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Fine & Performing Arts Scholars Program

East Tennessee State University

Student Spotlights

FPA Student Spotlight

Zoe hesterZoë Hester, a 2018 graduate is now studying English and ESL education as a graduate student at ETSU. Along with her studies, she works part-time at an elementary school in Johnson City, privately tutors children in French, and teaches English online to children in China. She also finds time to travel as often as she can. "I’m super passionate about cooking and love spending my free time in the kitchen." She lives a low-waste, plant based lifestyle and enjoys sharing with others through her bolg and Instagram account. Read more>>


Callie Dowd
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Callie Dowdheatre and dance major, knew she wanted to go away to school, so when she visited ETSU, her grandmother came with her. Her grandmother, a graduate of ETSU, loved seeing all the changes that had occurred on campus. While visiting ETSU, they saw a performance of “Othello” that was presented by ETSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance, which was a major factor in Callie's decision to attend ETSU. Another major drawing factor was the Honors College art scholars program. "Programs like the Fine and Performing Arts Scholars program are very unique, and I was fortunate to receive one of the scholarships." Read more>>

Zak McGahaZakary McGaha is a writer, reader, dog-lover, and complete horror nut case, currently living in the eastern, mountainous part of Tennessee. He lives and breathes horror. He has been writing since he was a teenager and has had stories appear in a couple anthologies. His comedic horror novella Locker Arms is coming soon from Kensington Gore Publishing. Read more>>


avery LewisAvery Lewis has a special opportunity to leave his footprints at ETSU. Last fall, he became a founding member of the university’s first chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. In addition to being a Fine and Performing Arts Scholar, he is heavily involved in POLO. Avery is spending the summer helping new students enjoy orientation activities held outside the Culp Center for the first time due to major renovations. After graduation, he plans to incorporate both music and finance into his career. Read more>>


Shelby MaideShelby Maidenn says ETSU has given her a future she’s excited about. The Campbell County, Tennessee, native walked across the stage at Spring Commencement earlier this month, receiving a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design with a minor in English literature. As a Fine and Performing Arts Scholar, Shelby took advantage of study abroad and research opportunities made available through the Honors College. She was named student of the year for graphic design and will move to London in the fall to attend The Courtauld Institute of Art to pursue her passion to study art history with the goal of eventually working in a museum. Read more >>


As a kid EvinEvin McQuistion McQuistion loved to pretend. It began at the age of 2, pretending to be a cat after seeing The Lion King for the first time. From there it developed into something more. Evin grew out of the cat phase and started to create his own super hero characters. His most memorable was "Goggle Man" whose costume included a dinasaur blanket cape, and of course, goggles. At 10-years old, Evin got his first paid gig; his older brother asked Evin to pretend to be a butler for a date and offered Evin $5.

Ali GibsonWhen it comes to mixing her passions for digital media and dance, senior Ali Gibson never thought she would find a way to meld the two. When she entered her freshman year, she never guessed that she would accomplish so much in her four years at ETSU. She didn't know that she would be able to pursue her passion and succeed while doing it. In 2017, Ali gibson was honored to receive the Digital Media Student of the Year Award.

alexandria McQueenFor some, writing is simply an expression of thought. For others, writing is a painstaking task that can only be muddled through. But for Alexandria McQueen, writing is the key to making a difference in the world. A first generation college student who graduated high school in just 3 years with a 4.0, McQueen received a full ride to ETSU through the Honors College. Additionally, she will graduate from ETSU one semester early, at the age of 20.  Read more >>

Levi BradLevi Bradfordford is on summer break from his studies as a theatre major at ETSU. But for him, a  break from school has not meant a break from the theater. In fact, since he left campus on May 4, Bradford has been in a theater every single day, with the exception of two days off (and one of those was spent in the Bud Frank Theatre for this interview). Bradford is spending the summer as technical director at Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville, North Carolina, which is also his hometown. A typical day starts at 9 a.m. where he performs duties like hanging and adjusting lights and working on sound cues.  He finishes at 5 p.m., heads home for dinner, and is back at 6:30 p.m. for rehearsals, which usually wrap up around 9:30 p.m.  Read more >>

Jessica AugierJessica Augier would describe her upbringing as interesting and diverse. She moved around a lot from San Francisco to virginia, to Florida, eventually settling in Tennessee. Jessica's father was a designer of concept cars and sculptures, her grandfather an architect, and her grandmother was an artist. Clearly the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Jessica comes from a well rounded and artistic family. She recalls being inspired through literature as a child; especially from John Tenniel illustrations for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Her love for painting developed as a teenager thanks to a gift set of Windor and Newton oil paints. 

Hannah Justis"It is important to remember that we all have magic inside us." - from J.K. Rowling's Albus
Dumbledore. This quote perfectly embodies Hannah Justis, a 20-year-old art student at ETSU. What started as an inspiration through two generations has blossomed into her beautiful passion for art in everyday life. "Art has always been there. I remember when I was little, my mom used to take me with her when she painted murals. There's pictures of me when I was little with my paintbrush right beside mom," says Justis.


Jessica VestA native to Johnson City, Jessica Vest pursues a dream of dancing far beyond just the floor at East Tennessee State University. However, dancing was not always her dream. Growing up, Jessica was a bona fide tomboy who loved to play basketball and football with her older brother Adam. She was not a stranger to getting dirty outside or getting into mischief. But her parents saw it in her best interest to branch out from more than just the sports fields. Jessica's mother was excited to learn that their new neighbor from Kansas City owned a dance studio and both were eager to get Jessica involved.

Anthony GrayAnthony Gray was a Fine & Performing Arts Scholars from 2012-2016, graduating with a BM degree from the Department of Music. Anthony received the Outstanding Student award from his department that year and completed his thesis "Re-Discovering the Art of Bel Canto" under the mentorship of Dr. Maria Niederberger.

Growing up in Limestone, Tennessee, Anthony fell in love with music at a young age at church and started taking piano lessons when he was six years old. Asked why he loves studying music, Anthony replied: "I love studying music because it is limitless. It is limitless both in how much you can learn and how much you can express. Music has a wide array of uses from expressing deep emotions to praising God. Music transcends speech and can relate emotions and ideas were words are insufficient." Talking about his time at ETSU, the professors he studied with, and how his music developed, Anthony said: "Dr. Esther Park is one of the professors that had the most impact on my musicianship. She is an incredible pianist and person that really inspired me to "make beautiful music." Karen Smith also had a big influence on my studies as she gave me many opportunities with accompanying singers and opera which is the ultimate goal of my career. Another big influence was Dr. Maria Niederberger who mentored my thesis and really taught me a lot about composition. These and other professors really inspired me by their confidence, humility, patience and professionalism."

Anthony has been accepted into the graduate program at West Virginia University to study for his Masters of Music in collaborative piano with Dr. Ching-Wen Hsiao and is not only going to receive a full scholarship but will be the opera accompanist while receiving a yearly stipend. Needless to say, the Honors College and the Fine & Performing Arts Scholars program are very excited about Anthony's future graduate studies and we look forward to hearing about his plans to pursue a doctorate in musical arts, conduct opera and enter academia.

Jake Ingram

Originally from Knoxville, Jake Ingram graduated from ETSU with a Bachelors in Fine Art from the Department of Art & Design and moved to New York City to attend the graduate program at the New York Academy of Art. He graduated with a Master of Fine Art in 2015 in drawing with a concentration in printmaking and received the Robert Blackburn printmaking award that year from the Academy. During this time he exhibited in New Jersey, Virginia and back in Johnson City while working on collaborative projects with Blek le Rat, Lesley Dill and Will Cotton (which led to Jake being featured in the New York Times). He has also travelled to Belgium and the Netherlands and participated in the Southern Graphics Council International printmaking conference.

When asked about his career, Jake said: I've been making art for as long as I can remember. I love art because it is a visual form of storytelling and its a way of recording my thoughts and stories. Even if people are not quite sure what my art objects are about, I think they still find something familiar with the imagery that allows them to enjoy them. I love making things especially in printmaking and fibers because they are so process oriented. I find that the steps involved are very meditative and calming. Also both mediums are have this sense of community where people come and work together. I really enjoy working with others and seeing what they make and learning from them.

Asked about which artists have inspired him, Jake replied: Will Cotton! One of the major reasons I went to the Academy. I took his master class, visited his studio and have had the honor to print for him. Other influences, Albrecht Drer, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Marcel Duchamp, Louise Bourgeois, Beauvais Lyons, Walton Ford, Ben Venom and Luke Haynes. He also said: I don't think that I would have made it as far as I have if it wasn't for the advice and support from Andrew Scott Ross, Scott Contreras-Koterbay and Mira Gerard. Their knowledge and classes were very formative to the artist that I am today. And the Honors College was important part of my time at ETSU because it gave me the opportunity to really explore who I was a person. I think the most important thing about the Art Scholars were the people in the program. They basically became my family and I stay in contact with the majority of them.

Looking to the future, Jake is planning on continuing to develop his own work and build a portfolio of student work so that he can apply for teaching positions. He has bought his own printing press as the foundation for his future studio work and intends to establish a community print shop someday His work will also soon be featured at Art Southampton, curated by Brooke Shields, for the Academy.

Mithra AlaviMithra Alavi was a Fine & Performing Arts Scholar student in the Honors College, graduating from ETSU in 2011 with a BA degree in Theatre and Mass Communications and concentrating in Broadcasting; not only did she receive the Faculty Award for Outstanding Student of the Communications Department she also received the award for Outstanding Senior in Theatre that year. During that time she was studied through the Washington Center Internship program and was a                               Smithsonian Associates Discovery Theater Intern in 2010.

Asked what she liked most about the FPA program, Mithra said: "What I liked most about the program was it enabled me to combine the academic challenge that I wanted with the resources and encouragement to pursue my creative goals. I was able to get academic credit for creative performances and projects that I may not have been able to do in other honors programs."

Since then, Mithra earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Production at Florida State University in 2014. During that time, shes been incredibly successful, notably with her film Threes a Crowd that was accepted into the Humboldt International Film Festival 2014, the Fort Meyers Beach Film Festival 2014, the Indie Spirit Film Festival 2014, the Broad Humor Film Festival 2014 and, most spectacularly, winning the Student Emmy from Academy of College Television Awards 2014.

Mithra has been a member of the College of Motion Picture Arts Casting Committee, where she organized and ran auditions in cities around the nation including New York City, L.A., New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, working with talent agencies and online platforms to advertise auditions.

Looking back, Mithra noted "FPA actually benefitted my career in a most profound way when I think about it. Since I had to do a thesis for the program and was encouraged to make it a creative project, I took my first stab at writing, directing, and producing a short film. This was how I found out film was the love of my life. When I graduated and couldn't find a job, I decided to apply for film school and was soon accepted at Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. And it was pretty awesome!"

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