Notable Alumni

Notable Alumni


UConn School of Fine Arts has an incredible variety of alums graduated from programs in our Art & Art History, Dramatic Arts, Digital Media & Design, and Music departments. SFA alumni have careers as film makers, television producers, performers, actors, entrepreneurs, radio hosts, puppeteers, educators, opera singers, set designers, animation directors, and much more.

Chriselle Almeida

Chriselle Almeida – ’02

Profession: Actor

Major: Fine Arts (Acting)

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Guest Star on Chuck Lorre’s Emmy Award winning hit TV Sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” Guest Star across Geena Davis on Shonda Rhimes’s Emmy award winning hit Medical TV Drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” Working with Director Michael Patrick King and the four leading actors in the Sex and the City 2 Movie as well as with Kiera Knightly in the Miramax film “Last Night”

About Chriselle: After getting her BFA in Acting from UConn, Chriselle worked in Theatre Off Broadway and booked her first TV role on “Gossip Girl.” She moved soon after to Los Angeles and has been working steadily since on hit shows like “Shameless” across William H Macy, “Melissa and Joey,” “Days of Our Lives,” Disney’s “Coop and Cami Ask the World” and most recently was seen on Mindy Kaling’s hit Netflix show “Never Have I Ever.” Chriselle has also written 5 screenplays and has won an award for her writing (New York Script Awards, Best First-Time Screen Writer Short, Winner, 2021).

Thoughts on SFA: “UConn’s School of Fine Arts taught me that solid training in the Classics, Voice and Diction and Movement will set you apart. I am thankful for all my professors and grateful that I got to work at CRT and gain points towards my Equity card. Attending UConn’s School of Fine Arts was the best first step I took in my career as an Actor!”

Learn more: Twitter: @chriselleacts

Pam Arciero

Pam Arciero – ’81

Profession: Puppeteer, Director

Major: Puppet Arts

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Principle puppeteer/performer on Sesame Street for 39 years, with over 20 best show Emmy Awards, Artistic Director of the National Puppetry Conference for 20 years, helping artists find their voices, Mother to two amazing sons, who are in the performing arts as adults

About Pam: Pam Arciero is a principal puppeteer with “Sesame Street” as well as performing on numerous national and international television shows, films, and commercials for the past 35 years. Pam has directed for stage, film, and television; from Saudi Arabia to Los Angeles, Honolulu to Barcelona and is the Artistic Director of the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. She has taught for the Taipei National University of the Arts, Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, the University of Hawaii, Sesame Street International, the University of Connecticut, and California State University, Fresno.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts was a ideal starting ground for me. The challenges and artists I learned from gave me a sound base to move forward in my rewarding and demanding career. I feel that I have been able to touch many lives with the skills I developed in the School of Fine Arts.”

Learn more: Facebook: Pam Arciero; Instagram: @ArcieroPam; Twitter: @ArcieroPam; LinkedIn: Pam Arciero

Michael Astrachan

Michael Astrachan – ’87

Profession: President XVIVO Scientific Animation

Major: Fine Art

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: U.S. Senator Chris Murphy Highlights XVIVO as Innovator of the Month (Dec. 2021), XVIVO’s mRNA animation recognized as “BEST. VIDEO. ALL. YEAR” by Dr. Eric Feigl Ding, Delivered commencement speech to the UConn’s School of Fine Arts 2015

About Michael: Michael has been fortunate to be involved in the Arts his entire life. From studying fine art and design at UConn, to furthering his education and learning the academic method after graduating – he has always sought to gather artistic knowledge. He was an airbrush artist and illustrator back in the 80s and 90s and in 2001, Michael founded XVIVO Scientific Animation, a Medical Animation Company. The company works across a wide range of scientific disciplines to create custom medical animations, illustrations, and virtual reality programs for biotech, pharmaceutical and educational institutions.

Thoughts on SFA: “The thing I learned from SFA that I use the most in my career is to stay curious and to keep learning. The rigor taught at SFA imparted a knowledge that being an artist is a life-long pursuit.”

Learn more: Facebook: Michael Astrachan, Instagram: @xvivoscientificanimation, Twitter: @xvivo, LinkedIn: Michael Astrachan

Juanita Austin

Juanita Austin – ’15

Profession: Curator & Cultural Producer

Major: Digital Media and Design (Interactive Media Design)

Department: Digital Media & Design

Accomplishments: Launching the arts group Cultured AF, CT Entrepreneur Award for Best Space 2021, Curator for NAPPY Exhibition at Connecticut College, 2021

About Juanita: Juanita Austin is a curator and cultural producer, born and raised in New London, Connecticut and now residing in New Haven. She has served as a leader on many grassroots community arts initiatives and now runs her own arts group, Cultured AF, who won the 2021 CT Entrepreneur Award for Best Space for her art space, Cultured Studios. Her work centers on supporting underrepresented artists, particularly Black and Queer folks, and creating safe and equitable spaces for those artists to thrive. Juanita’s work has built bridges with arts communities across the state and strongly passionate about creating experiences that bring art into everyone’s lives. She is currently the Producer for New Haven’s International Festival of Arts and Ideas.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts and particularly the DMD program gave me the skills to be able to launch my own creative venture. I use both the hard skills and softs skills that I gained from the program every day in my work, whether it’s my own creative projects or at my job. I’m grateful for the practical experience I was able to gain and I am proud to be a UConn SFA alumna.”

Learn More:, Instagram: cutrato.nita, LinkedIn: Juanita Austin 

Peter Barberie

Peter Barberie – ’93

Profession: Curator

Major: Art History

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: Received an MA and Ph.D in the History of Photography and Modern Art from Princeton University, Oversaw the transfer of nearly 3,000 Paul Strand photographs from the Aperture Foundation to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2010), Edited six books and written numerous articles on the history of photography

About Peter: Peter Barberie is the Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since 2005 he has curated more than twenty exhibitions, including major surveys of the artists David Lebe, Paul Strand, and Zoe Strauss, and the art dealer and collector Julien Levy.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts gave me two great gifts. First was the opportunity to study art history in a dynamic art school, alongside artists and performers who were working creatively. Second was exposure to smart and generous professors who provoked me to think way beyond my experiences at that point in life. Among several thrilling professors, Joyce Brodsky and Bill Parker especially impacted how I think about the world. I still return to conversations we had.”

Learn More: Instagram: @peterbarberie

Suzanne Bona

Suzanne Bona – ’85

Profession: Radio Producer/Host and Musician

Major: Music (Flute Performance)

Department: Music

Accomplishments: Performed at the Mendelssohn House Museum in Leipzig as part of a Sunday Baroque tour in Oct. 2018, Founding Sunday Baroque radio program (now syndicated) in 1987, Organizing concerts to raise funds to combat low literacy in communities

About Suzanne: For almost 35 years, Suzanne has been a radio broadcaster of classical music programming, including roles as Program Director, Music Director, and Producer. Since 1998, she has been the host and executive producer of the nationally syndicated radio program Sunday Baroque, currently heard on 242 stations nationwide. Suzanne also continues to be an actively performing chamber musician and soloist.

Thoughts on SFA: “It’s hard to adequately describe the full impact UConn’s School of Fine Arts had on me. Most of all, I learned how to research and how to learn, which has been tremendously important in my career.”

Learn More:, Facebook: Sunday Baroque, Instagram: Sunday_Baroque, Twitter: Sunday_Baroque

Kathryn Bowden

Kathryn Bowden – ’10

Profession: Opera Singer and Voice Teacher

Major: Opera Singer and Voice Teacher

Department: Music

Accomplishments: Metropolitan Opera debut, San Francisco Opera debut, Carnegie Hall debut

About Kathryn: Kathryn Bowden has been making her way through the opera world singing the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The role has served as a vehicle for her debut at several large opera houses around the company. When she is not on contract, Kathryn teaches voice lessons in Connecticut.

Thoughts on SFA: “The most important thing I learned at the School of Fine Arts is that vocal health is important above all else! Take the best care of yourself so you can make the best music!”

Learn More:, Facebook: Kathryn Bowden, Soprano, Instagram: @kathrynbowdensoprano

Bill Chandler, Director of the BBC Orchestra in UK

Bill Chandler – ’85

Profession: Director of the BBC Concert Orchestra

Major: Music (Violin Performance)

Department: Music

Accomplishments: Played with Houston Symphony and Florida Philharmonic Orchestra; Performed around the globe including the U.S., Japan, and Europe and played a Carnegie Hall twice; Worked as the Associate Leader of the Royal Scottish National Concert Orchestra for over 20 years and played on over 300 recordings

About Bill: Bill Chandler has more than 30 years of experience orchestras as a professional musician and arts leader. He began his college career as a pre-medicine major but his love for the violin pushed him to study music in the School of Fine Arts as a grad student. While still in school, Bill played with numerous musical groups and UConn faculty. He also performed during summer seasons at Goodspeed Opera House.

In 2016, Bill became the Royal Scottish National Concert Orchestra‘s Director of Learning & Engagement, before taking on the role of Director of Artistic Planning & Operations. During this time, he planned and led multiple international tours which developed the RSNO’s recording profile and its much-praised digital work in response during the pandemic. He also continues to teach music at a number of universities.

Bill’s work covers various media and genres including film, animation, video games, podcasts, and television. He’s even collaborated with the show “Strictly Come Dancing,” the most popular show in the UK.

Thoughts on SFA: “UConn was a real foundation and a major stepping stone in allowing me to dive into the levels of my career. It was a real door-opening experience. I had some great times, one-on-one engagement with professors playing chamber music. It was a small circle, very tightly-knit experience. I enjoyed my studies. It was a fantastic grooming experience.”

Learn more: Facebook: BBC Concert Orchestra, Twitter: @BBCCO, LinkedIn: Bill Chandler

Brian Charette

Brian Charette – ’94

Profession: Musician

Major: BFA (Piano)

Department: Music

Accomplishments: 2014 Downbeat Rising Star: Organ, #3 2021 Downbeat Critic’s Poll: Organ, 2015 Best Organist in NYC from Hot House Magazine

About Brian: Brian Charette is a Hammond and IK Multimedia endorsed, SteepleChase and Posi-Tone recording artist, currently #3 of the Downbeat Critic’s Poll, The 2014 Downbeat Rising Star, and 2015 Best Organist in NYC from Hothouse Magazine. He also performs with many well known jazz artists like NEA master George Coleman and pop icons like Chaka Khan.

Thoughts on SFA: “I had incredible professors that made me curious about everything musical. We also had award winning bands that gave me the confidence to pursue my own groups.”

Learn more: Website:, Facebook: Brian Charette, Instagram: @pinchbrian

Dan K. Chen

Dan K. Chen – ’07

Profession: Prototyping Engineer

Major: Studio Art (Communication Design)

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: TEDx Vienna and TEDx Bologna Speaker, Currently working at Oculus FRL

About Dan: Dan is an interaction designer with several years of software and hardware prototyping and production experience. He communicates his ideas through working prototypes, design research insights, exploring new ways of user interactions. He has several degrees including a MAS from MIT, an MFA in digital media from RISD and a BFA in communication design from UConn. He has over 13 years of design experience. This includes past experience at MIT Lifelong Kindergarten as an industrial designer and mechanical engineer, and Johnson & Johnson as Senior Interaction Designer. Senior Interaction Designer at IDEO. His work has been featured in CNET, The Huffington Post, the verge, Engadget, Mashable and Daily Mail. Dan was invited as a speaker at TEDx Vienna and TEDx Bologna. His work was exhibited in Vitra Design Museum, MAK Wien, Design Museum Gent, Seoul Museum of Art & Ars Electronica. Working in the realms of interaction design and product design, Dan explores the new ways of interaction and communication through working prototypes and storytelling, inviting a reflective evaluation and implication.

Thoughts on SFA: “UConn SFA helped me develop strong communication skills which aid in all aspects of my life – from professional life to personal life and everything that falls in between.”

Learn more:

Jonathan Chin-Shepard

Jonathan Chin-Shepard – ’00

Profession: Vice President, Media Strategy & Planning – Peacock

Major: Music

Department: Music

Accomplishments: Served as a key marketing leader at NBCUniversal for the highly successful launch of the Peacock streaming service, Named to Variety Magazine’s 2022 Digital Marketing Impact Report as one of the entertainment industry’s top marketing experts, Helped lead and/or execute hundreds of ad campaigns on behalf of iconic Fortune 500 companies like Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, Comcast, and Unilever

About Jonathan: Jonathan Chin-Shepard’s career spans over two decades and includes extensive executive experience as a Vice President on the marketing teams at home security company SimpliSafe and entertainment conglomerates NBCUniversal and Viacom (now known as Paramount Global). Prior to that, he rose up the corporate ladder at the three largest global advertising agency holding companies (WPP, Omnicom Group, and Publicis Groupe) after starting his career as a program assistant at UConn’s First Year Programs and Learning Communities. In addition to his BAs in Music and Economics from UConn, Jonathan holds an MBA from NYU and currently resides in New York City.

Thoughts on SFA: “UConn School of Fine Arts taught me the value and importance of balancing art + creativity with science to best achieve success in business and in life.”

Learn more: LinkedIn: Jonathan Chin-Shepard

Lisa Clayton

Lisa Clayton – ’97

Profession: Music Educator, Clinician, Gospel Music Artist

Major: Music Performance (Opera)

Department: Music

Accomplishments: UConn Freshman Honor Society’s Teacher of the Year marking the first time this award went to a graduate assistant rather than a professor; Teacher of the Year, Martin Luther King Elementary School in Hartford, CT; First ever Connectional Coordinator of Music for the nearly one million membered denomination, The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

About Lisa: Lisa Clayton is a celebrated music teacher, teaching at the Hartford Seminary, the Hartford Public School system and the University of Connecticut. She has taught in each of these institutions for over 20 years. She is a sought after Gospel Music Clinician, composer and Gospel Music Artist,.

Thoughts on SFA: “I have learned so much from the SFA, but I believe it is summarized in this quote: ‘Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have.'”

Learn more: Facebook: Lisa Clayton Music Page, Instagram: @lisaclayton123, Twitter: @lisaclayton123

Michelle H. Craig

Michelle H. Craig – ’01

Profession: Professor of Art History

Major: Art History

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: Co-curator for “About Face: Toussaint Louverture and the African-American Image” at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Academic and Reviews Editor for the International Journal of Islamic Architecture, National Endowment for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow at the Getty Research Institute

About Michelle: After graduating from UConn, Michelle earned her M.A. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles and is currently associate professor of art history at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, CA. She has worked for, advised, or collaborated with the Benton Museum of Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chazen Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. Michelle joined Cuesta College after teaching at Santa Monica College, UCLA, Loyola Marymount University, The City College of New York, and Eastern Connecticut State University. She presents and publishes on African and Islamic art histories, particularly art and photography in Fez, Morocco, as well as trans-Saharan art and architecture.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts gave me the tools to be an effective scholar, educator, and mentor. I would not have obtained my position as a Photo Archivist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art without the support of SFA mentors. Now a professor, I find myself giving my students the same guidance given to me by SFA faculty. One alumna just told me that this feedback has been the most helpful advice of her collegiate career. I am so grateful for my experiences in the Department of Art and Art History.”

Scott DaRos

Scott DaRos – ’07

Profession: Animation Director

Major: Studio Art (Illustration and Animation)

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: 2016 Primetime Emmy: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation, 2018 Primetime Emmy: Outstanding Short Form Animated Program (Co-Animation Director), 2018 Primetime Emmy: Outstanding Short Form Animated Program (Co-Animation Director), Launching Threadwood LLC with Alexis Deprey and having a successful first year

About Scott: Scott is a stop-motion animation professional who has worked on various television and commercial projects in Los Angeles over the last 10 years as an animator, animation director, and director. His passion is creating unique and convincing characters and performances using frame-by-frame animation techniques like traditional stop-motion, clay animation, and 2D animation. Scott recently relocated to upstate New York with his wife and fellow UConn SFA Alum, Alexis Deprey, where the couple started their own stop-motion animation company called, Threadwood.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts gave me the connections to start my career, and the confidence and artistic skills to excel.”

Learn more:; Twitter: @_threadwood; Facebook:; Instagram: @threadwood

Alexis Deprey

Alexis Deprey – ’09

Profession: Production Designer & Art Director

Major: Studio Art (Illustration and Animation)

Minor: French & Psychology

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: 2018 Primetime Emmy: Outstanding Short Form Animated Program (Art Director), 2016 Primetime Emmy: Outstanding Short Form Animated Program (Art Director), Launching Threadwood LLC with Scott DaRos and having a successful first year

About Alexis: Alexis is a freelance stop-motion professional who has worked as a fabricator, art director and production designer on many projects in television and commercials over the last 10 years. She also owns and runs a boutique stop-motion animation studio with her husband, Scott DaRos, in upstate New York called Threadwood. Her love for supporting artists and sharing knowledge led her to co-found and organize Animation Wild Card – a place for animation professionals to showcase their own work in short anthology episodes.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts prepared me as a well rounded, multidisciplinary artist who could pick up and translate my materials and technical skills learned in school to my future job prospects as a stop-motion artist.”

Learn more:; Twitter: @_threadwood; Facebook:; Instagram: @threadwood

Mira Dessy

Mira Dessy – ’84

Profession: Nutrition Educator

Major: Fine Arts

Concentration:Stage Management

Minor: English

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Published author – The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food, National speaker on health and wellness topics

About Mira: Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it’s not just what you eat, but what’s in what you eat. Mira is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner who has been working with clients for over 15 years helping clients with chronic health issues find nourishing solutions for wellness.

Thoughts on SFA:“The School of Fine Arts was immensely helpful in teaching me to think outside the box, look for creative solutions to challenges, and it taught me how to communicate clearly with diverse groups of people.”

Learn more: Website:, Facebook: Mira Dessy, Instagram: @theingredientguru, Twitter: @MiraDessy, LinkedIn: Mira Dessy

Christin Donato

Christin Donato – ’08

Profession: Project Manager, Scenic Construction

Major: Theater Studies

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: 2011 News and Documentary Emmy, Outstanding Lighting Direction & Scenic Design: Education Nation Summit, 2012 News and Documentary Emmy, Outstanding Lighting Direction & Scenic Design: NBC News Decision 2012, EMMY Award Nominee: 2011 News and Documentary Emmy, Outstanding Lighting Direction & Scenic Design: Rock Center with Brian Williams

About Christin: Christin currently works at blackwalnut managing scenic construction for broadcast studios and events around the country, and international studios including the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics for NBC. Her work experience includes working at NBC News and MSNBC managing multiple EMMY Award winning and nominated productions. Working as part of the election team, Christin managed interactive graphics at presidential debates and conventions. As part of the creative production teams she’s managed multiple show launches and studio builds.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts taught me the ability to problem solve when up against a show deadline. Stage Management provided me with the skillset to work in Live TV production and events and the ability to adjust on the fly when issues arise.”

Angelica Durrell

Angelica Durrell – ’11

Profession: Founder and Executive Director, INTEMPO

Major: Violin Performance

Department: Music

Accomplishments: Led first international tour of UConn’s Collegium Musicum Ensemble to Ecuador, Performed with Jesús Fichamba for Pope Francis’ first visit to Ecuador in 2015, Performed the national anthem at a UConn Women’s Basketball while studying at UConn

About Angelica: Angelica Durrell is an Ecuadorian-born violinist, educator and social entrepreneur. She is the Founder and Executive Director of INTEMPO, an intercultural organization that strives to make classical music and native instruments relevant, accessible and inclusive through innovative youth development and community engagement programs. She began her musical studies at the National Conservatory of Music in Quito at age six, continuing them in the Norwalk Public Schools under the direction of her father, David Durrell.
She has served on local and national art grants panels, including the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, the Rasmuson Foundation in Alaska, among others. She has had speaking engagements at the University of Michigan, Princeton University’s Keller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Harvard Business School Community Partners, Hartt School of Music, and at the University of Connecticut. Her recent TEDx talk has been acclaimed for creating institutional awareness and action towards cultural equity and representation.
Angie holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance from the University of Connecticut, which awarded her a full talent-based scholarship from the Louis and Sylvia Lazar Endowment for the Arts. Angie says that this scholarship enabled her to graduate debt-free and pursue a career in the arts. She resides in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts taught met to appreciate myself as an artist and a musician and to continue carrying on my culture in the educational and community work that I do now. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC) at UConn who helped me build confidence and a sense of belonging at UConn.”

Learn More:

Alexandra Eckhardt

Alexandra Eckhardt – ’11

Profession: Bassist & Music Supervisor for Film

Major: Music (Jazz Performance / Music Education)

Department: Music

Accomplishments: Music Supervisor for ‘Passing’ (Netflix film dir. by Rebecca Hall, starring Tessa Thompson); Acoustic & electric bassist for Tony Award-winning Best New Musical The Band’s Visit, as well as its Grammy-winning Best Original Broadway Soundtrack; Music Coordinator for “Spirited,” a new Christmas musical film for Apple starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, premiering on AppleTV+ in 2022.

About Kathryn: Music Supervisor and Bassist, Alexandra Eckhardt, has worked across the entertainment industry contributing her skills to feature films, award-winning Broadway shows, and live performances. Between playing with Sara Bareilles on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, performing on NPR’s Tiny Desk web series with Tony & Grammy Award-winning Broadway show, The Band’s Visit, and being an in-demand session and Broadway musician, Alex has cultivated a multifaceted career as a professional bass player. Additionally, she has used her experiences as a musician to add music supervision for film to her arsenal, having worked on both independent and big budgeted films, including “Passing” (Netflix) starring Tessa Thompson and “Spirited” (AppleTV+) starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds.

Thoughts on SFA: “The thing I learned from the School of Fine Arts that I use the most in my career is to be versatile, pro-active, and prepared for any opportunity.”

Learn More:, Instagram: @al_eckhardt, Facebook: Alex Eckhardt, Twitter: @aee_music, LinkedIn: Alexandra Eckhardt

Anduin Havens

Anduin Havens – ’93

Profession: Creative Director & Set Designer – Video & Television

Major: Theatre Design Set and Costume Design)

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Traveled internationally as set designer; art director, and crafter for Martha Stewart; Instrumental in the American Made Event series, a 5-year program to highlight and celebrate American makers, Learned to speak French fluently

About Martin: Anduin has had a vast, international career in the arts. She has worked in theatre design and assisted designers of Broadway productions. Anduin also served as Art Director on various live television shows including the Rosie O’Donnell Show, Today Show, Martha Stewart Show, and others. Over the years her career expanded to Martha Stewart’s staff which included the positions of event designer, television art director, and on-air contributor. She is also fluent in French.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts taught me to constantly evolve, learn, and be inspired by the world and people around me.”

Learn More:, Instagram: @anduinh, LinkedIn: Auduin Havens

Martin Hebel

Martin Hebel – ’15

Profession: Composer

Major: Composition & Trumpet (Double Degree)

Department: Music

Accomplishments: 2020 recipient of the Presser Foundation’s Graduate Music Award, Four published albums (discography published by Ablaze Records and Centaur Records), Six-time American Prize winner

About Martin: Six-time American Prize winner and 2020 recipient of the Presser Foundation’s Graduate Music Award, Martin Hebel composes expressive, emotionally direct concert music engaging the diverse challenges of today’s global community. His portfolio features socially-conscious compositions exploring shared human experiences like introspection, perception, and conflict, including instrumental and vocal chamber music, orchestral and wind ensemble works, and multi-media compositions involving video projection and electronics. With discography published by Ablaze Records and Centaur Records, Martin Hebel has collaborated with ensembles across the U.S. and Europe, currently serving as Visiting Faculty of Music Theory at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and Adjunct Instructor of Advanced Orchestration at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts opened the world of music composition to me and enabled me to pursue my career.”

Learn More: 

Mary E. Hodges

Mary E. Hodges – ’01

Profession: Actor/Director/Teacher

Major: MFA (Acting)

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Broadway acting debut Lehman Trilogy Broadway US, Assistant Director (to Robert O’Hara) on the most Tony Nominated show on Broadway Slave Play at The Golden Theatre, Members of SAG-AFTRA and AEA

About Mary: Mary currently has a career as an actor and director. Her acting credits include “The Lehman Trilogy,” Broadway, “The Hope Hypothesis,” Sheen Center); “Macbeth3,” HERE Arts Center; “Othello,” Harlem Shakespeare Fest; and “Law & Order: SVU,” recurring role: “Judge Anita Wright.” Some of her directing credits include “Slave Play,” Golden Theatre; “Water By the Spoonful, “Fordham University Theatre; “Macbeth3,” Virginia Commonwealth University. Mary is an SDC Associate Member, SAG-AFRA member, and an Actor’s Equity member. Her biggest accomplishment is being proud mother to Amri.

Thoughts on SFA: “The thing I learned from SFA that I use the most in my career is discipline and humility. UConn may not be Ivy League but it’s the professors that go out of their way to connect to the students that carry you after you have graduated.”

Learn More: Instagram: @mhodges2010, Twitter: @HodgesMary

Bernie Kukoff

Bernie Kukoff – ’54

*Graduated before SFA was founded* 

Profession: Writer & Producer

Major: Speech Drama (Theater Performance)

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Mystery Writer’s Of America Edgar Award (1976)-Writer; Drama Desk Award (1996)–Producer; Outer Critics Circle Award (2006)-Producer; Lucile Lortel Award (2008) -Producer

About Bernie: After graduating from UConn and The Yale School of Drama, Bernie  acted off-Broadway, with Second City and five seasons at the Williamstown Theater Festival. He later moved to LA where he created, produced and wrote various TV series, specials and films over a period of 28 years—among them: Diff’rent Strokes, The Cosby Show, and shows starring Steve Allen, Jimmy Durante, Milton Berle, Jerry Stiller, Glen Campbell, Everly Brothers, Howard Cosell. Bernie’s credits also include the films Johnny Dangerously and Lt. Shuster’s Wife ( Edgar Award) and New York Theater productions I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (Drama Desk); Over the River and Through the Woods; The Thing About Men (Outer Critics Circle);  All Shook Up and Dai (Lucile Lortel Award).

Thoughts on SFA: “The Thing I learned from SFA that I use the most in my career was to persist, to stay with it, ie…getting into Yale, (a model for my highly competitive business.) Of great help was the wisdom and encouragement of my SFA mentor, Dr. Cecil Hinkel.”

Jean Marie Keevins

Jean Marie Keevins – ’99

Profession: Life Coach and Puppet Artist

Major: Theater Studies (Puppet Arts)

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Emmy Nominated Puppet Supervisor on Apple TV+’s “Helpsters,” Multi-Award Winning Theatrical Producer, Associate Artistic Director of the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center

About Jean Marie: Jean Marie Keevins is an Emmy-nominated, award-winning creative executive, artist and coach, who has balanced the majority of her career life between the entertainment world and working with C-Suite executives in the financial world. Her production company, Little Shadow Productions, has produced unique works of puppet theater that have toured the country and been presented Off-Broadway. With over 20 years experience in storytelling, she now splits her time between creating new works of theater and support clients in crafting their own new narratives through her coaching practice.

Thoughts on SFA: “The most important thing I learned at UConn School of Fine Arts is that your creative community won’t just lead you to water, they’ll help you fish and cheer on your efforts no matter what ends up in your net. Just keep casting out your ideas.”

Learn More:,; Facebook: Little Shadow Productions ; Instagram: @JeanMarieNY; LinkedIn: Jean Marie Keevins

Timothy Lagasse

Timothy Lagasse – ’92

Profession: Puppet Artist/ Director/ Magician

Major: BFA (Puppetry)

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Starred in various television shows, including “Helpsters,” “Oobi,” “Between the Lions,” “Johnny and the Sprites,” and “Crash and Bernstein”

About Timothy: Puppet Artist Tim Lagasse, who most recently performed “Scatter” and directed on Sesame Workshop’s new AppleTV+ show “Helpsters,” has been entertaining audiences with his unusual skill set for over 30 years.

A “Sesame Street” alumnus, Lagasse designs, builds, and performs all forms of puppets. The short children’s series for the PBS “Between the Lions,” which he created, garnered him three Daytime Emmy nominations. Additionally, Tim has designed and fabricated puppets for numerous TV shows including “Blue’s Room” and “Chappelle’s Show.” He may be best known for playing the title role on Nick Jr’s “Oobi.”

Tim was the first SFA student to receive the Jim Henson Memorial Prize in Puppetry. He also received a Broadcast Design Silver Award and the coveted Union International de la Marionette Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry.

Tim also designs and builds puppets for The Jim Henson Company, regularly performs his Cabaret Hand Shadow Act, and is a Magician Member of the Academy of Magical Arts at the Magic Castle. He and his wife reside with their cats in Hollywood, CA.

Thoughts on SFA: “UConn School of Fine Arts is the only place in the world that prepares you for a CAREER in puppetry. I work and thrive today because of Frank Ballard and Bart Roccoberton.”

Learn More: Website:, Instagram: @puppettim

Nick Lensander

Nick Lensander – ’17

Profession: Digital Creative & Entrepreneur

Major: Digital Media & Design (Digital Media Strategies for Business)

Department: Digital Media & Design

Accomplishments: Founder of Lenk Media & Co-Founder of GymLenk, Host of Lenk Media Original Podcasts including “Teammates,” Former Student Athlete (Football) & American Athletic Conference (AAC) All-Academic Team

About Nick: Nick Lensander is a digital creator, entrepreneur, founder of full service media company Lenk Media & co-founder of tech startup GymLenk. He has worked with brands & businesses both small & large to help them build & execute their vision for the future through brand strategy, digital marketing & social media.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts (DMD) has helped me navigate through the ever changing platforms in the digital world of today. In addition, student agency helped me understand how to communicate complex creative ideas to clients while leading with candor & cultivating important relationships.”

Learn More: Website:, Instagram: @nicklensander, Twitter: @nicklensander, LinkedIn: Nick Lensander 

Aaron Lloyd, actor and School of Fine Arts alum

Arron Lloyd – ’11

Profession: Actor

Major: Fine Arts (Acting)

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Starring in hit TV shows including Bull, CBS; Blue Bloods, CBS; created the short film, This is NYC

About Arron: After graduating with his BFA from UConn Arron has appeared in several Negro Ensemble Company productions and CBS’s Blue Bloods and Bull and worked in a film with Rosie Perez and Eric Roberts. He’s created his own content (This is NYC [This is America]) which got featured in a BBC documentary. He is an international speaker and has spoken at and closed out a Joseph McCleddon III (business partner and friend of Tony Robbins) event.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts laid the foundation of generating the lifelong skills I needed and still need to continually grow as an artist.”

Learn more: Instagram: @arronlloyd, LinkedIn: Arron Lloyd

Matthew Lopez-Jensen

Matthew Lopez-Jensen – ’08

Profession: Artist and Educator

Major: Art (Photography and Sculpture)

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, Having work acquired by major museums, Creating course electives that combine art making, photography, and the history of environmental activism

About Matthew: Matthew López-Jensen is a Bronx-based, interdisciplinary environmental artist whose projects combine walking, collecting, gardening, mapping, photography, people, and research. He is a Guggenheim Fellow in photography and his work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum, among other institutions. He also teaches courses that combine art, image-making, and activism at Fordham University and Parsons School of Design.

Thoughts on SFA: “My time at the SFA provided me the space and stability to develop an understanding of how I could bridge image making and environmental issues.”

Learn More: Website:, Instagram: @mattlopezjensen

Briana Maia

Briana Maia – ’14

Profession: Singer/Songwriter

Major: Acting

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Playing Deena Jones in “Dreamgirls” at the Redhouse Arts Center, Singing for former Destiny’s Child member, Kelly Rowland, Writing music for the internationally celebrated dance duo Les Twins

About Briana: Briana Maia is an actress, singer & songwriter. After graduation, she went on to perform regionally in productions such as “The Color Purple” (Nettie), “Dreamgirls” (Deena), “Avenue Q” (Gary Coleman), and more! Since then, Briana has transitioned into a full-time music career, totaling over 150,000 streams worldwide. Behind the scenes, Briana is also the official Co-writer for the sensational French Dance duo, Larry & Laurent Bourgeois, famously known as Les Twins. For more on Briana, visit to

Thoughts on SFA: “UConn School of Fine Arts taught me how to be fearless. My Voice & Speech Professor, Karen Ryker, would often tell my class to “FAIL GLORIOUSLY!” And now, I bask in the joy, the lessons and the GROWTH that comes with taking risks.”

Learn More: Website:, Instagram: @brianamaiaofficial 

James Maikowski

James Maikowski – ’06

Profession: Art Director

Major: Studio Art (Graphic Design)

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: His work has been awarded and recognized by the James Beard Foundation for achievement in Visual Storytelling, as well as The Society of Publication Designers (SPD).

About James: James is a designer and art director based in New York City and Connecticut. He was most recently Art Director at Martha Stewart and previously held the same title at Food & Wine

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts introduced me to so many technical skills (and materials), while also teaching me how to approach any practice, from graphic design to ceramics, in a curious, considered, and innovative way. The studio classes were messy and experimental, meditative and thought-provoking. Through the process of making and critiquing, my professors and peers pushed me to think harder and to develop a confident, creative voice.”

Learn More: Website:, Instagram: @jamesmaikowski 

Forrest McClendon

Forrest McClendon – ’89

Profession: Actor and Educator

Major: Music (Vocal Performance)

Department: Music

Accomplishments: Tony Nomination, “The Scottsboro Boys;” Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship for Top Regional Actors; Two-time Barrymore Award Winner

About Forrest: Forrest McClendon is an educator and internationally acclaimed performer, with credits from Broadway to the West End as well as throughout the US, most recently appearing this past fall as Depression in the hit new play, “Thoughts of a Colored Man.” Among numerous visiting professorships, Forrest recently served as Visiting Associate Professor of Practice at the University of Miami and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Hartford. He has been on the faculty of the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center since 2015 and is a frequent Connecticut Repertory Theatre Guest Artist.

Thoughts on SFA: “The thing I learned from SFA that I use the most in my career is my devotion to practice as an actor and singer, as well as my knowledge of vocal anatomy/physiology.”

Learn More:, Facebook: Forrest McClendon, Instagram:@thefauxrest, Twitter: @ForrestMcClend1

Lauren McRory

Lauren McRory – ’05

Profession: Puppet Fabricator

Major: Fine Arts (Sculpture)

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: Creating an award winning stop-motion animated short film to complete her MFA in Puppetry in 2010, Fabricating large scale puppets and costumes for multiple Broadway shows touring around the world, Working as a lead artist on a full length animated feature film for a world renowned stop-motion studio.

About Lauren: After completing both a BFA in Sculpture and a MFA in Puppetry at UConn, Lauren began her career in Los Angeles in the stop-motion animation industry creating puppets for popular television shows and commercials. she later moved to Portland, Oregon and launched into building large scale puppets and costumes for theme parks and theatrical productions around the world, including Broadway. Most recently, she has returned to her passion of stop-motion, working as a lead puppet fabricator for Laika Studios on their newest animated feature film, “Wildwood.”

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts taught me a uniquely diverse set of art skills, the power of collaboration, and to be inspired by the world around me.”

Learn More:, Instagram: @puppetlauren, LinkedIn: Lauren McRory

Alexxis Murray

Alexxis Murray – ’14, ’16

Profession: Senior User Experience Designer

Major: BFA Studio Art / MFA Digital Media & Design (Communication Design)

Department: Digital Media & Design

Accomplishments: Business Intelligence Group BIG Innovation Award (2017), Former lead designer for the Cigna Wellness/Resilience Challenges, Former Adjunct Professor for Digital Media & Design

About Alexxis: Alexxis has worked as an Innovation Designer at Cigna, an Adjunct Professor at the Digital Media & Design school, and is currently a Senior UX Designer at the Jackson Laboratory. In her first year at Cigna, she helped design a breast cancer application that won a BIG Innovation Award (2017), and is passionate about finding ways for people to connect with technology and their own health. Her current role focuses on improving/expanding the visibility of the Jackson Laboratory, an international non-profit dedicated to disease research, via their web presence. In her limited spare time, she has a small side business creating wedding invitations for friends and family.

Thoughts on SFA: “The most important thing I learned at the School of Fine Arts is how to deal with ambiguity and remain flexible in your creativity. Working with clients, there are often conflicting visions and more than one way to solve a problem. Keeping the spirit of creativity flowing while also collaborating effectively is essential to the work we do outside of the classroom, and was reflected in many of the projects I was given over my time at the SFA.”

Learn More: LinkedIn: Alexxis Murray   Instagram: alexxismurray

Eric Panke

Eric Panke – ’93

Profession: Creative Director

Major: Fine Arts (Graphic Design)

Minor: Painting

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: Recognized for outstanding work by Print Regional Design Annual, New England Hatch Awards, Telly Awards, Webby Awards, WMA/IAC Awards, CT Art Directors Club and The Advertising Club of CT; Worked as an illustrator worked for NFL, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Warner Music, ESPN and espnW; Artist in residence at the Wimbledon Hospitality House, 2018 Wimbledon Championships, London, England

About Eric: A life-long Connecticut resident, Eric is a creative director, art director, copywriter and illustrator, born and raised in Bloomfield, CT. He now resides in Milldale, CT with this wife, Elizabeth Panke (SFA ‘93) and two children. Eric has been a highly respected and award-winning member of the Connecticut advertising and design community for nearly 30 years. He has helped create memorable work for a long list of brands including: Mohegan Sun, Olympic Stains, Konica Minolta, CT Lottery, Garelick Farms, Pfizer, the Hartford Courant, the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA, and the Connecticut Office of Tourism.

As an illustrator, Eric has had the opportunity to work with the NFL, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, Warner Music, ESPN and espnW. He presently holds the title of “Creative Director, Digital” at Adams & Knight in Avon, CT.

Thoughts on SFA: “The thing I learned from SFA that I still use every day in my career is that risk-taking can, and will, produce failures. Big, ugly failures. And that’s okay. It’s part of the process. The pushing of creative boundaries is not a science. There is no formula. The artist lives in a sea of missteps and false starts. That’s why the successes burn so brightly. PLUS, living all the way across campus during my time at Storrs, I discovered the mental health benefits of a good, long walk. Thanks, SFA!”

Learn More: Instagram: @twopank, LinkedIn: Eric Panke

UConn School of Fine Arts Alum, Kevin Rivera, smiling head shot

Kevin Andrew Rivera – ’16

Profession: Voice Actor

Major: Fine Arts (Acting)

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Known for playing Kazuki Shindo, and multiple roles in the Nintendo Switch game, “Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle;” Worked on “Genshin Impact”, an award-winning game on every system, voicing Shinnojou, Okawara, and multiple other roles; You can hear Kevin in the Indie Nominated Podcast, “For Blood or Justice”. Starring Danny Trejo, Tara Strong, and Eric Bauza.

About Kevin: Kevin is a voice actor based in Los Angeles. He’s done voice work for multiple companies, including Nintendo, Nickelodeon, Disney, Crunchyroll, T-Mobile, H&R Block, McDonalds, and much more. If you don’t find Kevin talking to himself inside a 4×4 box, he’s probably being the biggest dork in the world somewhere else (but we think he’s cool!).

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts taught me to be patient. To slow down and learn the craft so that I could be prepared for any opportunity that came my way.”

Learn More: Website:, Instagram: @KevinARiveraVO, Twitter: @KevinARiveraVO, LinkedIn: Kevin Andrew Rivera

Dan Rousseau

Dan Rousseau – ’08

Profession: Event Space Design Manager

Major: Fine Arts (Design/Theatre Tech)

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: 2012 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lighting Direction & Scenic Design, NBC News: Decision 2012 Election Night from Democracy Plaza; 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lighting Direction & Scenic Design, The 10th Annual CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute; 2019 Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Lighting Direction & Scenic Design, CNN NY Hudson Yards Studio 19Y New Day and Cuomo Prime Time⁣

About Dan: Dan has been an Emmy award-winning broadcast lighting designer for the last 14 years. In 2022, he joined Charcoalblue and the CBX team as an Event Space Design Manager focusing on consulting work at Google.

Thoughts on SFA: “The School of Fine Arts taught me a wide variety of skills beyond my focus in lighting design preparing me to adapt and mold my future.”

Learn More: LinkedIn: Dan Rousseau; Instagram: @danthelightingman

Robert Saunders

Robert Saunders – ’96

Profession: Puppeteer and Puppet & Costume Fabricator. Owner of CJS workshop, LLC

Major: Puppet Arts

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Built the prototype tentacle puppets for what would become “Doc Ock” in Spiderman 2, Toured with Beck for 1.5 years as part of his Information Tour. Two US tours and one European tour, Father to three amazing boys, ages 6, 4, and 1

About Robert: Rob started making puppets in his early teens. A 1996 graduate of the Puppet Arts Program at the University of Connecticut, he has been a part of some of the most iconic puppet & creature costume projects in film, television, and themed entertainment.

With his own startup, CJS workshop, Rob seeks to provide themed entertainment and commercial advertising with the best puppets and costumes in the industry.

Thoughts on SFA: The most important thing I learned from SFA is a career in the arts is relational. It’s entirely about the relationships you build in your life and career.

Learn More: Website:, LinkedIn: CJS workshop LLC

Robin Simon

Robin Simon – ’17

Profession: Content Producer, Twitter Inc.

Major: Digital Media & Design (3D Animation & Visualization)

Department: Digital Media & Design

Accomplishments: Twitter Marketing Perspective Piece “Content Trends to Get Brands Inspired,” Moderator for #TheCreatorSessions

About Robin: As a Content Producer, Robin helps brands craft Twitter-first content that moves people. Focused on the optimization of creative assets for the Twitter platform, her work helps inform latest best practices and drive innovation across Twitter’s suite of ad products. Her work has spanned hundreds of clients in the US and around the world.

Thoughts on SFA: “UConn School of Fine Arts taught me that learning happens equally inside and outside of the classroom. From internal internships focused on bringing to life new techniques like projection mapping and motion capture, to external work for Boston Children’s Hospital I was constantly inspired to push beyond the classroom to drive innovation with my peers.”

Learn More: Twitter: @robonthestreet

Kelly Walters

Kelly Walters – ’10

Profession: Designer and Professor

Major: Studio Art (Communication Design)

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: Author of Black, Brown + Latinx Design Educators: Conversations on Design + Race (2021), Co-Editor and Creative Director of The Black Experience in Design: Identity, Expression & Reflection (2022), 2021 Graham Foundation Awardee, 2021–2022 Mellon Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence, 2015–2016 Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design (AICAD) Post-Graduate Teaching Fellow

About Kelly: Kelly Walters is a designer, educator and founder of the multidisciplinary design studio Bright Polka Dot. Her ongoing design research interrogates the complexities of identity formation, systems of value and the shared vernacular in and around Black visual culture. She has previously taught at the University of Bridgeport, California College of the Arts, Central Saint Martins and the University of Connecticut. Kelly is currently an Assistant Professor of Communication Design and the Associate Director of the BFA Communication Design Program in Parsons School of Design at The New School.

Thoughts on SFA: “As I reflect back to when I was student at UCONN and in particular within the School of Fine Arts, I am reflective of my time studying as a Communication Design student in the department of Art + Art History. My current research and design practice has very much been informed by my undergraduate Senior thesis which was entitled “Black” and this laid the foundation for so much of what I am doing now. Outside of being in the art program, I was also a member of the UCONN Marching Band (shout out to the Clarinet section) and pretty much went to every football game. I am appreciative of the variety of creative experiences I had during my time in SFA.”

Learn More:, Instagram: @brightpolkadot, Twitter: @brightpolkadot

Jeff Wamester

Jeff Wamester – ’00

Profession: Animation Director, Storyboard Artist, Art Director, Concept Artist and Character Designer

Major: Fine Arts (Illustration)

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: Successfully launched own property/graphic novel “Electropunk” on Kickstarter with over 150% funding

About Jeff: After graduating from UConn with a BFA, Jeff worked as a freelance illustrator and comic book artist for top companies such as Topcow, DC and Marvel. After a few years he moved into animation, specializing in storyboarding and principle character design for shows like Ultimate Spiderman, Avengers Assemble and Guardians of the Galaxy. Then shortly after, he moved into a position as an Episodic Director for Guardians of the Galaxy, the animated series before moving the WB animation as a feature DTV director. In his spare time, when Jeff is not working on his graphic novel “Electropunk” he freelances as a story artist, concept artist and illustrator for a variety of entertainment companies including Disney, Marvel, Film Roman, Bento Box, Fox and Riot Games.

Thoughts on SFA: “The most important thing I learned at SFA is that anything is possible in this field, just continue to pursue the dream as a creative and you can learn any skill you need to learn to achieve it!”

Learn more: Website:, Facebook: Jeff Wamester, Instagram: @jeffwamester, Twitter: @jeffwamester

Noemi Zelanski Kearns, Business owner and UConn School of Fine Arts Graduate

Noemi Zelanski Kearns – ’89

Profession: Business Owner

Major: Fine Arts (Graphic Design)

Department: Art & Art History

Accomplishments: Founding Principal and Creative Director of the award-winning Ink&Pixel Agency, CADC Richard Hess Spirit of Creativity, One of only two women recognized as the top 20 Most Influential Creatives in Connecticut by ConnCreatives

About Noemi: Hired after her very first job interview, Noemi worked for Newman Design Associates, Peter Good Graphic Design (also an SFA alum), and WYD Design, prior to opening up her own studio in 1994. Noemi quickly built up a loyal client roster from global Fortune 10 corporations to local non-profits, and has produced work in fourteen different languages.

Noemi taught Graphic Design at Middlesex Community College and continues to serve on their board. Noemi has been a guest lecturer at numerous universities and spoken at design industry events including a screening of “She Started It”—an empowering documentary on female entrepreneurs in the technology and science fields; American Institute of Graphic Arts; Educational Center for the Arts; Connecticut Art Directors Club (past Vice President and Secretary); Young Audiences of Connecticut (former board member); Cultural Enrichment Director at AW Cox Elementary School (2013-2018); and Youth Rec. Basketball Coach (2013-2022), bringing home the championship for the league one year.

Noemi has been part of the UConn School of Fine Arts family since her parents met in the Art Department in the 60s. Paul was a much beloved professor and when he passed away in 2015, Noemi and her sister Ruth (also an SFA alum) established the Paul Zelanski Award of Excellence scholarship for Art and Art History students at UConn. Continuing the UConn legacy, Noemi’s middle daughter is enrolled in the UConn Honors Special Program in Law.

Thoughts on SFA: “Through my SFA education at the University of Connecticut, I not only ignited my passion for design, but my time spent at UConn was the catalyst for my desire to learn something new each day. I’m living the life I set out to live, but beyond my expectations. My father always said, ;find what you love, and make that work.'”

Learn More: Website: Ink&Pixel Agency, Instagram: @Ink&PixelAgency, Facebook: Ink&Pixel, Twitter: @InkPixelAgency, LinkedIn: Noemi Kearns


Hua Hua Zhang – ’00

Profession: Artistic Director

Major: Dramatic Arts (Puppet Arts)

Department: Dramatic Arts

Accomplishments: Awards Hero In The Arts – Arts Champion Award from Young Audience in Learning (YANJ & PA) [2021]; Best Creativity Award Production of Butterfly Dreams, UNIMA Congress & World Puppet Festival (Chengdu, China)

About Hua Hua: Since 2002, Hua Hua Zhang has been the President and Artistic Director of her own production company, Visual Expressions, and her vision of puppetry is without boundary or limits. Drawing from her Asian cultural heritage and training in both Eastern and Western, she has written, directed, and performed over a dozen original contemporary puppet shows, collaborating with internationally renowned musicians and dancers to achieve unique creations ranging from fully staged theatrical productions to gallery style art installations. In addition to performing, Hua Hua carries out professional training and workshops in puppetry, dance, theater, and Chinese calligraphy for students ranging from elementary aged through adults.

Thoughts on SFA: “Studying at the UConn School of Fine Arts in the Puppet Arts Program opened up my vision for the creation of art. I received a very solid foundation for my future career. I was very fortunate to meet three special mentors who shared their rich experience in the practice of art — these mentors are Puppet Artist Bart Roccoberton, Theater Costume Designer Laura Crow, and Choreographer/Dancer Jean Sabatine. I learned so much from each them. Thank you, SFA faculty, for making me who I am.”

Learn More: Website: