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

The College of Fine Arts celebrates all of its graduates at the Spring 2024 Graduation Ceremony May 12 at Centennial Hall, including the “Outstanding Seniors” and “Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants.” The talented students award winners this spring include:

Outstanding Seniors

  • Grayson Agrella, School of Art 
  • Skylar Fry, School of Dance / College of Fine Arts
  • Andrew Nix, School of Music
  • Brach Drew, School of Theatre, Film & Television

Outstanding GTAs

  • Sarah Greenwell-Scott, School of Art 
  • Jillian Peterson, School of Dance / College of Fine Arts
  • Zachary Tolman, School of Music
CFA celebrates its 2024 Outstanding Seniors, Graduate Teaching Assistants ... Grayson Agrella

Grayson Agrella 

School of Art | Outstanding Senior 

Grayson Agrella has spent his time at the University of Arizona breaking down barriers in the LGBTQ+ world. He wrote multiple papers about LGBTQ+ rights and issues as well as political art during the AIDS epidemic. He continues this theme for his honors thesis, focusing on various types of activist engagement for transgender youths.

“Both of these were topics that felt personally relevant, and it was intellectually invigorating to incorporate the politicalized identities of queerness into my studies of visual culture,” he said.  

Triple majoring in Art history, Anthropology, and French, Agrella is a W.A. Franke Honors College student with a GPA of 3.974. He won multiple awards such as the National AP Scholar, Dean’s List with distinction, and most recently, a Centennial Achievement award winner. 

Grayson Agrella

“My favorite part of art history is the moment when a piece snaps into the context of its use or creation, and it seems as though one work can speak volumes on otherwise invisible concepts,” Agrella said. 

Outside of the classroom Agrella was a Poetry and Prose editor for the Carnegiea Literary Magazine, a student based and run platform for the youth of Tucson and Southern Arizona. During his time at the University of Arizona, He has worked as an archival assistant for the Center for Creative Photography, and worked at the Department of State as an agent in the passport division. 

Additionally, Agrella was a camp counselor catered for families of gender- diverse kids and volunteered at many arts organizations, like the Sonoran Glass School. 

“Creating this kind of ‘gender-utopia’ was an unforgettable experience, and has guided my interactions with queer communities since, trying to recreate it in pieces,” he said.

Agrella said the best memories he’s made at the university are the people they’ve met along the way. 

“I’ve managed to find like-minded, intellectually- curious, kind-hearted, erratically intelligent partners in crime that I will cherish for the rest of my life,” he said. “They are the people that make seminars interesting, are always down to analyze an argument, and my trusty proof-readers.” 

Agrella was nominated by Dr. Paul Ivey, professor of art history, and Dr. Irene Romano, professor of art history and anthropology. They said he is the embodiment of the values associated with the Outstanding Senior. 

“He has demonstrated outstanding persistence and integrity in his unwavering pursuit of excellence in his academic work,” they said. 

After graduation, he plans to gain work experience before earning a graduate degree. At the moment, they plan to work in community- supporting services tailored to the gender-expansive and the broader queer community. 

CFA celebrates its 2024 Outstanding Seniors, Graduate Teaching Assistants ... Sarah Greenwell-Scott

Sarah Greenwell-Scott 

School of Art | Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant 

Sarah Greenwell-Scott’s favorite memory at the University of Arizona is teaching. 

“My undergraduate students have been insightful, empathetic, and kind. I feel incredibly optimistic about the future when I interact with them,” she said. 

She entered the university with a history of teaching at the University of Nevada, Reno. Since then, she has created online classes for Glendale Community College and Chandler- Gilbert Community College, all while teaching art history courses and attending the University of Arizona. 

Sarah Greenwell-Scott

Sandra Barr, her colleague and discussion section leader for her first instructional assignments, describes Scott as, “a thoughtful mentor, a thorough researcher, and an incredible colleague who not only knew the material of the courses, but could convey it to a multitude of students, with differing learning styles, needs, and attitudes.”

Scott is pursuing a PhD in Art History with an emphasis in Contemporary Art and Theory, focusing on Contemporary Indigenous Art and minoring in American Indian Studies. 

“My research focuses on contemporary Indigenous artists who confront and deconstruct visual representations of indigeneity pervasive within settler-colonial culture,” she said. 

In addition to her academic and teaching pursuits, Scott also has been involved with community outreach programs and campus organizations. She’s been the co-chair of the SOA Graduate Student Council, graduate representative for the School of Art Advisory Board, Visiting Artists and Scholars Endowment (VASE), and a member of the Art History Graduate Student Association. 

“The University of Arizona is one of the few universities with an Indigenous Studies program,” she said. “The ability to pursue an interdisciplinary focus has enriched my research and broadened my perspective, both of which will further develop me as an educator and scholar.”   

She was nominated by Stacie Widdifield, professor and graduate advisor for art history. After graduation Scott plans to obtain a tenure-track teaching position. 

CFA celebrates its 2024 Outstanding Seniors, Graduate Teaching Assistants ... Skylar Fry

Skylar Fry 

School of Dance / College of Fine Arts | Outstanding Senior 

“The day I realized what it meant to be a leader was the day I reached for the stars and woke up in outer space,” Skylar Fry said. 

Fry is not only a versatile dancer, but a versatile student. She will graduate with a BFA in Dance, a B.A. in English, and a minor in Pre-Law, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. 

Within the dance studio, Fry demonstrates her skills through a variety of dance techniques. She’s performed in faculty works in ballet, modern, jazz, and master works, like Geroge Balanchine’s “Serenade,” and summer intensive works from David Parsons and the Batsheva Rep. Gaga. Additionally, Fry has choreographed for Planetscape. 

“I found my home in a university setting because I have had the opportunity here, to not only dance, but to research dance in so many ways,” she said. “I worked with professors to write up Honors Contracts for courses such as Advanced Ballet and Advanced Pointe, so that I could explore the material more deeply.”

When she is not busy dancing or creating choreography, she is contributing to the Tucson community. She taught and created dance lessons for young dancers, volunteered as the Service Chair for the university’s Mortar Board Senior Honorary, and spent time being an ESL tutor for students from Korea a part of the Nao Now Tutoring Inc. 

“Most of my community service as a Wildcat has been through the Honorary programs and my membership in the Chi Omega Fraternity Inc,” she said. 

Additionally, Fry is fluent in Spanish and studied abroad in Madrid. She’s a freelance writer, editor, and publisher, and a member of the Dance Collective for the School of Dance for the last four years. 

Fry was nominated by Liz George, professor for the School of Dance. George said Fry performs with consistency, commitment, and a collaborative spirit in her work as an artist and student. 

“My time at the University of Arizona has been the most vibrant and dynamic of my life…I am walking out, knowing that I have made every moment here count,” Fry said. “Knowing that with these experiences, support, and community, I can face anything that life throws my way.”

After graduation, she hopes to dance professionally and has auditioned for multiple dance companies. With her English degree, she hopes to use her skills for grant writing, marketing, and communications within the arts. 

“Many of us attend college with the notion that we are placed here for four years where we will ‘find ourselves,’ she said. “But there is an air of finality about this notion that I have come to believe is a myth–looking at graduation as the end of our growing period is all wrong because it is just the beginning.” 

CFA celebrates its 2024 Outstanding Seniors, Graduate Teaching Assistants ... Jillian Peterson

Jillian Peterson 

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

During her time at the University of Arizona, Jillian Peterson’s time has been nothing but transformative. 

As a teaching assistant, she was able to work with undergraduates to hone their skills. Additionally, she has been in roles such as co-rehearsal director for Bill T. Jones’ “D-Man in the Waters,” and rehearsal assistant for Martha Graham’s “Diverso of Angels” and Professor Michael Williams’ Arizona Jazz Showcase piece, “And the Verdict Is.” 

“This opportunity not only allowed me to contribute to the creative process but also opened a gateway to learning…Engaging with professional dancers who embodied the essence of historic dance pieces brought these works to life in ways that transcends the confines of textbooks and lectures,” Peterson said. 

Jillian Peterson

Peterson is obtaining her MFA in dance choreography. Her research focused mainly on the fusion of contemporary dance and Indian classical dance forms. She had the opportunity to present her research to the National Dance Educator Organization and 

Before attending the School of Dance, she attended Slippery Rock University and has taken multiple trips to The Kala Sadhanalaya School in Chennai, India. 

A pivotal moment for Peterson at the university was when she took a research trip to India to continue her learning of classical Indian dance and theatre.

 “It not only enhanced my understanding of the art form but also provided a unique lens through which I could actively contribute to the dynamic dialogue between diverse dance traditions,” she said. 

Peterson was nominated by Tamara Dyke-Compton, associate professor, associate director, and director of graduate studies for the School of Dance. Compton said Peterson’s future projects will establish a cross-cultural exchange program between the School of Dance and The Kala Sadhanalaya.

“This initiative not only enriches the artistic experiences of both communities but also creates a dynamic space for cross-cultural choreographic research,” Dyke-Compton said.  

“In summary, my time at the University of Arizona was a period of immense personal and professional growth,” Peterson said. “The combination of a supportive academic environment, inspiring faculty, and the opportunity to contribute to the development of aspiring artists made my experience truly unforgettable.”

After graduation, Peterson plans to pursue a career as a dance professor at a university. She also plans to continue her choreographic pursuits, presenting her work on national and international platforms to further establish herself as a noteworthy choreographer. 

CFA celebrates its 2024 Outstanding Seniors, Graduate Teaching Assistants ... Andrew Nix

Andrew Nix

School of Music | Outstanding Senior 

According to his nominator, Timothy Kantor, associate professor of music, the word “outstanding” perfectly describes Andrew Nix

“Andrew is a phenomenally gifted and driven student, whose talents extend far past technical and musical ability,” Kantor said. He is incredibly creative, conscientious, and an excellent collaborator.” 

Within the School of Music, Nix has won every one of the school’s string competitions along with the Solo Bach Competition, the Modern Solo Competition, and the Concerto Competition. He’s also performed as a soloist with multiple orchestras.

Andrew Nix

“The University of Arizona School of Music has provided me with an extremely versatile set of skills and opportunities,” Nix said. “I couldn’t imagine an undergraduate experience preparing anyone better for a modern career in music.”

Besides his musical pursuits, he has also contributed to the school by being on the Events and Media Team, where he was responsible for creating programs and managing websites.

“I was also able to experience these concerts through a different lens as a student worker with the School of Music’s events and marketing team,” he said. “I learned that advertising a concert well and creating detailed and immersive concert programs can increase attendance and enthusiasm.” 

Through his education at the School of Music, Nix was able to learn the fundamentals of audio and video editing and recording engineering. He also pursued a minor in Chinese. He said he decided to pursue this minor to help learn the culture and history and to help him if he were to perform or study abroad. 

A core memory for Nix is collaborating with dance student Sebastian Martinez. The two worked together on a performance piece and was featured in the 2023 School of Dance Student Spotlight. 

“It was very inspiring to be able to help unite the School of Music and the School of Dance for that production, and to witness the success of Sebastian’s choreography,” he said.  

Outside of the university, he is devoted to mentoring young musicians and advancing musical youth programs in Tucson. Nix holds the role as the orchestra manager and assistant to the director for the Tucson Philharmonia Youth Orchestra. Additionally, he works as the livestream director and audio engineer for the orchestra. He was recently given a full-time position in the first violin section for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.

He has many goals after graduation. He plans to raise his position at the Tucson Symphony Orchestra to a tenure position, while also auditioning for graduate programs at music conservatories.

“There are communities of all types and sizes, all over the world, that are in need of the art that we create…Art helps to preserve our humanity in the face of threats and will always remind us of beauty and meaning,” Nix said. 

CFA celebrates its 2024 Outstanding Seniors, Graduate Teaching Assistants ... Zach Tolman

Zachary Tolman 

School of Music | Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant 

Zachary Tolman is a non-traditional student; he walked into the Wind Conducting program with a wealth of knowledge. 

Before the University of Arizona, Tolman was a music teacher and ensemble conductor in Wyoming. His nominator, Chad Nicholson, professor of music and director of Bands, said his effectiveness as a teacher springs from his knowledge of all instrumental families and his ability to connect with any student. 

During his time at the university, he helped refine the UA High School Honor Band, taught an Introduction to Conducting class and has led performances with the Wind Ensemble and Symphony, and was an instructor for the Pride of Arizona.

Zach Tolman

A core memory for him while working with the POA is his idea for passion buckets. This concept was spread all over the band. 

“Life’s hard. It’s not always easy … However, when the moments come along that make us smile, fill us with purpose, and remind us of our ‘why,’ those moments fill our passion buckets,” he said. 

He also worked to improve the enrollment and audience engagement with the Campus Symphonic Band. After COVID the band had around 25 students and grew this semester to have around 110 participants. 

One of the ways he helped improve the program was with one of his graduate colleagues, Caroline Aylward. They created a “Dungeons and Dragons” performance where the audience would pick a “light” and “dark” side and the option to roll dice on their phones to determine the outcome of the characters. The attendance was the highest the band has seen in three years. Tolman and Aylward were able to speak on the experience at the College Band Directors National Association National Conference and spoke at the University of Georgia.

Moreover, he’s been published in the Wyoming Music Educators journal and presented at the Arizona Music Educators state conference. 

“I have grown as a musician and as a human. I have connected with wonderful individuals from around the world,” he said. “I have made incredible music with friends with talented people from diverse backgrounds, and isn’t that what the arts are all about?” 

After graduation, Tolman will be the director of bands and professor of instrumental music at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. He will direct the concert band, jazz ensemble, marching and pep band. 

CFA celebrates its 2024 Outstanding Seniors, Graduate Teaching Assistants ... Brach Drew

Brach Drew 

School of Theatre, Film & Television | Outstanding Senior 

Brach Drew is not a solo act. In his own words, he is a “catalyst for community.” 

Majoring in musical theatre and minoring in Spanish, Drew has maintained a 3.952 GPA, all while being involved in the College of Fine Arts Ambassadors program as co-president, Bluechip Leadership, and a member of PAMFAD and InVisibility.  

“The majority of tabling, hosting, and volunteering I’ve done with the CFA Ambassadors has been community service. I’ve also loved being a resource for incoming students in need of guidance and direction,” he said. 

He also has been a regular in the Retro Game Show at Club Congress and a company member in the Sahuaro City Musical Theatre. 

Brach Drew

“As soon as COVID restrictions became less strict in my sophomore year I snagged any opportunity I could to invest in the community,” Drew said. “Now in my final year I am grateful to have built a network of artists in all schools for future collaboration endeavors.”

Additionally, he was a resident assistant and trained future resident assistants as well as working with the student entrepreneurship program, FORGE, and an Arizona Arts Digital Storyteller. 

Within the classroom he has multiple Arizona Repertory Theatre credits by playing Pythio in the spring 2023 production of “Head Over Heels,” served as the dance captain for Legally Blonde, movement coordinator for “Argonautika,” and performed in a student-organized cabaret performance at the Tornabene Theatre. 

“My favorite memory as a fine arts student was hosting the CFA Destination Arizona … It filled me with great joy to facilitate the first social experience for the first years,” he said. 

Drew also has a passion for activism. He was a founding member of InVisibility and has helped organize and perform in SALON for the last three years. During the height of the pandemic, he volunteered for the University’s COVID 19 Pandemic Point of Delivery. He took patients’ information and directed traffic. 

His nominator, Kevin Black, scholarship and awards committee for the School of Theatre, Film & Television, said Drew is a constant source of support and leadership for his peers. 

“He is personally invested in connecting, communicating, and empowering people, and simply by living his ideals,” Black said. “He creates a community wherever he goes.” 

After graduation, he plans to briefly work on cruise lines to save up money to move to New York City. He also plans to spend time and prioritize his family and friends. 

“My commitment to optimism has given weight to my name at this university,” Drew said. “I regularly have conversations with administration about the student experience and can openly talk about issues with the community.” 

Past Awardees