Welcoming Our New Faculty
August 6, 2020
As we look forward to the start of the new Academic Year, we’re pleased to announce the hiring of eight new faculty. These talented artists, designers, and arts and media managers bring a wealth of impressive experiences to our College. We will truly benefit from their passion for their disciplines and what they will bring to our studios, labs, classrooms and our community.
Program Director, Assistant Teaching Professor, Design & Merchandising
Chris Baeza has had an extensive 20-plus year career as an accomplished design and merchandising executive with proven results working with iconic global brands. Chris has a strong background in the business of fashion and has multi-tier capabilities in men's, women's, accessories and children with particular emphasis on brand-building for different channels of distribution. Her positions in the industry allowed her to travel all over the world, working with top companies such as Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Adidas, Nordstrom, Dockers and Nautica. Her research seeks to explore and answer the following overarching question: are students who study fashion design and merchandising better prepared after graduation when ethics and entrepreneurship are an integral part of their curricula? Outside of the classroom, she serves as an advisor to several companies in the industry, is a board member for Learning to Lead/Girls Take Charge and teaches workshops to high school students. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson) and a Master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University.
Associate Teaching Professor, Dance
Valerie Ifill is an active dance artist, educator and researcher interested in the intersection of dance and community as well as making dance more accessible. Valerie is invested in this work through university-community dance education initiatives and using the Africanist perspective to support university dance curriculum. Her written research is centered on university-community partnerships; race and power in education; and making dance accessible to all. Invested in making dance more accessible to communities of color, Valerie has founded and directed university-community dance programs at Drexel University through Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships in Philadelphia and at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. Certified to teach Inside-Out Prison Exchange courses, Valerie also teaches classes for groups of university students and incarcerated citizens. Black Girls STEAMing through Dance is a collaborative project making Dance, Code, and Making with electronic textiles accessible to 7-12 year old African American girls. Valerie earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the University of Oregon.
Assistant Professor, Film & Television
Ben Kalina’s first feature documentary, SHORED UP, explored the barrier islands of New Jersey where Superstorm Sandy ran headlong into coastal development and rising seas. SHORED UP won the Sundance Institute’s Lightstay Sustainability Award and was broadcast on DirecTV. His most recent project as producer and co-director is CAN WE COOL THE PLANET, which will air on PBS’ NOVA in the fall of 2020. His current film, PLAN C FOR CIVILIZATION, looks into a not-so-distant future where a bold and risky technology may be humanity’s best hope to adapt to a quickly warming world. PLAN C FOR CIVILIZATION is in production and has pitched as part of CIFF’s Points North Institute, Hot Docs and the Doc Society’s Good Pitch. Ben holds a BA from Vassar College and an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University.
Assistant Teaching Professor, Entertainment & Arts Management
Shannon was most recently General Manager at Dublin Fringe Festival, where she was responsible for the overall fiscal health of the organization, board governance, grant writing and development, and staff management. Previously as Director of Marketing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York City, she supervised marketing for all programs, including the pioneering Next Wave Festival and BAMcinématek. Prior to BAM, Shannon was Director of Marketing at The Public Theater. She also marketed the beloved 60-year NYC tradition, Free Shakespeare in the Park. Shannon was Managing Director of the regionally acclaimed Orlando Shakespeare Theater in 2010, after serving as Director of Development for three years. From 2001-2007, Shannon was Director of Marketing and Development for Enzian Theater and the Florida Film Festival. Shannon has a BA in English Literature from the University of Central Florida.
Assistant Teaching Professor, Interior Design
Sara McElroy is a designer, artist and teacher. She is the Founder and Principal Designer of Silver Shoe Design, a progressive lighting design studio based in Philadelphia and Brooklyn. Sara’s practice plays with routine - in an attempt to enhance the everyday landscapes of our lives. Light is her primary medium and she is interested in the perceptual intersection of material and light. In her teaching, Sara urges students to explore their work at both the material and conceptual level. She encourages the exploration of how material and light situate and mediate people and their worlds. Previously, Sara was a Senior Designer at Tillotson Design Associates and has taught Interior Design at Parsons, the New School and Pratt Institute. In earlier years, Sara was the Creative Content Director at Ketra, a cutting-edge lighting manufacturer. Sara received a Dual Masters of Interior Design and Lighting Design from Parsons, The New School and a BFA in Philosophy and Cultural Studies from Towson University.
Jeanne McHale Waite
Assistant Teaching Professor, Entertainment & Arts Management
Jeanne McHale Waite’s media career has ranged from creative work as a producer/writer to top-level management. For 12 years, Jeanne served as EVP, General Manager of Atlas Media, a New York based producer and worldwide distributor of film, TV and digital content. Previously, she was CEO of Banyan Productions, an independent that created more than 2,000 episodes of television in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. After starting her career in broadcast TV, Jeanne served as executive producer for Discovery Networks and others, winning 3 Telly Awards, the Cine Golden Eagle, 11 regional Emmys and other honors. She is the founder of consulting company 1Thing, LLC. Jeanne’s specialties include general management, business startup, recruiting, negotiation, operations, distribution, rights and regulatory compliance, and producing for multiple platforms.
Program Director, Assistant Teaching Professor, MS Television & Media Management
Michelle McHugh’s dual career path has resulted in extensive knowledge of both the television industry and the field of multiplatform communication strategy. Michelle spent 14 years in the television news industry, leading newsrooms and field crews as a senior executive producer, line and field producer. She was recognized with a prestigious regional Emmy® Award for her work as a journalist covering the impact of crime in Philadelphia on the city’s youth and families. Michelle is a six-time regional Emmy nominee, having been recognized for her writing, live and breaking news coverage in the fourth largest media market in the U.S. She is most proud of her work with students at Drexel University’s DNews; under Michelle’s guidance, several students have been nominated for student production awards by the Mid-Atlantic NATAS (National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences) Chapter. Michelle holds a Masters in Interactive Media / Communications from Quinnipiac University and received her undergraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
Associate Teaching Professor, Product Design
Alexandra Schmidt-Ullrich's work and passions are fed by her BFA in Fine Arts, where she nurtures interests in photography, printmaking and ceramics, as well as a Master’s of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania that encourages spatial and humanistic solutions. She focuses her efforts on furniture design, interior space saving renovations/solutions, architectural model construction, as well as urban greening and social initiatives. Since 2005, she has been visiting faculty at Umbau Inc., where she co-instructs a five-week Design Intensive Summer Travel Abroad program in Vienna, Austria. Alexandra continues to host events and exhibits during Design Philadelphia, an annual design festival in the city. As principal of ASU Designs she enjoys working with firms, such as OLIN, on architectural models and memorial competitions.