited by Valentina Rozas-Krause and Andrew Shanken (Fordham University Press, 2024).

Alphonso McClendon, Associate professor in the Department of Design, was an invited speaker at The Museum at FIT’s 31st symposium, New Directions in Fashion Research, that focused on new avenues of study in the interdisciplinary field of fashion. On April 5th, McClendon presented “Fashioning Black Culture: Beyond the Archives” that examined the past, present, and future of black cultural expression, documentation, and consumption.

Photography professor Andrea Modica had a photograph included in The New Yorker, accompanying a work of short fiction by Joyce Carol Oates.

This spring, the Drexel Design Research for Health lab joined Rebuilding Together Philadelphia to start the home visits for the Second Story Collective in their Intergenerational living efforts and first home visits took place. These visits consist of home assessments and sharing of history to assist our community elders in living longer in their homes.

Bill Fennelly, associate professor of Theatre, was featured in an April 17 Philadelphia Gay News story about his direction of an upcoming production of the award-winning play “Torch Song.” Link to story

This summer, associate professor of Design Research Dee Nicholas will travel to Boston for the Design Research Society to present the Paper: Intergenerational creative spaces, co-living, community: Design for longevity. Nicholas, Diana Susan; Singh, Tasha; Deshpande, Tanaya; Prabhakar, Alisha; Wenrick, Rachel; Allen-Handy, Ayana. As part of DRS 2024 Paper Track 2: Design for Longevity (D4L): Project Your Future Self through Service and Technology. In addition, she is chairing a session she proposed at the same conference with over 40 submissions from around the world on Evidence-based practices and care: Reimagining Care Through Evidence: Design Research, Patient-Centered Solutions, And A Culture Of Care For Healthy Societies Nicholas, Diana Susan (1); Afzali, Minou (4); Aksamija, Ajla (2); Coleman, Nora (6); Mazzi, Angela (5); Sanders, Elizabeth B. -N. (3); Oygur Ilhan, Isil (7) Organization (s): 1: Drexel University, United States of America; 2: University of Utah; 3: The Ohio University; 4: Swiss Center for Design and Health; 5: GBBN Architecture; 6: Emory University School of Medicine; 7: University of Cincinnati, Design Research Society is the world's longest-standing, multi-disciplinary society for the design research community. The DRS's goals are to promote research and study into the design process in all its fields, and to support the interests of the design research community.  Professor Nicholas’ Intergenerational project Garden Fresh Home, a fresh produce growing unit for urban families was chosen for a $3,000.00 National Science Foundation (NSF) Icorps Propelus Session for the regional program April 4-26 2024. Garden Fresh Home team Shivanthi Anandan, Diana Nicholas. Team URBN Steamlab, Diana Nicholas, Shivanthi Anandan, and entrepreneurship fellow Michael Onontuase (Drexel CCI Master’s Student). Her new collection, at the Lived Places Publishing: The Human Centered Design Studies collection has been launched. This collection seeks work revealing lived experiences globally and locally at all scales driven by human centered design. This collection will include course readings on health, justice, poverty, and technology situated in our challenging and complex 21st-century environment. Check it out here:

Assistant professor of Music Industry Jeff Apruzzese was quoted in two articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer about the cancellation of the Made in America festival and the economic impact of music festivals on local businesses. Link to story 1, link to story 2.

The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design's URBN Center was mentioned in an April 8 Philadelphia Inquirer story as the host of a traveling exhibit, curated by the Stonewall National Museum, Archives and Library, exploring queer history and activism. Link to story.

Assistant teaching professor of Film & Television Nick Natalicchio is in production on a new short documentary film, entitled Gardens of the Galaxy. The film is about is about the “Red Thumbs Mars Garden Project” at Villanova University, which centers on a college-level course that researches the feasibility of growing sustainable food sources in sheltered greenhouses on Mars. Nick recently received a Westphal Mini-Grant to support the making of the film. Cinema & Television adjunct instructor Alex Djordjevic is serving as co-producer and directory of photography.  


Students & Alumni


The Visual Studies program now has student work hanging in Saxby's on 34th Street. The shown Design Foundations work represents First-Year student projects from the 2024, Winter Quarter Design II courses.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has elevated Drexel Architecture alumna and Technical Principal Francesca Oliveira, FAIA (’06) of Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP, to its College of Fellows. This prestigious honor is awarded to members who have made significant contributions to the profession.

Design Research student Micah Lockman-Fine was involved in multiple shows this spring, most notably the movement and fashion performance featured in the 2024 Numinous Magazine Surrealism Runway Show (April 2024). This fashion-based performance explores the linked futures of bodies with technology. Translated algorithmic codesign processes become embodied movement practice, locating human experience, desire and error inside technology and locating technological processes inside the body. Credits: Concept and research by Micah Lockman-Fine (Stoop Kids); co-choreography by Micah Lockman-Fine and Lu Donovan. Micah also Co-curated Slow-Burning Rapture (January 2024) and The Bird Ethic (November 2023) at The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education (co-curator Kristina Murray) and had Sculptural pieces included in William Way Galleries’ 18th Annual Juried Art Exhibition.

A team of 10 Drexel students won first place in the top category for the International Student Design Competition (ISDC) for the Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI).  Architecture student Alex Beglan lead the team in the effort to redesign a VA Ambulatory Health Care facility located in Omaha, Nebraska. Drexel competed against 13 schools across the country and were one of four finalist teams to be invited to San Jose for the national competition. They were judged across a range of challenges (building envelope, modularity, and WELL) and engineering trades (structures, mechanical, electrical, and construction management). The pinnacle award is for Integration and is given to the team that showed that they successfully coordinated and collaborated across all systems design and challenges the best. 

Sarah R. Stolfa (Photography ‘05) served as a juror for the 10th anniversary of the Allegany National Photography Competition & Exhibition on April 6th. Stolfa is the founder, CEO and artistic director of TILT Institute for the Contemporary Image (formerly the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center). She founded TILT to address the needs of working artists in Philadelphia. The Institute also includes exhibition space for contemporary media-based artists and access to a comprehensive digital lab. Along with her Drexel degree, she has a master of fine arts in photography from Yale University School of Art. Link to Article.

Digital Media graduate student Vivian Tian is the recipient of the 2024 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF). This fellowship is the most prestigious graduate fellowship in the US and provides for tuition and 12-month stipend for 3 years.

Michele Byrd-McPhee (MS Arts Administration ‘09), the leader of Ladies of Hip-Hop Dance Collective, will showcase the talent and creativity of Black women in street and club dance culture as part of The Black Dancing Bodies Project: Speak My Mind. Ms. Byrd-McPhee aims to decolonize hip-hop culture and empower women of color through artistic opportunities and professional development. The Orpheum Performing Arts Center in Tannersville, NY is set to host the performance by the Ladies of Hip-Hop on March 30, 2024. Link to Article

Maria C. Renz (Interior Design ‘90), global head of commerce at Google, was mentioned in an article by Glossy regarding the integration of AI-enabled site search updates into online shopping experiences. The article discusses how Google is utilizing innovative AI tools like the "Dreamer" image generation tool to enhance the way consumers search for and discover products online, particularly in the apparel and home goods categories. Link to Article

James Acker (Screenwriting & Playwriting ’16) published his second YA novel. Teenage Dirtbags is an "unflinchingly raw and boldly hilarious novel about an unlikely group of teens coming together to exact revenge on the person who wronged them." James' previous novel, The Long Run, recently won a 2024 Stonewall Book Award.

Erica DeLeo (Film & Television) recently joined the Vogue team at Condé Nast as the Supervising Editor and oversees all editorial video content and manages and trains editors on color grading and audio mixing. 

Stewart Coles (BS Digital Media ‘05) was featured in an article by The Journal of Blacks in High Education regarding his recent study on how white individuals respond to racism on social media platforms. Mr. Coles' study investigated the likelihood of white people challenging racist posts online, particularly focusing on their motivations for intervening. Dr. Coles is an assistant professor in the department of communication at the University of Illinois. Link to Article 


Cameron Vickens (Entertainment and Arts Management ‘22) became the head of Marketing at Warehouse on Watts, according to a LinkedIn update. Mr. Vickens is also the city manager at Resident Advisor; the event manager at Warehouse on Watts; and the managing partner at Defeat Device Intl. Previously, he was the on-air personality at WKDU. Link to LinkedIn 


John Wasong (BS Digital Media ’05) became the HR technical assistant to the vice president at Lockheed Martin, according to a LinkedIn update. Previously, he was the human capital strategist at Lockheed Martin. Link to LinkedIn 

Anthony Burokas (Film & Video ‘92) became the CEO and producer at StreamTek, according to a LinkedIn update. Mr. Burokas is also the CEO of Stream4us; the founder and owner of Frisco Studios; the owner of IEBA Communications; and a contributing editor/writer at Information Today. Previously, he was the head of Streaming at DHD Films. Link to LinkedIn

Tom Falzani (Graphic Design ‘20) and Adit Gupta were recognized in the Philadelphia Business Journal's 2024 40 Under 40. Mr. Falzani and Mr. Gupta are the co-founders of Lula. Link to Article