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ASU graduates celebrate in small gatherings on Tempe campus

ASU's Tempe campus graduates gather for small celebrations.
May 6, 2021

School of Music, Dance and Theatre grads told to make time to be creative

About 30 students in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts celebrated two “firsts” at their graduation celebration the evening of May 4: They were the first graduates of the new School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University, and they were the first graduates to celebrate in the newly renovated courtyard outside the Nelson Fine Arts Center.

The graduates, along with their families and faculty members, gathered in a socially distanced setting at sunset. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASU is holding many small, in-person celebrations instead of one large commencement for spring 2021.

“What a wild ride it’s been for the past 14 months,” said Heather Landes, director of the school, which combined the three performance disciplines into one school for the first time.

“I want to recognize that the past year has not been easy for anyone, but especially for those of us in the performing arts.”

Landes exhorted the students to find time every day in their lives to create their art.

“Even when you’re faced with creative blocks or failure, return to your creativity and your foundation and it will help you.

“Keep making your art to bring people together from all backgrounds, to promote collaboration and to challenge the norms of our society in a tangible way. And most of all, to create community across difference.”

New graduate Liuyi Jiang is looking forward to returning to her hometown in China for the summer before pursuing a master’s degree at ASU in the fall.

“It’s been two years because of COVID and I want to see my family,” said Jiang, who would like to be a stage actor. She earned a degree in music theater performance.

“’Miss Saigon’ is my dream role and my favorite show,” she said. She performed the song “Movie in My Mind” from that show for the graduating class showcase.

“I explored all the characters and the whole show in my junior year. I analyzed the lyrics and the story and I watched the show at Gammage. I used a student ticket and was very, very close to the stage.”  

Steven Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute, told the graduates that they represent the embodied expression of artistic ideas.

“It is through you and through your bodies that our shared culture comes to life. I don’t think there is anything more noble than to put your entire being, mind and body, in the service of expressing creativity and art.

“And we are so grateful to you for dedicating that full self.”

Top image: Liuyi Jiang performs with her fellow graduates before the graduation celebration of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre on May 4 in the Nelson Fine Arts Center courtyard on the Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU News

More images from the Tempe campus celebrations

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Farmer Building Tempe graduation celebration

Students gather in the Farmer Building atrium for a photo following the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College doctoral hooding ceremony on May 4. Photo by ASU

College of Global Futures

Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

More campus celebrations

Top photo: Undergraduate musical theatre graduates sing as a choir before the start of the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts School of Music, Dance and Theatre convocation on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 4, on the Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News

480-727-4503

ASU's Hugh Downs School receives two Faculty Women's Association awards


May 6, 2021

Members of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication received two awards from the ASU Faculty Women's Association.

Assistant Professor Benny LeMaster received the 2021 Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. Graduate Teaching Associate Anya Hommadova Lu received the Distinguished Graduate Student Award. The awards were announced at an online ceremony on April 28. Download Full Image

According to the Faculty Women's Association, “A mark of a great leader is the support and guidance that they provide to others through mentorship. The FWA Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award recognizes faculty members who demonstrate outstanding mentorship to students and/or to other faculty members, particularly women and other underrepresented groups.” 

LeMaster, a scholar of critical/cultural communication and performance studies recently received the 2020 Best Book Award from the National Communication Association ethnography division for "Gender Futurity, Intersectional Autoethnography: Embodied Theorizing from the Margins."

Assistant Professor Benjamin LeMaster

Assistant Professor Benny LeMaster 

She was nominated by Hugh Downs School Doctoral Students Ana Terminel Iberri, Angela Labador, Tyler Rife, Liahnna Stanley and Megan Stephenson.

In their nominating letter to the Faculty Women's Association, the students wrote, “In all our years of academe, we have never encountered a person who deserves this award more.

"Dr. LeMaster has been fundamental to not only our intellectual and professional success as graduate students but also our survival in navigating the complexities of academia. Among her graduate advisees, a familiar refrain we express and hear is: ‘If not for Benny (Dr. LeMaster), I wouldn’t have stayed in the program.’

"Indeed, what Dr. LeMaster has done for this program and the graduate student body cannot be understated. It is due to Dr. LeMaster’s lived ethic of support, one which constantly finds her putting others before herself, that we nominate Dr. LeMaster for this award.”

The Faculty Women's Association Distinguished Graduate Student Achievement Award “seeks to recognize doctoral and master’s degree candidates who have distinguished themselves through exceptional scholarship, research, creative activities and noteworthy performance in leadership and service.” 

Hugh Downs School graduate teaching associate
Anya Hommadova Lu and her baby.

Lu was nominated by Stephen Carradini, an assistant professor in the technical communication program, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, and a member of the graduate faculty in communication, “because her research and teaching are outstanding.”

“Anya's work investigates ways to bridge interpersonal gaps between people of different cultures via technologically mediated communication,” Carradini said. “During her time at the Hugh Downs School, she realized this ambitious and important research agenda via two co-authored peer-reviewed articles, two co-authored accepted book chapters and several awards. She has also taught a wide array of courses, demonstrating her breadth of pedagogical scope. She has big ideas, a strong work ethic and a clear sense of what mark she wants to leave in the field. As a result of these achievements and characteristics, I was happy to nominate Anya for the Distinguished Graduate Student Award.” 

“These awards clearly highlight the outstanding work performed in the Hugh Downs School,” said Paul Mongeau, professor and interim director of the school. “Both Benny LeMaster’s and Anya Lu’s awards reflect not only the outstanding teaching and research that is being performed in our community but the caring support that we provide to one another. This sort of selfless commitment makes this a wonderful place to work.” 

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

480-965-5676