Annual Awards and 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.
Video Student of the Year
Morgan has been a leader on set and within the campus community. During the pandemic she worked on two ambitious and thought-provoking projects that are now featured in Visions. Throughout her college career she has played significant roles in the Fitchburg Activities Board, Black Student Union, and Spanish Café.
Over the past few years Morgan has gained confidence and has seen significant improvement in her work. She credits courses like History of Documentary, Comm Law and Ethics, and Advanced Documentary for giving her skills she could apply to all aspects of documentary filmmaking.
One of her favorite aspects of working on a documentary or film is collaborating with a tight knit artistic team. She is proud of co-producing “Since the Blood,” directed by her good friend Jordan Malachi. COVID-19 has added significant obstacles to filmmaking and as the director for the documentary “Black Lives Matter: Voices of the Past and Present” Morgan stepped up to offer her team moral support. She says, “I wanted to make sure everyone was doing ok…being able to relate, genuinely care, and listen to each one of my crew members made our communication better.”
Currently she is interning at Northern Light Production in Boston, MA. Although she is mostly working from home, she has still enjoyed and learned a lot on internship. She has gotten a variety of experience in finding archival footage, working on set, and writing for exhibit materials for museums and national parks.
She is open to a variety of career opportunities. Whether she joins the Peace Corp, an environmental organization, or a small production company—what matters most is that her work will reflect her values. Morgan says she wants to use her degree to, “uphold my own values and beliefs, such as ethical filmmaking and storytelling, accurate and truthful information, and with the commitment to being true to myself, and my own curiosity, and need to help others.”
“I always want my work to be meaningful and have an impact on the masses and have others think, reflect, and change,” she says.
Game Design Student of the Year
Tori is passionate about all aspects of game design. A spark was lit and she was eager to learn about everything—programming, visuals, and level design. She says, “I am an artist at heart, so I usually prefer focusing on visuals the most. Level Design and Programming come in close second though.”
Course work wasn’t enough to fuel her creativity. After taking Level Design with Professor Les Nelken, Tori says, “that class was what inspired me to start working on games in my free time and what led me to making a lot of new friends in the major…It really jump-started my passion for making games.” She participated in the recent Global Game Jam, an international event in which teams create games in roughly 3 or 4 days. The two games she worked on “Outside” and “Come Outside” are available to play now.
Like many students during the pandemic Tori mostly stayed at home. Without the ability to go out, she used the time to reflect about herself and her goals, and decided to completely dedicate herself to game design work. In Advanced Game Workshop she is close to completing a new game, Oxalis, which she and her team are especially proud of for the high quality visuals. But Tori is quick to credit the encouragement from her girlfriend, family, and friends for keeping her motivated. “Their support has helped me immensely and I am forever grateful to have such amazing people in my life,” she says.
With a high quality portfolio and multiple skills, Tori feels optimistic about her future. She says, “My hopes are to find work in the Game industry as a programmer, whether it be for gameplay or for visuals. My dream has always been to work on games and I will never stop working towards that dream.”
Professional Communication Student of the Year
Kimberly Patterson holds herself to the highest standards and it shows in her work. Her creativity and dedication show in the work she has done for the Fitchburg Art Museum, The Communications Media Department, and co-captaining the Fitchburg State NSAC Team (National Student Advertising Competition.) Outside the classroom she has been an active member of the campus community working in the Admissions office, being a member of Alpha Sigma Tau, and participating in multiple honors societies.
She has greatly enjoyed the sense of community she has felt in her Comm Media classes. “All of the professors are dedicated to giving you professional experience to prepare you for work in the field. Because of the nature of the program you gain close relationships with your professors as well as other students,” she says.
As a Pro Comm student she has worked with a range of real world clients for her course work. As part of Document Design with Rob Carr she and other students worked with the Fitchburg Art Museum to create online photo albums and press releases to highlight public art in Fitchburg and at the museum. She says, “I am also a Photography concentration so being able to work on a project that used both of my passions was incredible.”
Kimberly needed all her talents when helping her team compete in NSAC. Each year students across the country participate in this highly competitive event in which they must create a marketing strategy for a real world client. This year’s client was Tinder and the Fitchburg team was ready with high quality designs and outside the box marketing strategies to target potential app users. Kimberly co-captained the team and helped design the plans book and media presentation. The team did not advance in the competition, but many in the Fitchburg State community were proud of their work. Their plans book and presentation is featured in Visions.
These hands on experiences make Kimberly feel confident about her future. Soon she will be starting an internship at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, CO. She says, “My end goal would be to serve in a Creative Director position. I am excited about the opportunities and endless possibilities I will be able to pursue.”
Photography Student of the Year
FATV Robert W. Wilson Memorial Scholarship
“Photography to me is my way of capturing the beauty in everything,” says Kristen. Since 16 she was working as a photographer, and it is one of her greatest joys. This passion can be felt in her vibrant and breath taking photos featured in Visions 2020 and 2021.
She has made the most of her time at Fitchburg State by diligently working on her craft and being active on campus. Currently she is President of Dance Club and Vice President of Phi Sigma Sigma. She was hired as a student photographer for campus events and staff. This experience helped build her portfolio and “landed me many great opportunities and connections,” Kristen says. Sometimes it is a lot of work, but she says, “I can never be too busy doing something I love!”
When the pandemic hit, her usual work slowed down significantly, but she used the time learn about marketing her business and improve her photo editing skills. Kristen built up a following for her business online, and as the restrictions began to lift, she began to book more photo shoots.
Kristen is determined to make her passion her career. After graduating she hopes to become a professional portrait and wedding photographer, but doesn’t plan on stopping there. Her heart is in her work and she is driven to always to do better. She says, “the limit does not exist when it comes how successful I hope to be one day.” View Kristen's photos.
Graphic Design Student of the Year
Elena’s work is an expression of herself. She is open to evolving her style and using techniques that “reflect my attitude and personality,” she says. Her style combines traditional art with contemporary digital design. She says, “I love combining traditional mediums (watercolor, pen and ink, collaging) and digital techniques into my work.”
One of her favorite mediums is print illustration and publication. She is most proud of her design work for the 2020 edition of Route 2, the student literary magazine. Her designs were featured on the cover and throughout publication. Paired with poetry, short stories, and essays these designs mixed paint, text, and faces to add a sense of wonder and cohesion to radically different literary works.
Like many students Elena has found the past year challenging. Concentrating on her work came naturally before, but this year it was a struggle to produce any kind of design. But when inspiration did not come, Elena pushed herself to keep trying and to remember her dreams for the future. It has taken more effort, but her work has remained excellent. It is exemplified by her kinetic and captivating designs for Visions 2020 and 2021.
She hopes for a future in which she can embrace a freelance lifestyle by pursuing all her interests in illustration, publication design, and professional writing. But more importantly she wants to create work that, “can inspire and move people and I can feel proud of.”
Technical Theater Student of the Year
Fouad is a thoughtful and dedicated theater artist. His specialties are lighting design and scenic carpentry. Since coming to Fitchburg State he has been involved in almost every Main Stage production, and is always pushing himself to improve his craft.
He has loved working on an artistic team and learning through experience with each theatrical production. “I truly enjoy working with people and finding new methods and techniques of storytelling in my craft,” he says. Fouad began as a carpenter and run crew member in The Diviners (dir. Cap Corduan) and then took on more responsibilities as a light board operator and carpenter for The Women of Lockerbie (dir. Kelly Morgan). Later on Fouad created the lighting design for Trans Scripts Part 1: The Women. His colorful and nuanced lighting choices helped illustrate the powerful emotional experiences of the characters.
It was challenging to find an internship at a theater company because of the pandemic, so Fouad interned with Events Management at Fitchburg State. His main interest was lighting design and setup and his work involved extensive research into equipment and procedures to upgrade the lighting in the university’s performance spaces. He says, “it has been very informative and has taught me about a lot of equipment that I never knew existed. I feel more prepared to work in a variety of venues.”
When live theater returns, Fouad is eager to start work as a freelancer in the Greater Boston area. He also hopes to someday get a master’s degree in Technical Theater and teach at the college level. Many in the Fitchburg State community look forward to seeing his amazing work featured in productions across the state and beyond. View Fouad’s work.
Theater Student of the Year
No matter how big or small the role, Eliana approaches every project with a strong work ethic and desire to fully embody her character. Throughout her time at Fitchburg State she has been in multiple Main Stage productions and student films, but she is hoping that is just the start.
Eliana is a team player and knows how rise to the moment when needed. During the production of “The Diviners” one of the actresses was unable to continue performing in the show. Eliana was called to step in. With only 6 hours to prepare her first performance was, “a bit rocky as I had only seen the show twice,” says Eliana, but with the next performance she developed a confident grasp of her lines and character. Her peers were impressed and grateful. Eliana says, “I learned a lot from this production including what I am capable of if I try hard enough.”
Theater has been a meaningful part of Eliana’s life offstage as well. She says, “being in theater has allowed me to express myself while giving me the confidence I need in everyday life. I also greatly enjoy the amount of creativity that comes with it.” At Fitchburg State she also discovered she has a talent for technical theater work. One of her favorite classes was Stage Makeup taught by Cap Corduan, where she became exceptionally good at creating realistic wounds.
The pandemic has been challenging for many students, but it has made film and theater especially difficult. Eliana was saddened not to be able to do live theater for more than a year, but made the most of participating in the pre-recorded production of “Our Reckoning,” which consisted of student written monologues about pressing contemporary issues. Eliana performed a piece written by Film/Video student Buffy Cautela, and it is available to watch online now.
The future holds multiple possibilities for Eliana. After graduating, she interested in pursuing more film acting opportunities and plans to attend graduate school for an MFA in theater.
Film Student of the Year
Peter wants you to get lost in his films. To him a successful film can take the audience, “out of their world and put them into another, feeling emotions they may never have felt otherwise,” he says.
Cinematography has been his focus as a Film/Student, and he has taken advantage of unique opportunities at Fitchburg State to master his skills. His two favorite classes were Lighting and Cinematography taught by Professor Zak Lee, who focuses on hands-on learning in the classroom and through group projects. Opportunities outside the classroom were also impactful. Peter’s internship at the production company Hop Top Films in Rockland, MA gave him experience working on production sets in a professional context. “There is no greater teacher than experience,” he says.
Already a short film that Peter created, “Milk”, was featured in multiple festivals such as Wild Sound Festival, Thriller and Suspense Writing Film Festival, and won honorable mention for cinematography at the New York International Film Awards. But that is just the start. He hopes someday his work can have a lasting and personal impact on audiences. He says, “I can only hope that I am able to tell stories that matter just as much a hundred years from now as they do today.” See some of Peter’s work.
Graduate Student of the Year
M.S. in Applied Communication
Renée is a librarian at Fitchburg State and saw the M.S. in Applied Communication as way to enhance her skills and ability to teach others about the importance of media literacy. She says, “information literacy is generally considered the domain of librarians but media literacy lives within communications. I don't believe the two should be taught in isolation of each other, so I wanted to educate myself in communication theory and social media.”
How we access and remember new information is changing dramatically, especially with the increased use of social media. “One of the biggest takeaways from this program for me has been the critical importance of communication skills beyond traditional platforms and mediums,” says Renée. She specializes in fake news and misinformation, and offers students guidance on determining the difference between a reliable and unreliable source of information.
Her recent capstone thesis explored the importance of teaching media literacy early on in life. She says, “I'm proud of the work I have done in communication and data ethics and hope to carry what I have learned into advocating for stronger media and information literacy curricula in K-12 and higher education.” Watch her presentation online.
Currently she assists students with research and also serves as an embedded librarian, which is when a librarian collaborates with an instructor to offer course related resources and assists students in research for various assignments. Check out some of her research guides on the Fitchburg State website.
Elaine T. Coyne Women in Film Memorial Scholarship
Gunther G. Hoos Award
Sophia is an ambitious and multi-talented filmmaker. Screenwriting is her passion, but she has also produced and directed a handful of successful short films.
When she started at Fitchburg State she was not interested in theory courses, but instead wanted a rigorous hands-on experience. “Your ability to just go right out there and film projects is such an important building block to understanding how a movie is actually made,” Sophia says. Some of her favorite classes were screenwriting courses in shorts and feature scripts, but production focused courses like Cinematography and Advanced Production gave her the skills and confidence to materialize her ideas.
During the pandemic she wrote, directed, and co-produced a short film, “My Friend the Collector,” set during WWII. Being able to work effectively with a team and face challenges together was also an important experience for Sophia. She led a dedicated production team to safely and successfully complete the film.
Currently she is interning at Circle of Confusion located in Los Angeles. Because of the pandemic she is working remotely, but feels she is still learning about the industry and making important connections. She says her internship has, “really opened my eyes to all the paths I could potentially take in my career journey and I think that is super cool.”
Sophia plans to move out to LA and work in pre-production. She is interested in pursuing projects as a writer, director, or producer. But she is open to all creative opportunities in film. She says, “who knows what opportunities will come along and where I will eventually end up, but that’s life! And I’m excited to see where it leads me.”
Robert W. Wilson Memorial Scholarship
Buffy Cautela has completely immersed herself in all aspects of filmmaking. She writes, acts, and directs. All her talents are featured in her upcoming film, Friend-iversary, which will be released in May. At Fitchburg State she has felt free to explore all her interests. She says, “both my film and theater professors have helped nurture me into the confident actor/writer/director that I am today.”
The past year has been challenging, but Buffy credits her supportive friends and love of writing for helping her through. She says, “I’ve lost a lot during the pandemic. But the one constant thing in my life has been writing.” Recently she finished a feature screenplay, Breakaway Girl, that she is submitting to screenwriting festivals. She also co-wrote Roller Kingdom with Jacob Barnes, Caleb Huston, and Andrew Baj, which won the department’s LaCoy Production Fund for best script or documentary proposal.
One of her greatest joys is collaborating on films with a variety of artists. “I have been lucky enough to have very supportive friends that have been willing to collaborate with me on films,” she says. Last fall she worked with Jacob Barnes to write and direct a short piece, The Pumpkin, about a pumpkin that comes to life on Halloween. The writing is dark and existential at times, but is incredibly funny. It is featured in the film showcase for Visions.
But Buffy is certain she is just started her growth as an artist. “In all seriousness, I think my best work is yet to come,” she says. Her is dream is to work as a writer and/or director for television shows. It might not be a straight path there, but she is excited to travel to the United Kingdom, New York, or Los Angeles for an internship or to start her career.
Louis O. Lorenzen Visual and Performing Arts Award
When you’re playing a video game, you may just be thinking about winning, but amidst many of them is a vibrant world populated with unique characters. Kiria’s dream is to design these memorable and captivating characters. “It is really fulfilling to see my work come alive in the process of designing and making a game,” Kiria says.
She has put in the hours of work and is always striving to improve her skills. When she was a Freshman, she jumped into the process by animating a project for Global Game Jam – an annual global competition in which teams create and build a game in about 2 to 3 days. Later she was able to refine her skills in two classes, Concept Art and Figure Drawing taught by Professor Britt Snyder. She says, “I have learned so much about anatomy and getting my gesture drawings down,” which is essential for creating human-like characters.
Throughout this challenging academic year Kiria has stayed motivated by reminding herself of her goals. In thinking of a future career, Kiria has strived to do her best and then push herself to improve upon that. But her love for design fuels that effort. And one day she hopes to have a career where she can, “wake up every morning ready to work on a project I'm passionate about and can be proud to have my name in the credits.”
Jacquie LaCoy Documentary Award
Evan wants his documentary subjects to tell their own stories and forget he’s filming. “What I enjoy most about creating documentary is capturing people,” he says.
He is not just looking to finish a project, but also savor the creative process. Even when he was out in the cold helping film the narrative “Discipline,” he was glad to be working with director/writer Anthony Denham. “I knew that the film would something great,” he says. Discipline has gone on to be featured in Visions and multiple film festivals.
While working on a short documentary 5-6-7-8 Art in Motion he remembered how joyful the experience was. He says, “The Dance Club was so inviting in allowing us to film at what can be considered a vulnerable moment.” The finished piece features beautiful dance sequences and also dancers speaking about how dance is a meaningful part of their identity.
The documentary “J.A.” is his most recent and involved project. Evan worked closely with Matthew Murdocca and Perry Joubert to closely follow and interview their subject J.A, an enigmatic individual determined to live on his own terms. “We were all passionate about the project and basically immediately got to work once class started,” he says. They were well into recording, when they had to suddenly stop because of the pandemic.
As the pandemic worsened, it was difficult for Evan to stay motivated. Working with his subject would no longer be safe, so they had to stop filming. During this tough time Professor Bob Harris offered encouragement and feedback. Evan says, “Bob would always give us feedback and overall, he just brought a ton of positive energy in a time where it was really hard to be positive.” It was disappointing to not be able to capture more moments with J.A., but Evan says, “I am incredibly proud that the three of us were able to pull together a final product that we get to share with everyone.”
Past Award Winners
Theater Student of the Year
Sydney is a thoughtful and exuberant performer. At Fitchburg State she has applied her talents as a musician and actress in Main Stage productions, student films, and her independent projects.
She loves collaborating with her peers onstage and behind the scenes. “It really takes an army and a lot of spirit, hard work, and dedication in order to put on any show or to truly honor a piece you are presenting” says Sydney. She has performed in Into the Woods, The Diviners, and The Women of Lockerbie. In 2018 she went with Fitchburg State to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland to perform in The Women of Lockerbie. Performing at an international theater festival was an amazing and challenging new experience. Sydney says, “I think the rehearsal process and my perseverance working on such delicate material is something I look back on as a sort of milestone for who I am now.”
Aside from her work onstage Sydney has been dedicated to writing and recording her own music. For the production Trans Scripts Part 1: The Women Sydney composed and recorded music for the opening and closing of the production. Already she has recorded and released an album, Habits of Yesterday, which available to listen to on YouTube.
For the future Sydney hopes to have a creative and fulfilling career. She says, “I hope my future includes touching the lives of many with stories that are my own or respectable retellings that I get to breathe life into…I hope to be on a stage somewhere filling people with relief that there is still a space for art in their community.”
Video Student of the Year
Photo by Johnny Gifford.
Connor is a multi-talented artist and a go to collaborator. He says, “I really enjoy making things collaboratively. Ideas never form in a vacuum, so it’s great to be constantly surrounded by creative people.”
He has made the most of his time at Fitchburg State by pursuing a double concentration in Graphic Design and Film/Video, while also being heavily involved with the student radio station, WXPL 91.3. Some of his favorite classes were editing courses with Professor Roberts and Advanced Graphic Design with Professor Tarallo. Connor joined WXPL 91.3 as a freshman and later became president. Often he would film live sessions and post them on YouTube.
Connor is proud of his work with WXPL and also his work on the documentary Irene H. Clark: Navajo Weaver. The piece focuses on the craftsmanship and activism of master weaver Irene H. Clark. The documentary was directed by Dan Harris and included Johnny Gifford (Sound Design) and Matt Smith (Editor). Connor was Director of Photography and promotional designer. He is responsible for the vibrant and breathtaking look of the landscapes and craftsmanship featured in the documentary. Recently it was accepted into Visions 2020, the competitive annual honors exhibition at Fitchburg State.
Recently Connor applied his skills as a designer and filmmaker for the documentary, Irene H. Clark: Navajo Weaver. This documentary was directed by Dan Harris, and the proposal was awarded the LaCoy Production Fund. Connor was director of Photography and traveled to New Mexico with a small student crew to interview and record Irene H. Clark, a master weaver. He also helped out by designing materials to promote the piece online. The documentary was accepted into Visions 2020, the competitive annual honors exhibition at Fitchburg State.
Tech Theater Student of the Year
When Brooke first came to Fitchburg State, she was unsure what she wanted to do for a career, but a class with Cap Corduan changed everything. Brooke discovered she loved the art and craft of technical theater.
By working on the Main Stage shows and taking hands on classes, Brooke was free to explore all her interests. In a make-up class she was thrilled to learn how to create special effects and realistic looking wounds. After taking Advanced Scene Design, she couldn’t wait to design a production on campus. Brooke says, “That class taught me to believe in my designs and challenged me to become more creative in a way that I’ve never attempted before.” On her first production, The Diviners, she helped construct the set and operated the light board. Later on Brooke was Assistant Scenic Designer for Trans Scripts Part 1: The Women. For her senior year she was to be Assistant Technical Director for Ugly Lies the Bone.
But aside from the skills and joy from her work, Brooke is grateful for the support she found in the program. She says, “We’re all one big family that somehow works together. I wouldn’t be on the path I’m on right now if it wasn’t for my professor and mentor, Cap Corduan. She and my fellow techies have helped me to have confidence in my talents and develop my craft.”
Game Design Student of the Year
When Megan came to Fitchburg State she was a talented artist, but wanted to take her work to the next level. She says, “my favorite thing about game design was learning how to apply my art skills to an interactive medium instead of just illustration.”
She has greatly enjoyed opportunities to learn and work with her peers outside the classroom. Every two years Game Professor Jon Amakawa takes a group of game design students on a trip to Japan. “The Japan trip was one of my best memories of the past 4 years,” says Megan. “We visited several game companies and experienced several sides of Japanese culture, but my favorite part was trying all the food and making new friends.”
The project she is most proud of is her Game Studio Capstone game “Land Under Rot.” Megan was the leader of the art team and coordinated artists that created the designs for characters and environments in the game. In early March Megan and her team got to show off a demo of their game at PAX East, a huge conference of game creators and players from all over the east coast. She says, “PAX East was really cool because we were able to display our work in the same room as Nintendo but also small indie developers.”
Megan is not sure what the future holds, but she is excited to pursue a career that uses her artistic talents. She says, “coming out of school knowing 2D and 3D art programs I have a lot of different options inside and outside of the game industry.”
Jacquie LaCoy Documentary Award
Eduardo is an ambitious filmmaker who wants to create films that inspire people to action. Being a Film/Video student has been an exciting opportunity with, “endless possibilities of expressing one’s ideas, story, and point of view creatively,” says Eduardo.
Through classes and clubs at Fitchburg State Eduardo has experimented in different mediums and explored his interests. He’s been involved with The Film Society and the student radio station WXPL 91.3. In his Writing for Advertising class he helped the student team for the National Student Advertising Competition by working on two short commercials. But his favorite classes were his documentary courses.
During his senior year Eduardo directed a documentary, “DACA: The Story of Dreamers.” The proposal for the documentary received The LaCoy Production Fund Award and the finished work was accepted into Visions 2020, the highly competitive honors exhibition at Fitchburg State. It focuses on the life of Tereza Lee, whose story inspired legislators to propose the DREAM Act and influenced Obama's executive order on DACA. Eduardo says, “I just hope this film can reach a lot of people and make them think about how important this issue is. I get very happy when people tell me I made a great film, but my real goal is for people to say I watched your film and did X (Call a senator, organize, donate, etc.)”
Eduardo wants to make a difference with his films and is not afraid to dream big. He says, “my hope for the future is to eventually have my own production company and Direct/Produce films with interesting and compelling stories.”
Photography Student of the Year
Megan has enthusiastically pursued her artistic interests at Fitchburg State. She started in Film/Video, but then added a Photography concentration, and also participated in Choir for four years. “While finding time to do work for two hands-on concentrations was difficult, it was pure excitement and love for both that kept me going,” says Megan.
Working with her peers has been one of the best parts of her college career. In choir Dr. Harvey and other students, “made me feel at home since my first class as a freshman,” she says, “I cannot put into words how much I’ve enjoyed singing with them.” In photography classes she enjoyed sharing her work with classmates and learning to think critically about the meaning of her photos. Megan says “I love the attention to detail it takes to create something I’m proud of and I love getting to talk about the process.”
The photos she is most proud of are of products and photos she took in Italy. Last summer Megan and several other students traveled to Italy with Photography Professor Peter Laytin, where they learned about art, culture, and took hundreds of stunning photographs. One of Megan’s specialties is product photography. With her photographs she transforms a simple object into something vibrant and engaging. Three of her photos were accepted into Visions 2020, the highly competitive honors exhibition at Fitchburg State.
In the future she hopes open her own small studio where she would do photography and video work, or to travel as a documentary photographer or filmmaker. With an extraordinary work ethic and multiple talents, Megan is ready to start a career doing what she loves.
Graphic Design Student of the Year
Elena is a hard working student always striving to create designs that inspire the viewer. She says, “the fact that a design can communicate so much and inspire and move people is so exciting to me.” With a concentration in Graphic Design and minor in Professional Writing she hopes to have a career that uses her talents for writing and design.
She has found ample room to explore her creativity in her graphic design classes. “Every single design class I’ve taken has challenged me and equipped me with valuable insights and skills,” says Elena. She is grateful to her professors Jon Krasner and Don Tarallo, who she says, “challenged me to think critically as a designer as well as to have fun while doing it.” As for her writing courses, Elena feels they have helped her communicate more clearly with her design work and improve herself as a writer.
One project she is most proud of was her design for Route 2, the Fitchburg State student literary journal. It was very satisfying to create a design to represent the writing of her peers. She says, "My favorite projects are the ones where I can mix traditional art with graphic design. I love blurring the line between fine art and graphic design."
The future has multiple possibilities for Elena. She is open to freelancing as a graphic designer, writing novels, working in publication design, or illustration. Whatever path lies ahead, she hopes to combine her two passions, “I love that I’m able to translate words and ideas into a visual story with this craft,” she says.
Professional Communication Student of the Year
Domenic is a dedicated student always pushing himself to create professional quality work. What he loves about Professional Communication is being able combine his creativity with research and analysis. Domenic says, “The Professional Communication concentration at FSU is, for me, the best of both worlds. Coming from a technical high school with knowledge of creative tools allowed me to approach all assignments and tasks from a design perspective. Professional Communication coursework has adjusted my perspective to understand what that work is doing and more importantly why?”
Working with real world clients has been one of Domenic’s favorite experiences at Fitchburg State. For his Document Design class he and other students worked directly with Fitchburg Art Museum staff to design and create a catalog document for the international artist Otto Piene. “Receiving professional criticisms about our work was a learning curve our whole group had to deal with, but once we could understand their requirements and our vision, designing became very intuitive and satisfying,” says Domenic.
Another rewarding experience was competing in the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). Domenic and his team created a marketing campaign for Adobe. They started working on their campaign in the Fall 2019 and continued into Spring 2020, but had to adjust to the challenge of collaborating with a large group online. In the end they created vibrant new graphics, made a commercial, wrote a marketing plans booklet, and recorded a polished presentation. Some of the faculty who saw the presentation were impressed, and Fitchburg State was very proud to be represented by them.
Applied Communications Student of the Year
Kara is a driven and compassionate professional who was looking for a way to further her career and, “to show my daughters you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.” With two jobs and being a mother of two, she needed a master’s degree program that would fit into her busy life. The online Master of Science in Applied Communication was the perfect fit for her.
The online program allowed Kara to do her coursework on nights and weekends, but aside from being flexible, Kara found it thought-provoking and engaging. Some of her favorite classes were Intercultural Communication Competence and Gender Communication. She is grateful to her professors and says, “I found all the teachers so helpful and supportive, especially Dr. Lorencova.”
Currently Kara works for the state as a disability examiner, but she is also committed to volunteering to help others. She says, “I wanted to have my master’s because I truly believe you can always learn more and gain more knowledge to better yourself and the ones around you.” Kara used the skills and knowledge from her coursework in an internship at the Rise Above Foundation, a non-profit that supports children in the foster care system. She helped coordinate their fundraising and awareness efforts, and plans to continue to be part of the organization.
Robert W. Wilson Memorial Scholarship
Jay Troy came to Fitchburg State to help make a career out of what he loves doing—being a photographer. He says, “photography for me is about the process, it’s an intimate tango between photographer and subject.”
His favorite medium is large format photography. This involved process requires an extra-large camera and technical skill to set-up a shot just right. But Jay says he enjoys the, “meditative process that requires you to slow down,” and the beautiful images that are the result.
Some of the work he is most proud of is helping promote the Fitchburg State production of Trans Scripts Part 1: The Women. Jay worked with Mark Ramos and John Benitz to market the play on and off campus. To promote the production online Jay took several photographs of the cast and crew.
“My hopes for the future are to demonstrate harmony between my work and my passions,” says Jay. One of his goals is to combine his marketing and photography to help promote local non-profit veteran organizations.
Gunther Hoos Award & Elaine T. Coyne Women in Film Award
Zoë is a generous collaborator and extremely hard worker. She has a double concentration in Film/Video and Professional Communication. Her dream is to have a career in producing and post-production. She says, “ProComm taught me skills related to presenting, marketing, and advertising that are integral for a producer to know. Film/Video gave me the resources I needed to work effectively in the professional scene.”
Hands on classes and working on a team is something Zoë has enjoyed the most. She says, “I loved being able to produce an amazing film with all of my friends and work with professional actors as well. There’s something magical about being able to see what you created on the big screen.” Two films she worked on that she is most proud of are “Every Man Has His Demons” and her advanced project “The Customer’s Choice.” Each film was very different, but Zoë says, “Both of these films allowed me to work with professional actors and teams of talented filmmakers at FSU.”
Zoë is eager to get started with her career and is excited to be interning at Myriad Pictures this summer. She is grateful for her experiences and feels honored receive recognitions and awards. It has special meaning for Zoë because her parents are Fitchburg State alumni, and her father took classes with Gunther.
Film Student of the Year
Brooke has turned her passion for the environment into stunning short documentaries and films. She says “I love that film/video allows you to create projects that convey a meaning. I am able to express my own thoughts and feelings through my films.”
Both of her environmental pieces “Mother Earth” 2019 and “Progeny” 2020 were accepted into Visions, the competitive annual honors exhibition at Fitchburg State. She independently created “Mother Earth,” an abstract piece that starred actress Rebecca Joseph as mother earth taking in the beauty of the natural world, but also mourning environmental degradation. Brooke was cinematographer for the documentary “Progeny,” which she made with her crew in Advanced Documentary. This impressive piece includes a wide variety of footage of insects, landscapes, and animals.
Her dream is to someday make documentaries that raise awareness about environmental issues that she hopes will, “get people to change their ways.” With her recent internship at Mass Wildlife she took the first step toward that goal. On internship she made dozens of short videos which were used to promote wildlife preservation and educate the general public. She says, “My internship experience was amazing. I got to film biologists work with nature and animals which is something that I am interested in doing.” You can watch some of her videos on the MassWildlife Facebook page.
Louis Lorenzen Visual & Performing Arts Award
Self portrait by Cassandra.
Cassandra decided to major in Game Design to apply her artistic talents in the digital realm, but has also worked in mediums such as charcoal, paint, clay, and graffiti. She says, “one of my favorite aspects of Game Design is art. Creating vast environments, detailing unique characters and items, just bringing something to life is fascinating to me!”
At Fitchburg State she has enjoyed her game design classes and learned new skills in digital art. She especially enjoyed her Introduction to Game Art class with Professor Jon Amakawa and Narrative Design with Professor Les Nelken. She is a gifted artist, but also wants to tell compelling stories. “Game design is all about creating an experience for a player,” she says, “in the future, I’d love to make an adventure for someone.”
Having an art minor has also been a great experience for Cassandra. She is always open to learning new techniques and exploring her ideas in art. One of her favorite classes was Introduction to Studio Art with Professor Andrea Olmstead because of the opportunity to experiment with wire and clay. “It reignited my adoration for clay and was incredibly fun all the way through,” says Cassandra. Some of the projects she is most proud of were her series of paintings of her pet lizard Greg and an abstract drawing calling “Indecision.”
In the future she hopes to make a career as freelancer who creates both digital and traditional art pieces. Her dream is to create characters and environments for new games that are played by people all over the world.
Robert W. Wilson FATV Award
Buffy has found multiple outlets for her boundless creativity at Fitchburg State. She is a Film/Video major interested in writing and directing, but has also been a big part of clubs and organizations on campus. Currently she is president of Improv Club and Co-Ed Ice Hockey Club, while also a DJ at WXPL and a member of Lambda Pi Eta (The National Communication Honors Society).
Inspired by directors Greta Gerwig and Noah Boambach, Buffy has embraced a filmmaking style that is personal and sometimes improvised. “I’m a big fan of creating simple stories that are full of symbolism and nuance that a person might not see the first time they watch my films,” says Buffy. She has already written a handful of short screenplays including Cup of Joe, What Friends Are For and Moments in Motherhood, but is excited to be working on a feature script for her Writing for Film course.
One of the projects she is most proud of is Moments in Motherhood, which she wrote and directed. The short film consists of vignettes of different mothers and their children. For the film Buffy cast real mothers and their children and tailored the script to their lives. It was challenging, but a rewarding experience as a director, she says, “working with non-actors made the process more hands-on. I had to work with each family pair and coach them to the emotional performances I wanted.” The finished film was accepted into the Boston Student Film Festival and Acton Boxborough Cultural Council Film Festival (screening dates TBD).