Four Students Highlighted at 2019 Commencement Ceremony

Thursday, May 23, 2019
Keya Patel

Keya Patel, B.A. Art History / B.A. Plan II Honors

Keya Patel has received a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Plan II Honors. During her time at UT, Keya received the Eva Stevenson Woods Endowed Presidential Scholarship, the Beth and Drew Cozby Plan II Study Abroad Endowment and a College of Liberal Arts Undergraduate Research Scholarship. Keya was also elected into the Phi Beta Kappa Society and named a Distinguished College Scholar, and she has graduated in the top four percent of her class in both the College of Fine Arts and the College of Liberal Arts.

Why did you choose your major, and why UT? 

Before I took a college class on Indian art at UT, I had never experienced having my culture and ancestry at the center of my education. In my survey courses, art from outside the West was reduced to source material for European artists, positioned as a monolith of the past or forgotten entirely. Studying these Asian artistic traditions—when my own family’s past has been ravaged and erased by colonialism and conquest—felt like a homecoming to something greater than myself. I decided to major in Art History in order to not only highlight the many cultural contributions made by diverse peoples, but also to connect art to the realities of people’s rich, unique lives. This is the same reason I chose to major in Plan II—it is an education that stresses building skills and knowledge for not just a career, but also a vivid, involved life.

I chose to come to UT both because my family went here, and because of the wealth of resources, opportunities and support I knew I would find here.

What was your experience like? Do you have any memorable moments or proudest achievements?  

My time at UT has truly been the most formative and enriching period of my life. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing faculty members and students, make the best friends of my life and engage with diverse classes and topics. Outside of classes, I worked at various state and federal government offices, curated multiple juried exhibitions, volunteered with refugees and underserved students and interned at the Blanton Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City.

My most memorable academic experience while in college was writing and presenting my senior honors thesis, which was on a contemporary Indian artist named Nalini Malani. For my research, I traveled to Rivoli, Italy to see her artworks, which address issues including sectarian violence against women in India and state-sponsored extremism. It was extremely touching to see these beautiful pieces in person as well as share an important artistic practice with my peers and colleagues.

Other highlights from college include helping open the Ellsworth Kelly building at the Blanton and working on the Whitney Biennial.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I will attend Columbia Law School in the fall with a focus on law and the arts. I hope to one day work for a nonprofit organization or museum.

What advice do you have for current and prospective students?

I encourage other students to make the most of their time at UT by truly immersing themselves in everything this school has to offer. Say yes to opportunities when they arise, get to know faculty members outside of class and take advantage of the lectures and exhibitions hosted by the College of Fine Arts. The thing I love most about this school is the sense that there is always so much more to learn, read and see.

For my fellow graduates, not all of us will go on to pursue careers in fine arts. But as artists, we are change makers. It is artists who first push the boundaries of what is acceptable, introduce new ideas and advocate for progress in every sense of the word. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been personally given is to live artfully in all that you do and carry on that spirit of innovation and creativity in every endeavor.

Commencement speech, as presented by Art and Art History Chair Jack Risley:

The Department of Art and Art History is enormously proud of our graduating seniors, the class of 2019. If there was one student who might represent the collective accomplishments of our graduates from Studio Art, Art Education and Art History, it would be Keya Patel. Keya completed a double major in Art History and Plan II, where she developed a strong background in the humanities with a specific interest in contemporary perspectives from around the world. Keya just completed an honors thesis on the contemporary Indian artist, Nalini Malini. Keya focused on how Malini uses the past, and established mythology, to confront a range of contemporary social issues. Keya won competitive funding that allowed her to see a major retrospective of Malini's work in Italy. Keya has been equally active on campus. She served multiple terms as president of the Undergraduate Art History Association, worked with the Landmarks program and the College of Liberal Arts Refugee Alliance initiative. She has worked as a legislative aide in Texas, and last summer she won a prestigious internship at the Whitney Museum in New York. When I last checked in, Keya had been accepted to law school at both Harvard and Columbia and was deciding at which institution she will apply the critical skills she learned in our Art History program. Brava and Bravo to Keya and the class of 2019. 

Ryan Hicks

Ryan Hicks, B.F.A. Design

Ryan Hicks has received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design. While at UT, Ryan was featured on AIGA’s Eye on Design, was a regional student winner for PRINT magazine and received the Dean’s Award for Design.

Why did you choose your major, and why UT?

I had a lot of creative interests in high school, but taking Kelly Foster's graphic design track at Cedar Ridge High School got me hooked. Looking back, I had no idea what graphic design really was, but I just knew I wanted to be really good at it. I decided to go to UT Austin after attending a portfolio review, and I'm really glad I did! Being at a state school allowed for me to further explore my interests and make friends who ended up being some of my favorite collaborators.

What was your experience like? Do you have any memorable moments or proudest achievements?

I got involved with Orange Magazine as their design editor my freshman year, and it's been the most fulfilling space to collaborate with students outside of my major and make friends. I feel so lucky to have learned from the insanely talented faculty members in the Design program. I remember a few mornings in Dr. Monica Penick's Design History course, talking about the meaning of beauty or post-war optimism, and how it got me the most excited I've ever been about choosing to study design. Jim Walker and Jason Wilkins have been such tremendous mentors to learn from as well. The entire faculty continues to be advocates for everyone in the program and this past year especially has felt like being part of a big (kinda stoic?) family, and I'm gonna miss it.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I'll be joining Fuzzco as a designer in their Seattle office! A few other design students and myself used the PDTI grant to visit the city a couple of years ago, and a designer I met during a studio visit during the trip is now at Fuzzco as well! Weird twist of fate.

What advice do you have for current and prospective students?

I applied to become a Risograph Fellow at the beginning of the year in an effort to take more advantage of some of the printmaking resources at UT, but I'm always going to regret not utilizing more of the equipment and resources, especially the laser cutter. My advice to incoming design students would be, firstly, to find a niche where you can have real ownership to create something (Orange Magazine was mine). Secondly, get to know your professors. They really are there to help you figure it all out. And lastly, remember that you get to do graphic design for a living! Not accounting or philosophy–no offense.

Commencement speech, as presented by Design Chair Kate Canales:

Ryan Hicks has always paid creative attention, even as a child. Whether he was directing plays as his siblings served as actors or obsessing over Apple commercials, Ryan was always paying attention. That attention to the elements of design and experience have paid off here in UT's program where he has invested in the fundamentals of our craft, as a means of innovating on the fundamentals of our craft. He has done this in a way that defies his limited experience and deeply impresses his teachers. Ryan's senior design capstone project created a font and language protocol in which gendered pronouns were automatically challenged and eliminated. Why should we describe someone as a "female designer?" Why do we say "mankind" instead of humankind? The project was technically impressive, aesthetically striking and socially critical. His thoughtfulness and appreciation of the opportunity to make an impact with design is evident in his work, his demeanor and his desire to learn. As one faculty member put it, "Ryan's presence has single-handedly elevated this cohort. He challenges everyone around him to be better designers, think more, work harder, be kind and to stay curious." During Ryan's time at UT, he served as the design editor for Orange Magazine as a freshman, he's won countless awards and been recognized for design firms, publications and of course, the university. He's volunteered, been an active member of various organizations and is a leader among his peers. Another faculty member remarked, "I find it almost impossible to believe that Ryan Hicks is just one person. It's more than just the quantity and quality of the work he produces, but the fact that he volunteers, freelances, holds internships with prominent studios, knows everyone, travels, engages, is always in good spirits and has usually turned in his homework on time." This hunger, this gusto, this curiosity is often the hallmark of an impactful, life-long pursuit of great design. We will miss you, Ryan. And we can't wait to see what you design next. 

Laura Gonzalez

Laura Gonzalez, B.A. Theatre and Dance / Costume Design

Laura Gonzalez has received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis in Costume Design. During her time at UT, she received the David Farmer Scholarship, the Barbara and Brant Pope Endowed Scholarship in Theatre and Dance, the Jean Cheever Endowed Scholarship in Theatre and Dance and the Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship. She also received University Honors and Honors in Theatre in Dance.

Why did you choose your major, and why UT? 

I have loved clothing and fashion all my life. When I got to work wardrobe for a show my freshman year of high school, I found my true passion in costume design. It’s everything I love! I have wanted to go to UT since kindergarten, but my love for UT was solidified when I got to work as a light board operator for a show here my sophomore year of high school. My high school partnered with the Theatre Studies program, and I was able to work on three shows before applying here. I saw the wonderful environment of support and collaboration and knew this was where I wanted to go. 

What was your experience like? Do you have any memorable moments or proudest achievements?  

There are so many moments and experiences that shaped who I am. I am a completely different artist and human because of my time at UT. Some of my most formative opportunities have been my work in the Office of Admissions as the student ambassador for the Department of Theatre and Dance, the chair project with Richard Isaacs, and my thesis exhibition with Karen Maness. Each of these opportunities taught me so much about myself, and allowed me to work with these incredible artist and humans. 

What are your plans after graduation?

I am working as a freelance costume designer in film and theatre. 

What advice do you have for current and prospective students?

Follow the things you want to do. I've never done anything to boost my resume or because I thought I should. Everything I've gotten to do is because I wanted to work with these amazing artists, tell the stories we were bringing to life, or because it made me happy, and that has always led to more opportunities of joy for myself and others!

Commencement speech, as presented by Associate Professor of Acting Lucian Douglas:

Laura Gonzalez is one of only three students selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Theatre and Dance Honors program. In her four years, Laura's artistic work and contribution to community have been prolific and unprecedented: While at UT, she has designed or assisted in over 45 productions; She has been an officer or member of six student organizations; For four years she served for COFA as an ambassador for the Department of Theatre and Dance; She served as a B.A. representative on the Theatre and Dance Undergraduate Advisory Council for three and a half years, planning convocation and welcome week, and organizing a peer mentoring program. Her professional work has been equally impressive: Laura is one of the youngest design students to intern at The Seattle Children's Theatre; She interned at New York Stage and Film; She designed costumes for the Zach Theatre in Austin. She sees each collaboration as an opportunity to grow into her artistic mission. As she says, "I love spreading joy through the stories we get to bring to life." Laura embodies the best qualities of a UT Theatre and Dance student. She is an artist of great talent who values service and community. She demonstrates artistic and intellectual excellence in her work with a positive spirit, making professional quality art while making a difference in people's lives. 

Q Langman

Q Langman, B.M. Piano Performance / B.S.A. Computer Science

Q Langman has received a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and a Bachelor of Science and Arts in Computer Science. During his time at UT, Q received the Nancy Leona Dry Smith Hopkins Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Piano, placed twice in the Nilsson Undergraduate UT Piano Competition and received University Honors from fall 2014 to spring 2019.

Why did you choose your major, and why UT? 

I started piano lessons in kindergarten when I was five years old. Soon after, I began violin lessons, and I stuck with both instruments until my senior year of high school, when I decided to drop violin and audition for Piano Performance programs. However, it’s because of my violin study that I was able to play in orchestras growing up, and that's where I really fell in love with classical music and also began my journey to becoming a conductor. In high school, I joined the Mannes pre-college program and studied with Irina Edelman for three years, and she really transformed my piano playing so that I could audition into a prestigious music school like the Butler School of Music and gain acceptance. Also, part of my decision to choose piano has to do with the fact that I want to be a conductor, and having great keyboard and score reading skills are essential for a music director. The primary reason I chose UT was because I wanted the well-rounded university experience rather than a conservatory. I have always kept up with academics too, and I knew I wanted to add some sort of STEM major, and UT had plenty of options (all of which are of exceedingly high quality).

What was your experience like? Do you have any memorable moments or proudest achievements?  

Some of my proudest achievements are:

UT New Music Ensemble: keyboardist, spring 2017–spring 2019

UT New Music Ensemble: guest conductor spring 2018, spring 2019

Butler Opera Center rehearsal pianist: Suor Angelica, Little Women, Die Zauberflote, The Rape of Lucretia

Butler Opera Center conductor: "Tonight" and "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story (opera scenes concert fall 2018)

Butler Opera Center assistant conductor: The Rape of Lucretia, La clemenza di Tito, The Telephone, Trouble in Tahiti

UT Lab Orchestra assistant conductor: fall 2016–spring 2017

UT Lab Orchestra lead artistic and administrative director: fall 2017–spring 2019

And I want to highlight some of my professors:

Professor Gregory Allen has been the most supportive and nurturing professor I've had at UT. I feel like after five years of study with him, I have grown primarily as a musician and secondarily as a pianist. He has shown me a process for studying and interpreting a score that can be applied to all other fields of music, like collaboration, conducting, opera, chamber, etc. He is a fingering wizard at the keyboard and has fixed multiple technical and posture issues I came in with. He has been one of the most encouraging and supportive people in my life during my time at UT, and I can't thank him enough for filling that role for me during my time here.

Professor Kelly Kuo took me under his wing in the fall 2016 semester, and he has given me countless opportunities to grow as an opera coach and conductor. He is hands down the best private conducting instructor I have ever studied with. He really knows how to combine practical and technical feedback with musical decision-making advice. Opera was new to me when I signed up to play for Butler Opera Center rehearsals three years ago and my love for it has grown and grown and grown the longer I study with him. I think the most inspirational moments of our studies over the past three years is when we worked with Puccini. Professor Kuo draws attention to how every note in Puccini's writing is intertwined with the drama and/or text. This level of detail and musical creativity was truly inspirational to me.

Overall, the Butler community has been very kind to me. As the director of the Lab Orchestra for the past three years, I have asked for hundreds of volunteer hours from players in the overall BSOM community, and they have always been there for me. The Lab Orchestra was my main outlet for gaining conducting and rehearsing experience, and it would not have been possible if it wasn't for such a supportive community. I will be forever indebted to the Butler School of Music and all past Lab Orchestra volunteers for this. 

I felt like the longer I stayed active in the BSOM community, the more it gave back to me with incredible opportunities. I entered as just a piano performance major and gradually I started getting more and more opportunities like playing and conducting in UT New Music Ensemble, playing and conducting rehearsals for Butler Opera Center and directing the UT Lab Orchestra. I found BSOM to be ripe with opportunity for an undergraduate pianist. You just have to keep your eyes open for them and be willing to devote time to having more responsibilities. 

What are your plans after graduation?

I will be working at a small software firm here in Austin. I hope to keep going to my friends' recitals as well as UT New Music Ensemble and UT Wind Ensemble concerts! Eventually, I would like to go back to school for opera conducting or opera coaching or participate in some sort of opera studio program for young artists.

What advice do you have for current and prospective students? 

If you have time, say yes to as many extra learning experiences and opportunities as you can, but at the same time, if you are already stretched thin, don't be afraid to say no to people. 

I feel like there are lots of bubbles in the BSOM community and lots of students don't know what they're missing. I was guilty of this for years. For the first two years at UT, I only knew of traditional classical music, so I pretty much only made an effort to go to the UT Symphony Orchestra concerts. It wasn't until my junior year that I ventured out and went to UT New Music Ensemble and UT Wind Ensemble concerts, and I was blown away by both groups. Those two ensembles in particular have been my favorite concerts to go to in my latter three years at UT. I wish I had more time and had put more effort into getting into the jazz scene at BSOM. I never made much of an effort to go to any of the jazz ensemble concerts and I feel like I missed out on years of (free!) quality musical experiences. I also have friends in the classical sphere at BSOM who went out of their way to take some sort of jazz training, and they are better musicians for it; I wish I had the time to do this too.

In general, I highly regret taking on a second (non-music) major. I feel like most students I have met at BSOM are talented and driven enough to make it in the music world. Unless you have a really good reason to take on another degree, I don't think it's worth it. It wasn't for me, at least. It ended up taking attention away from my true passion, and I felt like lots of things from playing ability to overall quality of life suffered as a result. The music industry is rough, we all know that, so I completely understand why one would want another degree outside of music. This was just my own takeaway from trying to do two degrees simultaneously at UT. 

Final piece of advice is to find a way to be confident in yourself. I think humility is overrated (and often just annoying). I think it's much more important to just be honest with yourself and others about your own strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can identify what you need to work on and actually work on it. I was a really insecure freshman when I entered UT, and the one thing I think improved my overall quality of life was finding myself and becoming more confident in myself. This takes actual work and time, though, and often it's just a case of faking it until you make it. Actual practical advice things I can offer that worked for me are: standing up straighter, talking less and listening more, working out and eating right, complimenting myself when I think I truly deserved it and introducing myself to as many people as I can with a firm handshake. Particularly when it came to my confidence as a performer, I volunteered to play in studio class more often, organized my own non-degree recitals, practiced harder (and smarter!), and most importantly, started doing my own score study away from my instrument. Score study for me means gathering information about a piece of music in order to come up with well-justified creative musical/artistic ideas. This has given my performing so much more security because I feel like I have put in the time and work into making the piece my own.

Commencement speech, as presented by Butler School of Music Director Mary Ellen Poole:

The Butler School of Music is proud of every one of our graduates today. We've chosen one person to represent all your achievement, your smarts, your humor, your potential. Our spotlight student for 2019 is someone who, according to a faculty mentor, exemplifies the versatility expected of 21st century professionals. This person is known to almost everyone in our brown brick palace, because their work has touched nearly every department: keyboard, voice, conducting, orchestra and new music. A fierce advocate for colleagues and the consummate collaborator, they recently participated in the Cohen New Works Festival as music director and conductor of a piece by a fellow student. The Butler Opera Center trusted them to conduct staging rehearsals of Britten's very complex Rape of Lucretia. Their personal music making starts at the piano, where they're known for the rare gift of flawless and highly musical sight reading. Somehow in the midst of all this productivity, they found the mojo to simultaneously complete a Bachelor of Science and Arts in Computer Science. Finally, the Butler School staff in particular wanted me to say that this person is one of the kindest and most supportive students they've ever worked with. 
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