Virginia Tech® home

2023 AAD Awards

Each year in April, the college celebrates the achievements of its faculty, staff and students with awards. Awardees are nominated by their peers and voted upon by the college’s Honorifics Committee and allied units in the university. They include the CAUS award recipients as well as ones who received recognition at the university level.
Congratulations to all!


AAD Certificate for Excellence in Teaching

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Amanda Lechner

Amanda Lechner
Studio Art
School of Visual Arts

Amanda’s nominators had this to say:

  • Amanda is an energetic and dedicated teacher who is both challenging and supportive, while using teaching as a guide to help students to explore their creative process with more depth, rigor, and curiosity.
  • Through her approach to curriculum design, Amanda effectively models the experimental ways of working with ideas and the creative processes.
  • She does a wonderful job of letting students approach their paintings in ways that make sense to them personally, while also providing them helpful feedback and direction.

AAD Certificate for Excellence in Teaching

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Emmett O'Leary

Emmett O'Leary
School of Performing Arts

Emmett’s nominators had this to say:

  • Students note that Emmett creates a welcoming and inviting atmosphere in the classroom, works to provide thorough and actionable feedback, and they value his expertise as a music educator.
  • He is passionate about providing future music educators with practical, effective rehearsal techniques.
  • Emmett’s  humor and high energy helps to create a positive and enjoyable atmosphere in the classroom.

AAD Certificate for Excellence in Outreach

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Hiromi Okumura

Hiromi Okumura
Studio Art
School of Visual Arts

Hiromi’s nominators had this to say:

  • Hiromi’s outreach efforts involve creating artwork to help communicate the complex research being done by the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation to the general public at many outreach events throughout the year. 
  • What stands out most with her work is her contagious excitement and involvement in learning, and her ability to share that information through guided art projects.
  • Hiromi interprets science into an artistic format making it more accessible to the public.

AAD Certificate for Excellence in Outreach

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Patrick Finley

Patrick Finley
Graphic Design
School of Visual Arts

Patrick’s nominators had this to say:

  • Patrick started DesignUP, a philanthropic community event where undergraduate design students are mentored by design professionals to create graphic design materials for local nonprofits throughout the New River Valley.
  • DesignUP has brought tremendous positive recognition to our college and has been an incredible hands-on community builder.
  • DesignUP is an incredible benefit to the broader community in ways that far exceed providing graphic design assistance.

AAD Certificate for Excellence in Scholarship

Award graphic designed by SOVA for James Jewitt

James Jewitt
Art History
School of Visual Arts

James' nominators had this to say:

  • James has emerged as a scholar with a consistent and admirable publication record.
  • His accomplishments are noteworthy because through his research he manages to draw new conclusions and uncover new knowledge in the world of Italian Renaissance art history, one of the most heavily researched periods of art history.
  • James makes exciting and critical discoveries in a field that many might see as already saturated.

AAD Certificate for Excellence in Scholarship

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Stefan Al

Stefan Al
School of Architecture

Stefan’s nominators had this to say:

  • Stefan’s research aims to improve the quality of life within contemporary cities through well-designed urban density, transit-oriented development, and climate change adaptation projects.
  • He has worked in academia at major institutions and in practice on large-scale projects, including the world’s tallest tower.
  • Stefan has published eight books, including with The MIT Press and W.W. Norton, as well as five peer-reviewed book chapters.

AAD Certificate for Creative Achievement

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Dwight Bigler

Dwight Bigler
School of Performing Arts

Dwight’s nominators had this to say:

  • Dwight’s recent composition, performance, and recording production of his oratorio, Mosaic For Earth, was a multi-year, multi-faceted research and performance project.
  • He not only composed this new work, but he also led most of the choir and orchestra rehearsals, conducted the premiere, produced the audio and video recordings that involved collaboration with authors, artists, designers, and professional guest musicians.
  • This work provided VT students with advanced learning experiences not only in musical performance, but also in creative processes, complex problem solving, real-world application of theoretical concepts, and direct community outreach.

AAD Certificate for Creative Achievement

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Yevgeny Dokshanksy

Yevgeny Dokshansky
School of Performing Arts

Yevgeny’s nominators had this to say:

  • Yevgeny is praised for his outstanding accomplishments as a performer, transcriber, and recording artist, most notably for his two recent CD recordings as a solo and chamber musician.
  • His transcriptions and performances provide exposure to Ernest Bloch’s unique voice with which clarinetists may have limited familiarity.
  • Far beyond simply placing Bloch’s notes into the clarinet, Yevgeny makes every effort to find clarinet effects analogous to the string techniques in Bloch’s original scoring. 

AAD Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Andrew Gipe-Lazarou

Andrew Gipe-Lazarou
School of Architecture

Andrew’s nominators had this to say:

  • Andrew organized and led a successful collaboration with the VA Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired in which students learned to challenge ocular-centered design practices.
  • The workshop participants learned building design concepts and explored the use of different materials while using mostly touch and hearing.
  • Andrew explains the challenge as understanding how working with the blind and visually impaired can better inform architecture, its social value, and the positive implications it has.

AAD Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team Award

Award graphic designed by SOVA for group

Christopher Campo-Bowen, Scott Hanenberg, Caitlin Martinkus, & Elizabeth McLain

School of Performing Arts

Nominators had this to say:

  • The team’s work has resulted in one of the most progressive college-level academic music curricula in the state of Virginia, positioning our students to be more empathetic, open-minded, and culturally knowledgeable members of the VT community and beyond.
  • Through these new and redesigned courses, students experience music as a diverse cultural practice and work with faculty who affirm the value of diversity in each class.
  • The revised and reimagined curricula shape how students engage with and think about music, including central threads of cultural understanding and humanistic inquiry.

AAD Outstanding Administrative & Professional Faculty/Staff Award

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Rob Jacks

Rob Jacks
Academic Advising
College of Architecture, Arts, and Design

Rob’s nominators had this to say:

  • Rob has made significant contributions in the efforts to modernize the college’s advising model to professional advising and moving the college into compliance with university and national advising best practices.
  • His willingness to go above and beyond, to support students, faculty and administrators, and to work to solve problems for everyone while being attentive to the need for compliance.
  • Rob is an exceptional leader for our departmental advisors, a primary resource for our faculty, and is very often the first contact for our staff when seeking direction for a student-related issue.

AAD Outstanding Staff Award

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Sonya Shelor

Sonya Shelor
Business Operations
School of Visual Arts

Sonya’s nominators had this to say:

  • Sonya is an unfailing rock in understanding and managing the finances of the school, and faculty research funds.
  • Sonya is exceptionally knowledgeable about procedures and manages to explain both the big picture and the minutiae of our budget in ways that are clear and accessible.
  • She’s intuitive, a skilled communicator, and able to balance a wide-range of responsibilities with seeming effortlessness, elegance, and efficiency. 

Elizabeth Roberson Staff Excellence Award

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Jennifer Yates

Jennifer Yates
Business Operations
College of Architecture, Arts, and Design

Jennifer’s nominators had this to say:

  • Jennifer takes pride is helping her colleagues accomplish their goals promptly and efficiently by offering clear and friendly communication.
  • She truly cares about those around her, treating  everyone with the same welcoming kindness, whether it is a student, faculty, or fellow staff member.
  • She provides unwavering thorough, prompt, and accurate fiscal assistance in a most respectful, friendly, professional, patient, helpful, and positive manner.

AAD Career Achievement Award

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Deb Sim

Deb Sim
Armory Gallery
School of Visual Arts

Deb's nominators had this to say:

  • Deb fosters inclusivity, and honors access and intersectionality, holding space for a diversity of artists and art forms which challenge aspects of history, questions of the human condition, and identity.
  • Her support for her colleagues and students is unwavering and she is the first to be excited for our students’ successes before and after graduation.
  • Deb is an impeccable curator and exhibition designer, a tough but empathetic teacher, a nurturing mentor, and an all-around miraculous problem-solver.

AAD Ut Prosim Award

Award graphic designed by SOVA for Rosemary Blieszner

Rosemary Blieszner
College of Architecture, Arts, and Design

Rosemary's nominators had this to say:

  • Rosemary has acted with grace and discretion, served as a role model and is a prime example of how to live our principles of community.
  • She is generous with her time and presence, also serving as chair of the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee, in which she led the planning of the university’s celebration of its 150th anniversary.
  • There is a unique generosity in Rosemary’s leadership, and she has shown what clear-minded and generous leadership can do for an entire community.
  • She consistently exhibits an overflowing measure of optimism. 

University Awards

The college’s Honorifics Committee, in collaboration with the university’s Academy of Teaching Excellence, Center for Outreach and International Affairs, Alumni Association, Student Affairs and the Graduate School celebrate these awardees, who received their respective certificates in separate ceremonies. Congratulations to all!


College Award for Teaching Excellence

In collaboration with Academy of Teaching Excellence

Hilary Bryon
School of Architecture

Hilary’s nominators had this to say:

  • Hilary empowers students by actively seeking to understand, tease out, and elevate their strengths, interests, and abilities.
  • Her willingness to give enormous amounts of time over and above the normal studio hours to having meaningful and productive conversations over the work is exemplary.
  • Hilary is relentless in her pursuit of uncovering student potential, and her range and depth of architectural knowledge guides and builds an enthusiastic and passionate learning environment.

College Award for Teaching Excellence

In collaboration with Academy of Teaching Excellence

Jennifer Hand
Foundations of Art and Design
School of Visual Arts

Jennifer’s nominators had this to say:

  • In both her leadership and teaching roles, Jennifer fosters a culture of inclusivity, and an atmosphere where each student (as well as each faculty) feels a sense of belonging in SOVA.
  • Her dynamic leadership style involves simultaneously perceiving complex systems from a distance, from multiple angles, and without bias or self-interest.
  • Jennifer recognizes the innate value and strengths in every individual and teaches students to also cultivate that awareness in themselves.

College Award for Outreach Excellence

In collaboration with Outreach & International Affairs

Molly Wilkens-Reed
School of Performing Arts

Molly’s nominators had this to say:

  • Molly has built relationships with elementary music education stakeholders throughout the region,  exciting students about studying a string instrument while engaging them in dialog about music and emotion.
  • Her tireless work with the Virginia Tech String Project has created a vibrant musical opportunity for young people in our community.
  • Molly is a leader in string pedagogy throughout our region and a nationally recognized string educator that brings a breadth of expertise to her position.

Outstanding Recent Alumni Award

In collaboration with Alumni Relations

Katherine Ranieri
School of Architecture

Katherine’s nominators had this to say:

  • Katherine’s advanced work and research in architecture, combined with her intensive community engagement to support the underprivileged have contributed significantly to the profession, the discipline and to an improved well-being of her community.
  • Throughout her professional work, she has always maintained a strong commitment to equity, social justice and community-based design.
  • She represents our school, college and university through important, recognized service to the communities in which she lives and works, and through exemplary professional work.

Outstanding Senior

In collaboration with Student Affairs

Matthew Schrage
School of Architecture

Matthew’s nominators had this to say:

  • Matthew has demonstrated exceptional academic achievement, co-curricular engagement, leadership experience, and service-contributions to the local community.
  • He has consistently supplemented his education with professional experience, interning at three architecture firms and contributing to a variety of architectural projects.
  • Matthew has also consistently demonstrated leadership ability, as a project manager for the CID installation design team, as a two-time leader of the school's annual Blind Design Workshop, and throughout his studies as a mentor for younger students. 

Outstanding Master's Student

In collaboration with the Graduate School

Rodney Kimbangu
Creative Technologies
School of Visual Arts

Rodney’s nominators had this to say:

  • Rodney is imagining and actualizing new ways to use emerging technology to do crucial work around representation, race, and decolonial repatriation of stolen art/artifacts from their cultures.
  • His pursuits are ambitious, mature, timely, inclusive, innovative, and poignant.
  • He is an amazingly active contributor to the community, and key university-wide, faculty, and VT projects, bringing professional skill and support to AAD, SOVA, and ICAT, and embodying the spirit of Ut Prosim.

Outstanding Doctoral Student

In collaboration with the Graduate School

Negar Goljan
School of Architecture

Negar’s nominators had this to say:

  • Negar’s research on atmosphere in architecture considers the role of the built environment in providing emotional, aesthetic, and physical well-being.
  • She has taught in studio and seminar courses, including developing an original course on her research topic for which she was instructor of record.
  • Negar’s service also includes coordinating Virginia Tech’s involvement in the National Building Museum’s Interschool Design Competition and providing enormous assistance in organizing and coordinating the many elements of our Frascari international symposium.

Outstanding Mentor

In collaboration with the Graduate School

Marcia Feuerstein
School of Architecture

Marcia’s nominators had this to say:

  • Over the course of her career at VT, Marcia has advised as either chair or committee member some 255 graduate student theses and in addition about 75 undergraduate fifth-year thesis students to successful completion.
  • She has been an especially valuable advisor to women in architecture, advising them not only on their education but also their career paths.
  • A former student commented that Marcia was the most wonderful mentor that they had ever had because she took the time to carefully listen, supportively guide, and enthusiastically champion me and my work.

AAD Faculty and Staff Service Recognition