CPVA Celebrates Top Graduates of the Year

Published: April 22, 2024 | Author: Kol Gibson and Outstanding Graduates | Read Time: 6 minutes

Dean Shauna Mendini at Graduation.

The College of Performing & Visual Arts (CPVA) proudly announces its Outstanding Students for the 2023-24 school year. Each year, CPVA recognizes students for their performance as artists and scholars throughout their careers at SUU. The College Valedictorian is the graduating student who has the highest academic achievements in the class. The Outstanding Students are chosen by the faculty in their respective disciplines for their artistry and contributions to each department.

Holly Biesinger headshot.College Valedictorian

Holly Biesinger, a West Valley City, Utah native, is receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a double major in Art Education and History with minors in Art History, Illustration, Painting/Drawing/Printmaking, and History Teaching. She will also be receiving the Grace A. Tanner Certificate of Human Values. During her time at SUU, Holly gave a TEDxSUU talk and presented at the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research and the National Art Education Association Conference in Minneapolis. Outside of academics, she participated in the Days of ‘47 Royalty, served on the Executive Board of the National Society of Leadership and Success, and held the position of Art Education club president. Before continuing her educational journey in grad school, Holly aims to secure a teaching position, leveraging her passion for both art and history to inspire and educate future generations.

Elley White headshot.Outstanding Student - Dance

Elley White, from Las Vegas, Nevada, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Dance Performance with a minor in Arts Administration. In addition to SUU performances, she has performed in New York City at MOD Arts Dance Festival, SoloDuo Dance Festival, and the American College Dance Association. Other accomplishments include writing and receiving a CONNECT grant, the Lauretta Perry Scholarship, and the Eccles Endowed Scholarship. After graduation, Elley looks forward to moving to St. George, Utah to audition for Tuachan/St. George Dance Company, do freelance work, teach dance, as well as getting involved in marketing and advocating for healthy habits in dance.

Zoe Petersen headshot.Outstanding Student - Filmmaking, Art, & Design

Zoë Petersen, from Cedar City, Utah, is graduating with a BFA in Illustration with a minor in Graphic Design. She loves the process of making and enjoys being involved in every step. While at SUU, she has worked as an art teacher for elementary children, an in-house editorial illustrator for the Deseret News, and started her freelance career. Zoë illustrates the delight to be found in the mundane through a conceptual perspective and textural mark-making. Her work has been recognized by the Utah Society of Professional Journalists, the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, and 3x3 the International Magazine of Contemporary Illustration. 

Bubba Akins headshot.Outstanding Student - Music

Bubba Akins, from Cedar City, Utah, is receiving a Bachelor of Music in Music Education with an emphasis in Secondary Instrumental Education. During his time at SUU, Bubba participated in the SUU Wind Symphony, Symphony Orchestra, and Jazz Ensemble I. He also served as Co-Czar for the SUU chapter of the National Association for Music Educators (NAfMe) alongside his good friend Camille Overson. Throughout his college career, Bubba participated in many pit orchestras and small ensembles both with SUU and various community groups. In April of 2023, he won the Halversen Young Artist Concerto Competition, and in April of 2024, finished his student teaching at Cedar High School, where his ensembles received “Excellent” and “Superior” ratings at their regional festival competitions. After graduation, Bubba will start his position as Music Director at Cedar City Foursquare, where he will pursue a pastoral license and raise the level of musical excellence for the King.

Dora Watkins headshot.Outstanding Student - Theatre

Dora Watkins, from Vernal, Utah, is receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Design and Production with an emphasis in Stage Management. During her time at SUU, she has worked on a variety of productions including dance concerts, Shakespeare plays, and musicals. In addition to her work as a stage manager, her involvement with the department includes her work as an Office Assistant and Assistant Production Manager. She completed her internship with the Utah Shakespeare Festival in their 2023 season and will be returning this summer as a Production Assistant.

Kylie Howard headshot.Outstanding Student - Arts Administration

Kylie Howard, from Reno, Nevada, is receiving a Master of Arts in Arts Administration. While working on her degree, Kylie has served as the Director of Education, Community Engagement, and Inclusion at the Reno Philharmonic, overseeing programs impacting over 11,000 northern Nevada children and families annually, while fostering community relationships and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Before joining the Reno Philharmonic, Kylie worked as an Executive Grants Analyst for the Nevada Governor’s Office of Federal Assistance, expanding grant resources and support services to organizations and businesses across Nevada. She also served as Program Manager and Operations Director at the Utah Cultural Alliance (UCA), overseeing UCA’s data initiative, membership programs, and NowPlayingUtah.com. Passionate about advocating for cultural inclusivity, Kylie is excited to apply all she has learned to support cultural engagement, education, and participation.

Katie Greenfield headshot.Outstanding Student - Music Education

Katherine Greenfield, from Bountiful, Utah, is receiving a Master of Music Education, with a choral emphasis. Katherine attended a study abroad to Italy in August 2022 to study voice, the Alexander Technique, and Music History. She also completed ten months of lessons from a certified Alexander instructor, Jean Applonie. For her capstone, Katherine created a choral curriculum specifically for Jr. High singers that implements Alexander Technique principles. This curriculum has helped young musicians identify their singing habits, adopt proper body alignment, and find relief from body tension. In addition to her teaching accomplishments, Katherine is also a singer and songwriter, having completed a rewarding music technology project this year - a studio album of original songs in collaboration with her producer, sound engineer, and other professional musicians. During her time in the MME program, Katherine has excelled in researching and writing various music education topics, including body-based learning, and the learning style of this current generation of students. 

Chris Kuhlmeier headshot.Outstanding Student - Music Technology

Chris Kuhlmeier, from Las Vegas, Nevada, is receiving a Master of Music in Music Technology with a Live Performance Technology emphasis. This is Chris’ second degree earned through SUU; with his first being a Bachelor of Music Education with a Secondary Instrumental emphasis earned in 2022. Chris currently serves as the Director of Bands at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah where, as per his capstone project, he is pioneering a curriculum for High School Music Production across the Jordan School District. After graduation, Chris plans to continue teaching at Copper Hills, going on to publish a curriculum in Music Production statewide.

The College of Performing & Visual Arts wishes warm congratulations to each of these students for their accomplishments. To learn more about SUU’s graduation ceremonies and traditions, please visit www.suu.edu/graduation. 

About the College of Performing and Visual Arts

The College of Performing and Visual Arts (CPVA) at Southern Utah University comprises 41 academic programs including liberal arts (BA/BS) and professional (BFA, BM, BMEd) degrees in art, design, dance, filmmaking, music, and theatre. It includes graduate programs in the fields of arts administration (MFA, MA), music education (MME), and music technology (MM). More than 60 full-time faculty and staff are engaged in teaching and mentoring over 900 majors in the College. CPVA presents over 100 performances, lectures, presentations, and exhibitions each year which are complemented by the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) and Shakespeare Studies at SUU, and is affiliated with the Tony award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival (USF). Southern Utah University is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD), National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD), National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), and the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) making SUU the first public university in the state of Utah to be accredited by all four associations. For more information about the College of Performing and Visual Arts, visit www.suu.edu/pva.

Tags: Theatre Music Education Art and Design Music Technology Filmmaking Music Dance Theatre Arts and Dance Arts Administration College of Performing and Visual Arts

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Kol Gibson