College of Fine Arts, School of Art, School of Music

An accomplished violinist and an international visual artist from Arizona Arts, Emmy Tisdel and Mariel Miranda, have joined the prestigious 2020-21 University Fellows program, the flagship initiative of the University of Arizona Graduate Center.

The University Fellows Program recruits the most distinguished graduate students and prepares them to be the next generation of innovative leaders. Fellowship recipients receive a competitive multi-year financial package, professional development programming, mentoring and community engagement opportunities, as well as a richly interdisciplinary cohort.

Eligible programs within the College of Fine Arts can nominate two applicants for the fellowship. A set of interdisciplinary committees reviews the nominations based on academic excellence, interdisciplinarity, collaboration, mentoring, community engagement, and contribution to diversity and inclusion.

In addition to the benefits listed above, students are not required to teach or do lab work their first year.

“This affords them time to define their research and educational opportunities in ways they might not have otherwise been able to do, and it allows them the opportunity to pursue partnerships and collaborations with their cohort members and past Fellows,” said David Bradshaw, assistant director for the Graduate Center.

“The cohort experience is especially impactful,” he added. “It jumpstarts the development of a network of support that is campus-wide in addition to that developed within their departments. In many cases, the cohort members pursue opportunities to publish and perform together.”


Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tisdel is a first-year doctoral candidate at the Fred Fox School of Music. An accomplished violinist, she graduated from Oberlin Conservatory with a bachelor’s degree, completed her Masters at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, and has Artist and Graduate Diplomas from the Schulich School of Music at McGill University.

When deciding where she wanted to go for her Doctorate degree, the University Fellows program was a contributing factor. “We were already in the COVID-19 pandemic when I was making my decision, and the social engagement part of the Fellows program was very appealing to me,” said Tisdel. “Although this is a tough year since everything is virtual, it’s been such a privilege to meet and work with the cohort because everyone is so talented. I would have never met them otherwise.”

One of the most rewarding experiences for Tisdel has been working with her mentor, Juan Mejía, who has experience with the local Tucson music scene. “It’ll be more helpful when there are actual concerts in the future,” she laughed. In terms of research, she is inspired by how Klezmer music influenced Tango at the turn of the 20th century. “There’s a lot more raw data than I expected, but also connections between the two genres which I am inspired to delve into,” she said.

Emmy’s advice to aspiring musicians: say yes a to a lot of things.

“In the course of my academic career, the best opportunities have randomly happened. Of course, you work for things, but it’s important to say yes when something unusual happens.” Her faculty position at the SA’ Oaxaca Strings International Music Festival, which provides free chamber music tutoring to students, was a direct result of that. “I was on the train back to Montreal (where I lived at the time), and I got a text message from my Oberlin friend who I haven’t spoken to in years,” said Tisdel. “She tells me that a faculty member had just dropped out of the festival and it starts in five days, would I be free? I went for it and it was such a great experience, as I’ve never met students who were more appreciative and willing to try new things.”


Miranda is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in Studio Art, focused on the intersection of research and visual production. As a border artist, she encompasses multiple media and practices to explore, discuss, and disseminate her research, and her work has been exhibited in more than 18 solo and group exhibitions. In addition, her research and creative production have received multiple honors in Mexico and the United States.

Miranda is incredibly appreciative to be a part of the University Fellows. “I was very fortunate to be chosen as this is the most competitive fellowship at the university,” she said. “It has been such a rewarding experience being a part of this great cohort, as everyone is so committed to their programs and research, yet we all get along so well and having that external group outside of your main area of study has been fantastic.”

Born and raised in the Las Cumbres neighborhood of Tijuana, her experience growing up has significantly informed her artistic work and research. “When I was born, the economic situation was really difficult. We didn’t have access to public amenities, such as water or electricity due to the negligence of the state,” said Miranda.

“My small community really fought through these challenges, even building the first elementary school with their own bare hands. I thank Teresa Buenrostro, Mari Martínez, Mari Ramírez, Pepé-Toño, Miss Emma, my dad Mario Miranda and my mother Juana Ramírez, who I have learned so much from all these years.”

In terms of location, Tijuana is an important site for art production. “The geopolitical location and transcultural experience can create an aura for artists, which allows contemporary artist to create.”

Paying homage to her Las Cumbres community is a major goal. She and her brother share a dream to build a pedagogical art center that focuses on research and culture. “It will definitely be challenging, but we have a huge responsibility to our neighbors,” she added. “I hope we can provide them the opportunities we have been lucky to experience.”

Past CFA University Fellows

Raven Moffett (art)
Lucy Mugambi (art)

Jared Baker (dance)
Rebecca Thompson (art, AIAR/GIDP*)

Matthew Crosby (music)
Maria del Mar Navarro (art, AIAR/GIDP*)

Khaled Jarrar (art)
Juan Mejia (music)

Misha Burstein (art)
Stephanie Hoeckley (music)

Terrence Pitt-Brooke (music)
Danielle Sheather (dance)

* Applied Intercultural Arts Research / Graduate Interdisciplinary Program