College of Fine Arts, School of Art, School of Dance, School of Music, School of Theatre, Film & Television

The University of Arizona College of Fine Arts celebrates its “Outstanding Seniors” and “Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants” at the Spring 2023 Graduation Ceremony May 12 at Centennial Hall. The talented students honored this spring include:

Outstanding GTAs

  • Mariel Miranda, School of Art
  • Gabriel Speiller, School of Dance / College of Fine Arts
  • Edward Senn, Fred Fox School of Music

Outstanding Seniors

  • Calista Kimiko Olander, School of Art
  • Jack Edward Haskins, School of Dance
  • Gabby Cioca, Fred Fox School of Music
  • Lisitte Ann Mora, School of Theatre, Film & Television / College of Fine Arts

Mariel Miranda

School of Art | Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant

Since joining our program in fall 2020 as a University Fellow, Mariel has challenged herself at every turn. 

She applied for and was awarded the Marcia Grand Centennial Sculpture Prize. She leveraged that opportunity to create new artwork which expanded her practice dramatically. Over a period of months, she emerged with new work which she then debuted in a solo exhibition at the Centro Cultural Tijuana CECUT—Tijuana’s premier museum and cultural space. To be sure, this would be an outstanding achievement for an artist an any career stage. 

The level of professionalism and self-direction that she exhibits in her graduate studies is similarly evident in her work as a GTA. The work produced by her students is consistently excellent and they are clearly inspired by her mentorship. She has distinguished herself admirably and is certain to be a leader and mentor for aspiring thinkers and creators in the coming years.

— nomination letter excerpts from
Professor David Taylor

From Mariel …

“I was lucky enough to to be invited to come to this program. I think that I was ready to start an MFA, but I never imagined that this area of the United States or even United States will be in my path. I think that the opportunity that I receive of being invited here by my professor, David Taylor — I was recruited from from Tijuana — it it changed my life. It just changed my life completely. There were two reasons that I felt this certainty of wanting to come here. One was the fact that the professors that they were part of this program, they were so interested on my photographical experience, who I was in my work. The bureaucratic process that I have to cross (the U.S. Mexico border) and navigate in order to come here, like they were there. They were there at 2 a.m. They were moving everything in their power to help for this to happen. I think that that gave me a lot of confidence, like, ‘Wow, these are people that they really care about their students and I wasn’t wrong. The only thing that I have received from all of them … just a lot of care and a lot of attention and a lot of solidarity.

“The second reason is because I saw the catalogs that the School of Art that shows the work of of the graduate students. And when I saw the work of those other generations that they were before, I thought, if this is a school that can help their students to achieve these quality in their work, I want to be there.”

Edward Senn

School of Music | Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant

It gives me great pleasure to nominate Edward Senn (they/their) for the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant. Ed has been assisting me with Freshman Theory since Fall 2021, when they began their master’s studies in bassoon performance. I suggested that Ed would be a good fit for Theory GTA based on their strong background at UMASS-Amherst. I have not been disappointed; indeed, Ed is easily one of the top five GTAs I have worked with in 16 years here, including those doing graduate work in theory. In fact, my hunch is that it is precisely their performance background that commands such respect from their students and makes instruction more practical and engaging. Ed’s students have picked up on what a special experience they are having in aural skills.

“Empathy, patience, understanding, encouragement, motivator, role-model.  These are the words that Ed’s students and I have come to associate with their work in the theory program.  Many of these are not teachable qualities, but Ed exhibits them daily.”

— nomination letter excerpts from
Professor Don Traut

Gabriel Speiller

School of Dance / College of Fine Arts
Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant

Gabriel is a beautifully creative artist. His level of artistry and creative research is advancing the boundaries of our art form. He is truly inspiring to all the faculty and students here at School of Dance. 

I have witnessed his courage, tenacity, and dedication to his education, teaching, creative and scholarly research in Tucson, all while being long-distance with his wife in Dallas, Texas. I am thrilled to be nominating him for this wonderful award as he is a true artist that immerses himself in his creative work and is willing to make sacrifices to attain his goals. 

Gabriel is an outstanding GTA in every way. He handles himself with ease and a strong sense of professionalism and has proven to be an exceptional educator. These achievements are all the more remarkable considering he has been balancing all of this while being a guest choreographer at University Belhaven University and teaching masterclasses across the country. He beautifully embodies the equal emphasis placed upon both artistry and scholarship that is so deeply fundamental to the mission of the College of Fine Arts.

— nomination letter excerpts from
Associate Professor Tamara Dyke-Compton

From Gabriel …

“One of the main reasons I choose the University of Arizona for graduate school was because of the faculty. The professors in The School of Dance are active in their field. They are creating, teaching, producing, and publishing work both inside and outside of the university. I can honestly say that each and every faculty member has taught me about leadership. In particular, Professor Tamara Dyke-Compton who I believe is the true definition of what any professor at the University of Arizona should aim to be. In both her teaching and advising roles, she epitomizes the values set forth by this school.

“During my time here I have always enjoyed experiencing what other departments are working on. I’ve really enjoyed supporting the acting and musical theater students by attending their performances, collaborating with the School of Theater, Film & Television for my thesis project, and with the School of Music by performing in a work entitled, “Stellarscape,” which had a collaboration of live music, dance, and art technology.”

Celebrating the Outstanding Seniors, GTAs for spring 2023 ... Calista Olander

Calista Kimiko Olander

School of Art | Outstanding Senior

Calista is an Art History major in the Honors College, with an overall 4.0 GPA. She has been on the Dean’s List with distinction since her first semester here and is a National Merit Scholar. 

Her commitment to interdisciplinarity has been demonstrated by a very unusual combination of skills and academic interests. She has augmented her major area of study with minors in mathematics and Japanese, and with further language study in intermediate Korean. 

Calista has impressed the Art History faculty with her thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and excellence in every aspect of her work. She is writing an Honors Art History thesis, under the direction of Dr. Sandra Barr, on the “Decolonize This Place” movement, its goals as a collective, actions against museums, institutional responses, and its long-term impacts on Western museums. Dr. Barr said, “She has the makings of a serious researcher and a pro-active teacher. She is truly exceptional.”

— nomination letter excerpts from Professor Irene Bald
and lydia see, curator of the Joseph Gross Gallery

From Calista …

“My favorite experience as a Fine Arts student was telling my three main mentors, lydia see, Dr. Sandra Barr, and Dr. Irene Romano that I had been accepted into Columbia University’s MA program for Art History and Archaeology. Not only was I excited about my acceptance, but seeing the excitement from the people whohelped me get to a place where I could be accepted into such a prestigious institution meant the world to me.

“I plan to attend Columbia University in the Fall of 2023 in pursuit of an MA in Art History and Archaeology, specializing in European art between 1700 and 1900. I will focus my research on Mary Cassatt, a female Impressionist artist who was particularly influenced by Japanese woodblock prints.”

Jack Edward Haskins

School of Dance | Outstanding Senior

Jack is an extremely hard-working, ambitious technician and an asset in and out of the classroom. He received the Linda and Ken Robin $10,000 merit scholarship four times. Jack studied as a dual-degree student, obtaining his BFA in Dance; a BA in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, & Law while minoring in Climate Change & Society with Honors while achieving Dean’s List with a GPA of 3.97. 

He was cast by the School of Dance in five featured roles and was recruited as a guest artist by Tucson Regional Ballet. And was elected three times as the College of Fine Arts Senator. 

His senior thesis is impressive. He was tasked with evaluating eight city and county plans for Tempe and Tucson for effective, equitable planning that account for urban heat mitigation and management. (Jack is a) brilliant young man with a bright future ahead of him. Raised right with good ethics to understand humaneness in his observations of the world around him.

— nomination letter excerpts from
Adjunct Faculty Barbea M. Williams

From Jack …

“Both within the College of Fine Arts and in other departments I’m involved in at the University of Arizona, I’ve never been told “no” when proposing any interdisciplinary focus or project. I was initially scared that such a sprawling campus might silo off several of its communities from one another, and I’m so glad I was wrong. In fact, across my four years the interest in cross-collaboration has grown exponentially. Faculty, staff, and students all contribute to a campus culture that places specialized areas of focus above all else, exemplifying the values of academic exploration and personal freedom.

“I’ve applied to law schools throughout the country and am awaiting offers. With a legal education, I hope to better articulate the ways in which communities can be served by local government. In university, I’ve developed adamant interest in the affordable housing and climate crises. With these initiatives in mind, I plan to specialize in environmental, zoning, and land use law. My education as an artist has taught me to not only appreciate interdisciplinary cooperation but to take full advantage of it when tackling massively complex issues.”

Gabby Cioca

Fred Fox School of Music | Outstanding Senior

Gabby brings an incredible passion for learning, teaching, and service to the Fred Fox School of Music. She is a double major in viola performance and music education with an arts administration minor. 

Her perspective as a Mexican American is a much needed and valuable contribution to music and music education, especially here in Tucson. Gabby was the youngest student to teach in the Arizona String Project and the youngest to serve as the String Project Coordinator … that she would be trusted with such important roles as an undergraduate speaks volumes to her abilities, and her commitment to community service and teaching. 

Gabby attended and presented at the American String Teachers Association National Conference, the largest and most important conference of its kind. I can think of no more deserving student for this award than Gabby. I am confident that she will continue to be an arts leader and a positive force in the community for many years to come.

— nomination letter excerpts from
Assistant Professor Molly Gebrian

From Gabby …

“While a student at the Fred Fox School of Music, I was given countless opportunities to explore multiple facets my two majors, Viola Performance and Music Education. From masterclasses with world-class musicians from the Kronos Quartet and the Juilliard Quartet to presenting best teaching practices online and in-person, the courses I was enrolled in complimented not only my majors, but my experiences outside of the classroom.

“During my sophomore year, I declared my minor in Arts Administration. Although a relatively new minor offered, it opened my eyes to the countless opportunities available to fine arts students. Combining my interest of music education, my history of classical music performance, and my passion of arts administration, I interned at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as the National Symphony Orchestra’s Community Engagement intern. Being able to represent the University of Arizona at this mammoth of a fine arts organization was a huge honor, but being able to aid the massive productions the Kennedy Center holds day-after-day changed the way I view accessibility in the arts.”

Lisitte Ann Mora

School of Theatre, Film & Television / College of Fine Arts
Outstanding Senior

Lisitte Mora’s life, study, and work represent the community engagement, scholarship, innate leadership speak to the true role of Outstanding Senior. Lisitte didn’t have that early leg up that many students have. They did not have a high school theatre program to come to us with the perfect audition. She has pursued her theatre education here with us. Their rock-solid values of equity and inclusion are etched in their life.

Lisitte’s community work remains unparalleled. She volunteers with numerous community nonprofits and campus organizations. They are the elected VP of EDI for Alpha Chi Omega and the current DEI Chair for Mortar Board. Her role within our school in advancement of DEI cannot be understated.

She is an outstanding scholar. Lisitte maintains a 4.0 GPA (Dean’s List with Highest Academic Distinction). She is majoring with her BA in Theatre Studies and a minor in Journalism. Last year, she won the top award for the Undergraduate Research Symposium with her scholarship on Ancient African theatre. In 2022, she won the Elisabeth Healy Scholarship in Theatre, and, in 2022, she won a Medici.

She does not stop. That’s who Lisitte is … they are a collaborator, an artist, a changemaker. When the conversation came up about who to nominate for our Outstanding Senior, our whole area of Theatre Studies looked at one another and uttered one name: Lisitte.

— nomination letter excerpts from
Associate Professor Elaine Romero

From Lisitte …

“I have always loved learning and I have carried my passion for it into college. I’ve worked hard to learn as much as I can in my limited time here. I am happy to say that in addition to maintaining a 4.0 GPA, I have had the honor of winning the Undergraduate Research Symposium as well as a Medici Arts Scholarship. In my Theatre History I class junior year, I did my end-of-year research paper on the African origins of modern theatre, looking back at African performance traditions that predated the Greeks by many hundreds of years.

“I also had the immense honor of receiving a Medici Scholarship, attending an international acting, directing, and devising workshop, hosted by the Michael Chekhov Association in New London, Connecticut. I learned so much about myself as a performer, what techniques speak to me and how I can apply them in my collegiate and professional work, and I was able to connect with incredible artists from around the world including several award winning playwrights and directors.”