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Leading by Example: KCAD Announces Winners of 2017 Excellence Awards

Posted April 27, 2017 in Student

Each year, those Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) students who exhibit a rare level of mastery and accomplishment in their chosen field are honored with the Excellence Award, the epitome of KCAD student achievement.

“Throughout their time at KCAD, these individuals have exhibited an exemplary work ethic, dedication, curiosity, and thirst for knowledge and experience that has empowered them to get the most out of their education,” said KCAD President Leslie Bellavance. “We congratulate them on this accomplishment, and look forward to celebrating their continuing excellence as KCAD alumni.”

KCAD is proud to introduce the following students as the 2017 Excellence Award winners:

Kelsey Ballast Pasma (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – Interior Design

Kelsey Ballasy PasmaKelsey Ballast Pasma (credit: Matthew Provoast Photography)

Outside of her success in the classroom, Ballast Pasma served on the board of KCAD’s International Interior Design Association (IIDA) student chapter for all four years of her education, assuming the role of president during her senior year. In 2016, Ballast Pasma won the IIDA Booth Competition, which challenged entrants to design the IIDA booth for the 2016 Orgatec Trade Fair, an international expo focused on the design of working environments. She also participated in the IIDA MI Chapter inaugural ThinkUp! Competition, and was a part of the first-place team at the 2016 IIDA NeoCon Student Charette.

Upon graduating, Ballast Pasma will continue on in her current role at Steelcase, where she works as an interior designer on the company’s Applications Specialist team.

“Kelsey has been a recognized leader at KCAD since she walked through the door. Her work is consistently excellent, and her humble, gracious attitude and constant smile and professionalism are admired by her peers and the KCAD community,” said Assistant Professor and Interior Design Program Chair Tara McCrackin. “She is one of those people that you can ask to do something, and know that it will be done, and done well. Her willingness to take on leadership roles and get involved in the KCAD community is inspirational.”

work by Kesley Ballast Pasma (images courtesy of Kelsey Ballast Pasma)


Ashely Bryant (Grand Haven, Mich.) – Illustration

Ashley BryantAshley Bryant (credit: Cody TenBrink)

Outside of her success in the classroom, Bryant was featured in the 2015 Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Exhibition held at the Museum of American Illustration Galleries in New York City. In 2016, she was an award winner in the Michigan Fine Arts Competition, a juried competition that solicits over 500 entries annually from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. In 2016, she also had her work published in Creative Quarterly, a prestigious international journal that features juried work by artists and designers from around the world.

Upon graduating, Bryant plans to continue on in her current position as a graphic designer at Design Design Inc., a Grand Rapids-based designer and manufacturer of greeting cards, paper tableware, gift packaging, and stationery gifts. As for the future, she’s considering pursuing a career as an art director, and hopes to land more freelance opportunities as well as opportunities to license her artwork for commercial use.

In addition to receiving the Excellence Award, Bryant was also named valedictorian of KCAD’s 2017 graduating class.

“Having earned the honor of being not only the Illustration Excellence Award Winner for 2017, but also the valedictorian of her graduating class, Ashley has proved without a doubt that she is brilliant and talented,” said Professor and Illustration Program Chair Jon McDonald. “She has a mature, dedicated work ethic that shows through in the work she has produced. This will serve her well as she continues her career in art.”

work by Ashley Bryant (image courtesy of the artist)


Lauren Gravelyn (Chelea, Mich.) – Allesee Metals and Jewelry Design

Lauren GravelynLauren Gravelyn (credit: Claire Morin)

“Lauren is the ideal KCAD student–someone struggling to bridge the commercial demands and cultural expectations of design with a need to put things together in ways that add new information, that persuade users and audience that there is more to the world than what they believe,” said Professor and Allesee Metals and Jewelry Design Program Chair Phil Renato.

Upon graduating, Gravelyn plans to continue working at Signet Jewelers’ Grand Rapids location, where she’s been furthering her education through experience in custom design and jewelry sales.

work by Lauren Gravelyn (credit: Lauren Gravelyn/Claire Morin)


Chelsea Harris (Louisville, Ky.) – Painting

Chelsea HarrisChelsea Harris (credit: Kyle LaDuke)

“Chelsea is not only an exceptional painter, but also an accomplished writer as well. Through deeply personal snapshot-like images and short stories her work belongs to a generational continuum of art practice revisiting nostalgic and diaristic moments of youthful rebellion,” said Professor and Painting Program Chair Diane Zeeuw.

Harris’ senior thesis project was initially inspired by Ed Van Der Elsken’s “Love on the Left Bank,” a photo-documentary of bohemian life in 1950’s Paris.

“Chelsea subtly updates the story of ‘hipster’ life via attention to carefully considered details, replacing the streets and bistros of Paris with midwestern turn-of-the-century foursquare rental houses, and anonymous interior fragments of well-worn local bars,” said Zeeuw. “These pieces in many ways serve as a celebration of the short days and long nights of early adulthood fueled by rock and roll, poetry, rambling conversation, restlessness, and shifting dreams.”

Upon graduating, Harris plans to take a year off before applying to graduate school, where she’ll study painting and critical theory. Ultimately, she plans to pursue her doctorate.

work by Chelsea Harris (images courtesy of the artist)


Brian Howland (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – Drawing

Brian HowlandBrian Howland (credit: Brian Howland)

Outside of his work in class, Howland worked at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, interned with local arts nonprofit Avenue for the Arts, and attended an intensive workshop at Anderson Ranch in Colorado. He cites his involvement with Avenue for the Arts as key to his personal and professional growth.  

Upon graduating, Howland plans to attend graduate school, where he’ll pursue a degree in either fine arts or museum studies.

“Brian truly exemplifies what it means to be excellent. He has not only excelled in the studio creating work that is both challenging and deeply personal, he has outstanding academic marks and is engaged in his community as well,” said Associate Professor and Drawing Program Chair Stephen Halko. “His accomplishments are a testament to his hard work, curiosity, creativity, thoughtfulness, and willingness to listen, share, and engage. His dedication is not a product of excellence, but rather his excellence is the result of his dedication.”

work by Brian Howland (images courtesy of the artist)


Courtney Jackson (Muskegon, Mich.) – Art History

Courtney JacksonCourrtney Jackson (credit: Adam Bird Photography)

During her time at KCAD, Jackson worked on a number of projects with Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA). On one project, Jackson and UICA staff worked with local user experience design agency Universal Mind to create Access UICA, a mobile app that increases the accessibility of art exhibitions.

Universal Mind designed the app’s framework, allowing it to communicate with sensors placed near artworks and present viewers with information about the piece they were currently viewing. Jackson, meanwhile, put her research skills to use to compile all of the app’s contextual information, and worked closely with local disability advocates to determine how to best integrate features such as scrolling and swiping into the app.

Upon graduating, Jackson plans to explore creative outreach opportunities in her hometown of Muskegon.

“Courtney embodies the very idea of excellence through her boundless intellectual curiosity and sense of adventure,” said Art History Associate Professor Anne Norcross. “She is unfailingly energetic and perceptive with insights that elevate the level of class discussion, and equally sharp as a writer with papers that are consistently sophisticated and engaging. Over the past four years I have seen her grow not only as a student, but also as a scholar who is confident in her ability to do anything.”

work by Courtney Jackson (images courtesy of Courtney Jackson)


Matthew Johnson (South Haven, Mich.) – Industrial Design

Matthew JohnsonMatthew Johnson (credit: Matthew Johnson)

Outside of his success in the classroom, Johnson received the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) Student Merit Award from KCAD in 2017. Each year, every college or university that has an active IDSA student chapter selects an outstanding Industrial Design junior or senior to receive this distinguished award. 

Johnson also embedded himself within West Michigan’s industrial design community through positions at Tekton, Inc., Tiger Studio, and Newell Brands, where he’s currently working as an industrial design intern. Upon graduating, he plans to continue his professional development in a variety of ways.

“Matthew has been the consummate professional throughout his time at KCAD. Other students looked up to him as he set the standard of excellence with his work ethic, technical execution and creative vision,” said Associate Professor and Industrial Design Program Chair Jon Moroney. “We are proud to call Matthew an alumnus of the Industrial Design program, and we have no doubt he will be a great leader and continue to set the bar high and inspire those around him.”

work by Matthew Johnson (images courtesy of Matthew Johnson)


Sarah Laverty (Houghton Lake, Mich.) – Photography

Sarah LavertySarah Laverty (credit: Cameron Brooks)

"Sarah’s willingness to help others while also being receptive to constructive criticism, coupled with an amazing work ethic, made her the ideal recipient of the 2017 Photography Excellence Award,” said Professor and Photography Program Chair Adam DeKraker.   

Laverty’s senior thesis work focuses on the restoration process of the Traverse City State Hospital in Traverse City, Mich., a former mental hospital designed according to the influential specifications established by 19th century physician Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride that has since been converted into retail and living spaces.

“Sarah's work is situated within a rich tradition of architectural photography, yet goes beyond the beauty of the dilapidated structure itself by addressing the repurposing of buildings that carry strong historic significance and a potentially questionable past,” said DeKraker. “By honoring her with this award we recognize her dedication to photography and historic preservation, along with the dialogue created when the two culminate in a senior thesis project of this magnitude.”

Upon graduating, Laverty plans to travel the country and photograph other surviving Kirkbride structures.

work by Sarah Laverty (images courtesy of Sarah Laverty)


Maggie Livengood (Appleton, Wis.) – Art Education

Maggie LivengoodMaggie Livengood (credit: Elisa Brandel)

“Maggie entered the Art Education program filled with enthusiasm. Almost immediately she was inquiring about internships and volunteer opportunities. By the end of her first year at KCAD she was elected as our student association president, demonstrating the same kind of dedication and momentum when she worked with K-12 students,” said Professor and Art Education Program Chair Dr. Cindy Todd.

In addition to serving as president of the KCAD Art Education Student Association, Livengood was the organization’s representative to the Michigan Art Education Association (MAEA), interned at Grand Rapids Art Museum, and volunteered as an instructor in Saugatuck Center for the Arts’ Growing Young Artists program, which provides children of migrant workers with opportunities for creative engagement.

Upon graduating, Livengood plans to teach art at the secondary level. She’s currently applying for teaching jobs all over the country.

work by Maggie Livengood (images courtesy of the artist)


Alyssa Minatel (Linden, Mich.) – Medical Illustration

Alyssa MinatelAlyssa Minatel (image courtesy of Alyssa Minatel)

“Alyssa has all the tools it takes to be a successful illustrator. She has superior skill not only as a student, but as an artist. Her rate of production is the fastest I've seen in my time here at KCAD. Her illustrations are accurate, and she is a pleasure to work with,” said Medical Illustration Assistant Professor Matthew Schenk. “I know she is going to have great success.”

Upon graduating, Minatel will head to New York City in the fall of 2017 for a medical illustration internship with Thieme Medical Publishers, an industry-leading global medical and science publisher that produces hundreds of medical and scientific book and journal titles every year.

Long-term, she plans to pursue internship and job opportunities around the country while continuing to strengthen her portfolio.

work by Alyssa Minatel (images courtesy of the artist)


Alyssa Natoci (Ann Arbor, Mich.) – Pamella Roland DeVos School of Fashion, Fashion Studies

Alyssa NatociAlyssa Natoci (credit: Alyssa Natoci)

Beyond succeeding in the classroom, Natoci received the 2017 Outstanding Student Award from the Surface Design Association, an international organization dedicated to innovation in fibers, art, and design. She also completed an internship with Rockford, Mich.-based brand Conscious Clothing, where she currently works as a design studio assistant.

In addition to pursuing her dream of opening her own studio and launching her own clothing brand, Natoci plans to continue working at Conscious Clothing in Grand Rapids after graduating.  

“Alyssa has found her passion in sustainable fashion. She creates beautiful garments that nurture and respect nature, and her designs are aesthetically pleasing and well-constructed,” said Assistant Professor and Pamella Roland DeVos School of Fashion Fashion Studies Program Chair Lori Faulkner. “She’s told me that in the future, she would like to have her own farm, where she will raise animals and plants that will become fiber and cloth for her original designs.”

work by Alyssa Natoci (images courtesy of Alyssa Natoci)


Erin Schaenzer (Saginaw, Mich.) – Printmaking

Erin Schaenzer  Erin Schaenzer (credit: Hannah Schaenzer)  

Outside of her success in the classroom, Shaenzer was active in the KCAD student printmaking club, Collective Pressure, was an artist member of the Southern Graphics Council International professional association, volunteered at Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids, and exhibited her work in 19 group and solo exhibitions, including international exhibitions in Egypt and Taiwan.

Upon graduating, Schaenzer plans to take time to travel and relax before focusing more intently on her artistic development and seeking artist residency opportunities. Eventually, she plans to open her own studio/gallery space.

“Erin has earned the Excellence Award for Printmaking due to her strengths as an artist, her disciplined work ethic, and her sharp inquisitive mind. Her artistic work investigates some of the most fundamental questions we all share: ‘Why we are here?’ ‘What is our purpose?’ ‘Do we make a difference?’ She doesn’t try to answer these questions, but instead, she provokes the dialogue,” said Professor and Printmaking Program Chair Mariel Versluis. “Erin is an ambitious individual who is unafraid to be deeply engaged in that fundamental search for the mysterious, for the roots of science and art, for the answers to those most basic questions we all confront, as artists and as human beings.”

work by Erin Schaenzer (images courtesy of the artist)


Eric Schroeder (Kentwood, Mich.) – Furniture Design

Eric SchroederEric Schroeder (credit - Kierstynn Holman)

Outside of his success in the classroom, Schroeder was named a finalist in the 2017 Bienenstock Furniture Library Design Competition, a prestigious competition that invites students from around the country to submit their best original furniture designs for a chance to win scholarship funding.

He also completed internships with Grand Rapids, Mich. furniture design and manufacturing company Guild Nines and New York City-based furniture/theatre designer Doug Fitch. While still a student, he landed a job as a product designer with Muskegon, Mich.-based Bold Furniture, where he is currently employed.

Upon graduating, Schroeder will continue to design products and furniture for Bold Furniture, and plans to eventually pursue a graduate degree in product design.

“Eric doesn’t wait for opportunities to find him–he seeks them out and explores them fearlessly. He also enjoys collecting and restoring mid-century modern furniture and nicely ties his passion for this style of design to his own,” said Associate Professor and Furniture Design Program Chair Gayle DeBruyn. “Clean, functional, elegant furniture is difficult to design; it requires a clear understanding of manufacturing and materials capabilities. For this, Eric engages his network to assist him. His employer, Bold Furniture, agreed to prototype a line of furniture specifically for Eric’s senior capstone project, and we can’t wait to see his work during the KCAD Annual Student Exhibition.”

work by Eric Schroeder (images courtesy of Eric Schroeder)


Chloe Stewart (Grand Blanc, Mich.) – Digital Media

Chloe StewartChloe Stewart (credit: Chloe Stewart)

Among her many accomplishments in the Digital Media program, Stewart created an app called Matching Simple Pictures that gives parents and teachers a fun and engaging way to communicate with young students who have autism. She also worked on an animation for a board game called Miner Madness that helps middle school students build critical thinking skills and introduces them to coding logic.

Outside of her work in class, Stewart was twice a member of a KCAD student team in the 24 HOURS Animation Contest for students, a national competition that challenges teams of five college students from around the world to complete a 30-second animated film entirely from scratch, including animation, color, and sound. She also completed an internship with McGraw-Hill Education, where she used her skills to help the company create engaging educational materials.

Upon graduating, Stewart plans to relocate to Los Angeles to pursue a career in character design and 2D animation.

“In her time at KCAD, Chloe has always been epic. Whether it be in animation, motion design, app design or digital drawing, she has found ways to engage youth with her art,” said Assistant Professor and Digital Media Program Chair Susan Bonner. “Her fellow students have looked up to her as a leader in the KCAD Digital Learning Center, where she has shared her expertise with kindness. We share in the hopes and dreams she has sown during her time at KCAD and cannot wait to see the fruit they will bear.”

work by Chloe Stewart (images courtesy of the artist)


Sakino Tomiura (Kawanishi, Japan) – Graphic Design

Sakino Tomiura Sakino Tomiura (image courtesy of Sakino Tomiura)

Outside of her success in the classroom, Tomiura won three gold awards and three bronze awards in the 2017 American Advertising Federation of West Michigan ADDY Awards. Two of those winning entries would go on to win silver ADDY awards at the district level of the competition.

Upon graduating, Tomiura plans to spend this summer traveling before relocating to Tokyo, where she’ll work for a global design company.

“As faculty, we have had the privilege and honor of getting to know Sakino while watching her grow and mature as a graphic design student and as a person. She is gracious and humble, sophisticated, savvy, and a risk taker,” said Associate Professor and Graphic Design Program Chair Joan Sechrist. “We believe Sakino will continue to help bridge gaps between language and culture, art and design, and passion and empathy. She is not just a problem solving graphic designer–she’s a change maker. We can’t wait to see what she does in the future. No doubt it will be positive and transformative.”

work by Sakino Tomiura (images courtesy of Sakino Tomiura)


Matt VanSweden (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – Collaborative Design

Matt VanSwedenMatt VanSweden (credit: Miranda Haddix)

Outside of his work in the classroom, VanSweden was instrumental in the design and execution of KCAD’s “Spark Parks”—pop-up parks with interactive and educational components that were installed on the KCAD campus during Grand Rapids’ annual ArtPrize event—on three separate occasions.

Upon graduating, VanSweden plans to spend some well-deserved time with his family before resuming his career.

“We congratulate Matt on his accomplishments and thank him for his passionate engagement in the college and community. It is our pleasure to recognize him as our 2017 Excellence Award recipient,” said Associate Professor and Collaborative Design Program Chair Gayle DeBruyn. “Matt brings a high level of professionalism, curiosity, humility and grit to the classroom and to his projects. He has inspired us all with his determination, grace, and ability to balance a full-time career and active family.”

work by Matt VanSweden (images courtesy of Matt VanSweden)


The 2017 Excellence Award winners will be recognized at an official ceremony on May 5, and their best work will be on display during KCAD’s annual Excellence Awards Exhibition (May 2-18), hosted in The Fed Galleries @ KCAD inside the college’s Woodbridge N. Ferris Building (17 Pearl St. NW).

The Fed Galleries will also be hosting the Masters Thesis Exhibition (May 2-18), spotlighting the fully developed work of the students who have completed their graduate studies.

KCAD’s Annual Student Exhibition (May 2-6), featuring work from each of the college’s programs, will encompass all floors of the college’s 17 Fountain St. NW and Woodbridge N. Ferris Buildings. A campus-wide opening reception will be held on May 2 from 4-7pm. All exhibitions and the reception are free and open to the public. For more information, visit kcad.edu/galleries