Leading By Example: KCAD Announces Recipients of the 2017 Excellence Award


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,” KCAD president Leslie Bellavance said. “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, interior design student at KCAD, photography by Matthew Provoast Photography

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

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.

“IIDA Booth Winning Design, Install II” by Kelsey Ballast Pasma

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,” assistant professor and interior design program chair Tara McCrackin said. “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.

Ashley Bryant, illustration student at KCAD, photography by Cody TenBrink

Ashely Bryant (Grand Haven, Mich.) – Illustration

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.

“Breathe” by Ashley Bryant

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,” professor and illustration program chair Jon McDonald said. “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.”

Lauren Gravelyn, allesee metals and jewelry design student at KCAD, photography by Claire Morin

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

“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,” professor and allesee metals and jewelry design program chair Phil Renato said.

“Black Collar” by Lauren Gravelyn

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.

Chelsea Harris, photography by Kyle LaDuke

Chelsea Harris (Louisville, Ky.) – Painting

“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,” professor and painting program chair Diane Zeeuw said.

“At the Firehous” by Chelsea Harris

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 1950s 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,” Zeeuw said. “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.

Brian Howland, drawing student at KCAD

Brian Howland (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – Drawing

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.

“Black History Month” by Brian Howland


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,” associate professor and drawing program chair Stephen Halko said. “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.”

Courtney Jackson, art history student at KCAD

Courtney Jackson (Muskegon, Mich.) – Art History

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.

“Access UICA App Highlight: Katherine Sherwood Artist Page” by Courtney Jackson

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 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,” art history associate professor Anne Norcross said. “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.”

Matthew Johnson, industrial design student at KCAD

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

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.

“CAD Rendering of Jeep Wrangler Bluetooth Speaker” by Matthew Johnson

Johnson also embedded himself within West Michigan’s industrial design community through positions at Tekton, Inc., Tiger Studio and Newell Brands, where he currently works 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,” associate professor and industrial design program chair Jon Moroney said. “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.”

Sarah Laverty, photography student at KCAD, photography by Cameron Brooks

Sarah Laverty (Houghton Lake, Mich.) – Photography

“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,” professor and photography program chair Adam DeKraker said.

“The Former Traverse City State Hospital” by Sarah Laverty

Laverty’s senior thesis work focuses on the restoration process of the Traverse City State Hospital in Traverse City, Michigan, 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,” DeKraker said. “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.

Maggie Livengood, art education student at KCAD, photography by Elisa Brandel

Maggie Livengood (Appleton, Wis.) – Art Education

“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,” professor and art education program chair Cindy Todd said.

“Mirror Neurons” by Maggie Livengood

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 the 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.

Alyssa Minatel, medical illustration student at KCAD

Alyssa Minatel (Linden, Mich.) – Medical Illustration

“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,” medical illustration assistant professor Matthew Schenk said. “I know she is going to have great success.”

“Leukemia Blood Cells” by Alyssa Minatel

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.

Alyssa Natoci, Pamella Roland DeVos School of Fashion fashion studies student

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

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, Michigan-based brand Conscious Clothing, where she currently works as a design studio assistant.

“Natural Dye Studies” by Alyssa Natoci

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,” assistant professor and Pamella Roland DeVos School of Fashion fashion studies program chair Lori Faulkner said. “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.”

Erin Schaenzer, printmaking student at KCAD, photography by Hannah Schaenzer

Erin Schaenzer (Saginaw, Mich.) – Printmaking

Outside of her success in the classroom, Shaenzer was active in the KCAD student printmaking club Collective Pressure, served as 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.

“Home” by Erin Schaenzer

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,” professor and printmaking program chair Mariel Versluis said. “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.”

Eric Schroeder, furniture design student at KCAD, photography by Kierstynn Holman

Eric Schroeder (Kentwood, Mich.) – Furniture Design

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.

“Kingfisher End Table” by Eric Schroeder

He also completed internships with Grand Rapids, Michigan 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, Michigan-based company Bold Furniture, where he is currently employed.

Upon graduating, Schroeder will continue to design products and furniture for Bold Furniture and plans to 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,” associate professor and furniture design program chair Gayle DeBruyn said. “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.”

Chloe Stewart, digital media student at KCAD

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

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.

“Sketchbook II” by Chloe Stewart

Outside of her work in class, Stewart was a two-time 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,” assistant professor and digital media program chair Susan Bonner said. “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.”

Sakino Tomiura, graphic design student at KCAD

Sakino Tomiura (Kawanishi, Japan) – Graphic Design

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 went on to win silver ADDY awards at the district level of the competition.

“Kikkoman USA Brand Identity Refresh” by Sakino Tomiura

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,” associate professor and graphic design program chair Joan Sechrist said. “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.”

Matt VanSweden, collaborative design student at KCAD, photography by Miranda Haddix

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

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.

“Brand Me” by Matt VanSweden

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,” associate professor and collaborative design program chair Gayle DeBruyn said. “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.”

The 2017 Excellence Award winners will be recognized at an official ceremony on Friday, 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 at KCAD inside the 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.

For more information, visit kcad.edu/galleries.

About KCAD:
Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) is committed to creating lasting impact in West Michigan and beyond through collaborative partnerships, cultural innovation, and an educational model that prepares students for leadership in the visual arts, design, art history, and art education; provides innovative, collaborative education that fosters intellectual growth and individual creativity; and promotes the ethical and civic responsibilities of artists and designers, locally and globally. For more information, please visit kcad.edu. 

Ferris State University is an equal opportunity institution. For information on the University’s Policy on Non-Discrimination, visit ferris.edu/non-discrimination.




Name: Bri Pronounced: Brē State of birth: Infancy Favorite color: Sunrise Least favorite candle scent: Unscented

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