Awards & Creative Achievement


The College of Arts & Media celebrates students, faculty, staff, and community leaders who are making a difference on campus, in the community, and in the creative fields!

Spring 2020 Outstanding Graduates


Sofia Shappell

CAM Grad

Gifted at writing, directing, and producing, Sofia Shapell is also a leader with a strong sense of civic duty. As the CAM representative to the CU Denver Student Council, Sofia dedicated to advancing the interests of her classmates. In addition to her leadership, she is a talented filmmaker, having wrote, directed, and produced the short film, Prom Dress.

Molly Farrell White

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Described by faculty Eric Jewett as a "relentlessly creative artist," Molly White is the writer, director, and cinematographer of Mother Knows Best, a thought-provoking film about a woman abducted by an emotionally stunted man. She has also contributed significantly to the film projects of her peers, which she describes as her favorite experiences as a Film & Television major. In summer of 2019 Molly interned in Los Angeles for intern for the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women. She worked on the camera crew of Blocks, and when the film was named a Sundance Film Festival "Official Selection" she was invited to attend the festival as filmmaker.


Caroline Stump

Caroline Stump
Caroline Stump has made a name for herself as a Denver singer/songwriter and performer. With fellow MEIS student Megan Ellsworth, Caroline hosts "The Songwriter Diaries," a podcast exploring the songwriting process. Locals know Caroline from performances at The Roxy, the Mercury Café, and the 2019 Underground Music Showcase just to name a few. Her first full-length album will release in summer of 2020. Visit carolinestump.comto listen to Caroline's soulful music!



Hank Risemberg

Hank Risemberg
Hank Risemberg in the National Center for Media Forensics outstanding graduate in the Master of Science Recording Arts- Media Forensics.  Since starting the MSRA-MF program in 2017, Hank has excelled academically and produced scientifically sound and thoughtful work. Even prior to completing his degree, he acquired a position as a forensic video examiner with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Hank's thesis was focused on a structure analysis of media files submitted via WhatsApp.

Visual Arts

Rachel Dormido

Rachel Dormido

Digital Design graduate Rachel Dormido has set a standard of excellence for the Visual Arts Department. Rachel, who previously earned a B.S. in Chemistry, an A.D. in from the Defense Language Institute for Chinese-Mandarin, and served in the United States Air Force, has impressed her professors and peers alike. Described as “purposeful in everything that she creates, she understands and fully grasps the need for meaningful design.” She is a research assistant for Augmented Reality Research and had maintained a consistently high GPA. Inspired by organizations that work to apply to design techniques to serve underserved populations, she hopes to follow their example and apply her design skills to create user experiences that are both accessible and a joy to use for everyone.

Alex Gomez

Alex Gomez

Illustration student Alex Gomez is forward thinking talented artist. A student leader, who served on the Dean's first Student Advisory Council, Alex is also an advocate for the arts who helped secure funding the for 2019 Illustration Expo.  His digital paintings which are, boundary-pushing and thought-provoking can be found at

Samantha Kokesh

Samantha Kokesh
Samantha was raised in the Black Hills, South Dakota, where the root of her affinity towards nature developed. Having grown up with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, art served as a dual purpose in her life – a way to calm her mind, and, in the process, develop skills that carried on to help shape her future. Since then, she has developed advanced skills in sculpting, mold-making, metals, and alternative materials casting, and costuming. She also has experience in kinetics, 3D-printing, mechanical engineering, and non-traditional illustration. Samantha’s creative work is inspired by natural elements such as crystals, mushrooms, bioluminescence, electricity, bones, flora, and supernatural themes including spirits, beasts, and artificial intelligence.

2020 CU Denver Faculty Award Winners

Each year CU Denver honors one of the university’s greatest assets—the remarkable faculty—with the faculty awards. These accolades recognize superior accomplishments in teaching, leadership and service, research and creative activities, librarianship, faculty mentoring, and practices related to non-tenure-track faculty. 

The awards are special not only because they acknowledge outstanding performance in our core areas as a university, but also because they are recognition by colleagues and students of this exemplary work. The College of Arts & Media is proud of these winners, past and present.

Excellence in Research & Creative Activities

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Bryan Leister
Digital Design, Visual Arts

Bryan Leister works across a broad range of media reflecting his education in design and his career as an illustrator and artist. His illustration work has appeared on the cover of Time, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Der Spiegel and the Atlantic Monthly. His digital artwork, interactive installations and projected video has been shown in regional and national museums and performance spaces.

Excellence in Teaching–– Tenured/Tenure-Track Faculty

Eric Jewett Headshot

Eric Jewett
Film & Television

Eric Jewett spent 35 years in Hollywood, working on film and television productions before coming to CU Denver. His professional production and direction credits include the films “American Gigolo,” “Taxi Driver,” “Cat People,” “Team America,” “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi,” “The Lost Boys,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “Basic Instinct,” and television series “Code Black,” “Weeds” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

Excellence in Teaching–– Instructional/ Research/Clinical Faculty

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Beth Pugliano
Art History, Visual Arts

Elizabeth Pugliano is instructor of art history at the University of Colorado Denver, where she teaches courses on medieval art, Islamic art, and Greek and Roman art, as well as the Art History survey and Intro to Art in the Core Curriculum. Her research focuses on violence and conflict in medieval art, and on the perception and reception of images.

The President's Diversity Award

The President's Diversity award recognizes significant achievements of CU faculty, staff, students, and units in developing a culturally and intellectually diverse university community reflective of inclusive excellence.

Roma Photo for Web

Roma Sur
Film & Television

Roma Sur is a true leader that embeds the values of diversity in her teaching and independent film making. She has incorporated her life experience as a woman and an immigrant to advance diversity, by using her intellectual, creative, and cultural skills to give voice to the underrepresented. As a screenwriter, she finds her niche in narrating cross-cultural stories that channel experience. Her recent feature screenplay, The Rock Within, was a second rounder at the Sundance Feature Writing Lab. (2018) and an official selection at the Stowe Story Lab, 2018. Sur also leads Bollywood Connections, a  student study abroad program in Mumbai, India.

Research and Creative Activities Symposium
Award Winners

The 23nd annual Research and Creative Activities Symposium (RACAS) showcases the scholarly activities of CU Denver undergraduate and graduate students. Congratulations to all those who shared their scholarship and fostered a sense of community collaboration, outreach, and creativity. The exceptional work of College & Arts Media student presentations received top designation in the Arts and Humanities category.

Arts & Humanities RaCAS Awards

1st  Place:Melissa Jacob
Blurring the Lines of Anthropomorphism: Illustrated Stories of Animal Intellect, Ingenuity & Inspiration

2nd  Place: Gesina Null
Colonization and Christian Art in Mesoamerica: The Mendicant Orders' Different Approaches to Conversion during Spanish Colonization

3rd  Place: Joana Sanchez Gomez, Monique Salas, & Christopher Riggs
The Impact Domestic Violence has on Children who are around it

Honorable Mention:Arturo Mireles, Todd Smith, Kevin Stanton, & Jocelyn Solis
Green Revolution: The Emerging American Hemp Market

People's Choice Arts & Humanities

1st Place: Tatum Meinert
A Study of Dutch Still Life in the Golden Age

2nd Place: Npaujnpaim (Diana) Lee
A Closer Look at the Underground Music Showcase

3rd Place: Joana Sanchez Gomez, Monique Salas, & Christopher Riggs
The Impact Domestic Violence has on Children who are around it

Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP)
Grant Recipients

The Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) is a competitive grants program out of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities and the Office of Academic Achievement designed to financially support original faculty-mentored research, creative, and other scholarly activities.

2019-2020 UROP Recipients




Arturo Mireles, Todd Smith

Marty Otanez


Kaitlin Woodward

Carol Golemboski


David Younglove

Melissa Furnness


2020-2021 UROP Recipients




Devon Harris

Jeffrey Schrader


Joseph Ruben Quintro

Yang Wang


Christopher Riggs, Neumann Adiar

Roma Sur


NAdine Nehme

Travis Vermilye


Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition

Every year since 1981 the Society has held the Student Scholarship Competition. Over three hundred works were chosen from 7,300 entries submitted by professors of college-level illustration and animation students nationwide and Canada. Visual Arts is pleased to share that graduating Illustration student, Kenneth Iacullo, was chosen to exhibit. The full exhibition can be seen online at the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship website.

Kenneth Iacullo '20 | 'Tate'
University of Colorado Denver | Instructor(s): Becky Heavner
Medium: Colored pencil and acrylic on Wood

Dean’s Post-Graduate International Studies Award

Diana Lee

Npaujnpaim (Diana) Lee '20
Music Business, Music & Entertainment Industry Studies

Diana Lee has been awarded the College of Arts & Media Dean’s Post-Graduate International Studies Award. In fall of 2020, Lee will be attending Sunway University in Kuala Lumpur, earning a scholarship towards a Masters in Creative Arts & Media. Read more about Diana's accomplishments here.

Arts in Society Grant

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Owen Kortz
Singer/Songwriter, Music & Entertainment Industry Studies

Owen Kortz
has received a $30,000 Arts in Society Grant to facilitate collaboration between the College of Arts & Media and Urban Peak Youth Homeless Shelter. Kortz humbly began a modest DIY music studio at Urban Peak in 2012 to provide a creative outlet for youth experiencing homelessness. After seeing the positive impact that music was having on the participants he continued to grow the “studio” with the help of CAM student volunteers. In 2020, Kortz’s proposal “Music Studio for Youth Experiencing Homelessness” received a generous Arts in Society grant to facilitate a three-phase overhaul of the Urban Peak studio, including paid internships for CAM students. The grant is administered by Red Line Contemporary Art Center and funded by Colorado Creative Industries.

Getty Foundation Award

Yang Wang headshot

Yang Wang
Art History, Visual Arts

Yang Wang has been awarded a Getty/American Council of Learned Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History of Art. The fellowship supports a year of academic research and writing for Wang’s abstract Yellow Earth: Regional Chinese Ink Painting in the Age of Postwar Modernism. The prestigious honor is given to projects that will make a substantial and original contribution to the understanding of art and its history and is selected from a pool of prestigious applicants.

College of Arts & Media

CU Denver

Arts Building

1150 10th Street

Suite 177

Denver, CO 80204


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