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.

Theater Student of the Year

Sydney Lipsett

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

Connor Murphy

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

Brooke Gardner

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

Megan McLaughlin

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 Freitas

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 Ptak

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 Kehoe

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 Logiudice

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 Goodier

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

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 Eisenhaure

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 Teves

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

Cassandra Fitzpatrick

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 Cautela

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).