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Honors & Recognitions

The Communications Media Department has many outstanding students that we would like to recognize for their exemplary work in our concentrations. Please read about the students below who represent the best of our programs. 

Annual Awards & Scholarships

Each year the department spotlights students in each concentration that we believe represent some of the best in our department. We also award a number of merit based scholarships. Below are brief articles about the most recent award recipients.

Film Student of the Year

Portrait of Sara Prygocki
Film “has the power to change lives. It changed mine.” said Sara Prygocki. She is a big collaborator that loves the filmmaking process. Some of her best experiences in the program have been working on a team and receiving feedback for her peers. Senior year Sara was awarded the LaCoy Production Fund for her script, Porcelain. This fund is awarded each semester to the best script or documentary proposal. Sara wrote and directed Porcelain, a drama about a young woman’s struggle for independence despite a life-threating condition. The next step for Sara is a summer internship at Skydance Media Productions. In her future career Sara hopes to make films that are, “part of something bigger, that can make a difference.”

Tech Theater Student of the Year
Portrait of Phillip Smith

For tech work and design Phil is the go to guy. He has been involved in Main Stage productions, Falcon Theater Company shows, Dance Shows, and events throughout Fitchburg and Boston. His tech theater classes at Fitchburg State have taught him practical skills and how to work effectively on a crew. He is grateful to his professor Cap Corduan, he says, “I’ve enjoy being in all her classes and with our gang of techs.” He appreciates the seamless teamwork and precision of working backstage on a big production. For the production of Noises Off Phil and his team had turn around, re-decorate, and safely mount down a two-story set. And they only had 12 minutes.

Mastering the artistry and craft of tech theater is another element Phil loves. Through experimentation and hard work he created a beautiful and bold lighting design for the production of The Women of Lockerbie. Many audience members commented that the design enhanced the emotional resonance of the piece. 

Game Design Student of the Year

Portrait of Connor Botts
Throughout his college career Connor has taken every opportunity to create games he is passionate about. He has worked on several projects such as Friender Bender and Outerworld, which were written about in PC Gamer and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. As a senior he is participating in Game Studio Capstone. This unique experience allows students to work as a team to fully create and produce a new video game. Connor is working with a team of more than twenty students from Fitchburg State and Berklee College of Music on their game Huntfell. This action-adventure game features a monster hunter trying to uncover the mystery of a haunted mansion. He looks forward to graduating this Spring and starting work for Tricky Fast Studios as game engineer at the company. 

Photography Student of the Year
Portrait of Anna Gagnon-Burch

Anna is confident in her work and what she has learned at Fitchburg State. She loved the challenge of her favorite class, Large Format Photography, that required an involved set up, developing, and printing process. Her dedication and creativity are evident in her stunning photos. For a series of photographs Anna projected Georgia O’Keeffe’s floral paintings onto nude bodies. One of these photos will be featured in VISIONS, a competitive exhibition of the best student works. Graduation is still far off, but Anna looks forward to a career in portraiture and event photography.

Theater Student of the Year

Portrait of Natalie Scott
Throughout her time at Fitchburg State, Natalie has embraced every acting opportunity. She has participated in student films, Main Stage productions, and The Improv Club on campus. “The Improv Club has given me the ability to unwind, laugh, and get my creative thoughts flowing,” says Natalie.

Some of her favorite classes have been Acting II, Stage Movement, and Playwriting. She is most proud of her work on the Main Stage production, The Women of Lockerbie. Natalie graduates in 2019 and looks forward to a career in film or theater. 

Graphic Design Student of the Year
Elizabeth Garside working at her desk with her dog

Elizabeth knows how to deliver new and bold designs. For a poster design she experimented with found objects, collage, painting, and photography. She edited everything together in Photoshop. Her work paid off, because her design was chosen to represent VISIONS 2016. She feels her classes have helped shape her as an artist and given her the skills to have a successful career. She is especially grateful to her professor Don Tarallo for his dedication and respect for respect students. “His support has made all of his students grow,” she said. Currently she is interning at Kreative Dezign and will graduate in May 2018. She looks forward to a future of pursuing her passion. “Seeing the final work after it has been printed gives me a sense of joy and happiness,” said Elizabeth. “It makes me feel complete.”

Professional Communication Student of the Year 
Portrait of Erin Leamy

As a student Erin has always striven to create professional quality work. Some of her favorite projects have been working with real-world clients through her classes at Fitchburg State. Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg State, and the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy are just a few organizations Erin has created content for. She is proud of the work she did for the National Student Advertising Competition.  From September 2017 to April 2018 she worked with a team of 45 students to create a stellar advertising campaign for Ocean Spray. “The experience I gained through these projects was truly invaluable,” said Erin. She graduates in December 2018 and hopes to work for an organization where she can, “create compelling media that truly moves people.” Check out her work here.

Applied Communications Student of the Year
Portrait of Anna L. Griffin

Anna is a professional working in the Office of Grant Resources for Worcester Public Schools. She has greatly enjoyed her time as a graduate student in Applied Communications. “I appreciate all of the experiences that I had here,” Anna says of her classes. She loves learning for its’ intrinsic value, but appreciates the practical applications of her degree. Currently her practicum involves creating a communications plan for her workplace. In May Anna will graduate and she hopes to use her degree to make a positive impact on her community. 

Video Student of the Year 
Robert W. Wilson Memorial Scholarship

Portrait of Jay Reiss
With an open mind and love of learning Jay Reiss has made the most of his college experience. His interests are broad—video production, radio hosting, advertising, and philosophy—to name a few. He is proud of his work as an editor for Porcelain, a short film for his Advanced Cinema Production class. Outside of class he and his friend host the popular radio show Trevor and Jay Host a Radio Show on Fitchburg State Radio, WXPL 91.3 FM. In Fall 2018 he looks forward to starting his Honors Thesis short film. He doesn’t graduate until 2019, but for his future career Jay says, “I want to make content that makes an impact, and I want to be happy doing it.”

LaCoy Documentary Award
Gunther Hoos Scholarship

Vanessa Kahn with a monkey on her shoulder
A love of nature and a talent for filmmaking have lead Vanessa to create vibrant and moving documentaries. At Fitchburg State she is majoring in Film/Video production with a minor in Earth and Environmental Science. She says her science classes have, “helped me to think independently about important environmental issues that I one day would like to make films about.” Her video production classes have provided her the skills and experience to best represent those ideas.

Both contributed to the success of her latest documentary Project Puffin. Vanessa produced and directed this short piece that focuses on a puffin colony off the coast of Maine. Project Puffin was recently screened at Fitchburg State’s VISIONS and the 2018 Salem Film Festival. It will soon be at the 2018 Independent Film Festival Boston.

Vanessa looks forward to her internship this summer at The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. She hopes to someday create environmental and wildlife documentaries for Discovery Channel or National Geographic.

Elaine T. Coyne Women in Film Award
Portrait of Kylee Acevedo

Throughout her college career Kylee has striven to create engaging and meaningful documentaries. She is proud to have collaborated on Praying for Change, a documentary about a veteran traveling across the US to raise awareness about homelessness. It received first place at the 2017 Salem Film Festival Mass Reality Check.

 Most recently she worked as cinematographer and editor on the short documentary, Project Puffin. The film focuses on a restored puffin colony off the coast of Maine. “Getting to see such eccentric and birds, close and in person, is an experience I’ll hold dear” says Kylee. But she also values the film’s broader message about the consequences of climate change.

 Through her internship at Mill Valley Film Group she is working as an assistant editor on documentary profiles of environmental activists. She graduates in May 2018 and hopes to pursue a graduate degree in post-production documentary filmmaking. Her dream is to make documentaries that “energize, inspire, and deeply matter.”

Louis O. Lorenzen Performing & Visual Arts Award

Since freshman year Riley has pushed herself to create her best work. With her production team and a Bolex film camera she created a short film that was featured in VISIONS, a highly competitive honors exhibition of the best student works. She is most proud of her current project, Attic, about a young boy and his sisters dealing with the grief. She loved working with the talented young actors and looks forward to the finished product. This class has been “interesting and challenging” Riley said, but for her that is what made it the most valuable. She doesn’t graduate until 2019, but her dream after college is to direct or edit short films and music videos.