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Fall 2017 | Ventures

Date: Sep 2017

Stevenson has long had a reputation for offering an exceptional education that gives students a connection to their career aspirations.

It's also known for the arts and cultural opportunities it offers to the SU community as well as the broader Baltimore audience. Today, the university is tying these two aspirations into its curricula for the more traditional arts degree programs, allowing students to explore their passions while giving them the practical skills to take their first steps on an enduring career path.

Theatre and Media Performance

The theatre and media performance program is training the entrepreneurial performing artist for the 21st century, according to Ryan Clark, Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Theatre.

"Students engage in a traditional actor training, which includes scene study, voice, movement, and theatre history. Additionally, students take two levels of acting for the camera and voiceover performance to prepare them for a wide range of media performance opportunities."

Clark notes that career readiness is key to the program and cites two examples: Business of the Actor and Audition Technique. "In Business of the Actor, students create a career plan that aligns with their interests," he explains. "They explore regions of the country where their unique performance skills would be most marketable; resume, headshot, and financial planning round out this critical course. In Audition Technique, students learn how to choose material that best fits roles they might audition for on stage and camera and then practice with professors, acting coaches, and casting directors. The course culminates in a showcase of the student's best work."

Clark has continued in the fine Stevenson tradition of making live theatre an essential part of the cultural life of the university. Each year, the program produces three to four plays in two distinct spaces, The Inscape Theatre and The Studio Theatre.

"Theatre is by nature a collaborative art," he says. "We have been diligently working with other departments on campus to bring theatrical texts into the classroom. For example, we are in our third year of partnering with the English Department. Students read one or more of the plays we produce in writing and composition classes. We conduct workshops with these classes in preparation of their seeing the performance and then post-performance talk-backs with the cast, designers, and directors to give nontheatre students a window into the creative process."

In October, Clark and Laurel Moody, Assistant Professor of Nursing, will be working together on a standardized patient simulation dealing with end-of-life/hospice care. Clark's Acting II students will play patients and family members dealing with 

chronic illness, and Moody's upper-level nursing students will play nurses interacting with this challenging scenario. "This is an excellent opportunity for acting students to create realistic characters and work on improvisation skills while nursing students will explore a 'real-life' patient and family situation," he says.

Looking ahead, Clark has spoken with Jeanne Geiger-Brown, Dean of the Berman School of Nursing and Health Professions, and Merrie Dermowicz, Dean of the Fine School of the Sciences, about programming an entire theatre season with math, science, and health care themes. For example, he suggests, issues of medical ethics, women in science, energy policy, and climate change might be possible areas to explore.

"The key to successful arts programming is the connectivity with all areas of the university, thus providing a rich liberal arts experience for every SU student."

Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising

This fall will see the merger of two creative and practical academic programs, fashion design and fashion merchandising, under one roof—literally and figuratively. Although both will remain separate degree programs, they will both be in the School of Design (formerly, fashion merchandising was in the School of Business and Leadership), reporting to Forest Bell, Interim Chair of Fashion Design and Merchandising.

"Regarding these two fields of study, one does not exist without the other," Bell says. "Now, we can take information and ideas through the entire fashion creation and distribution process across both degrees and help students better understand the role that each plays."

In addition to being a sound move for the curricula, today's fashion industry also played a role in the decision. "With the changing speed in the fashion production timeline, designers and merchandisers must work in close proximity to ensure that new design trends, customer needs, and production timelines are met," explains Bell. "This balance between examining past business performance and adopting current and future trends that are essential to your target customer needs requires a fine balance between quantitative and qualitative data. Each has degree holds an important element in data collection and analysis."

Now, both degrees are fine-tuned to teach students a balance of both the needed and wanted information that prepares them for a broad range of careers. Fashion design positions can range from—among others—art director, fashion writer, and trend forecaster to design product developer, fashion illustrator, and costume designer. In the field of fashion merchandising, students can consider working as a marketing manager, merchandise coordinator, showroom manager, stylist, and more.

"The merger of fashion design and fashion merchandising is a natural replication of common fashion and retail environments," says Bell. "By bringing these two degrees together in the School of Design we are offering students a real-world perspective and opening up the possibility for further and more in-depth collaborations."

Visual Communication Design

At Stevenson, one example of responding to developments in the field is the visual communication design program's Senior Capstone course, which looks at design for social change.

Throughout the course, students not only learn to apply the skills they've learned throughout the programs but also show that they understand a thoughtful design process by finding solutions to problems. Working independently, they identify an issue that can be solved by design, such as a public service announcement or an art project, exploring what it is and how applicable is it in today's society.

"For some students, the scope of what they're thinking about is based on their experience and how they see the world; others research and interpret for a more universal message," says George Moore, Chair and Professor of Art.

One example comes from the first capstone in fall 2015, in which a student chose to show the impact of plastic grocery bags on the environment. "She did a ton of research and ended up designing a character—a pelican—to bring the issue to life as well as a point of purchase display that suggested adopting reusable bags by talking about the universal problems caused by plastic ones," Moore recalls.

"The capstone is our measure of a student's ability to tackle work independently, preparing them for careers. Some will be production artists, creative directors, or run their own business. We teach them to look at the bigger picture and know where to start problem-solving."

Projects from the course—the last design course taken by all visual communication design students in their last semester—are shown as a gallery exhibit for the entire community to see. "Traditional design campaigns start at a prototype stage, so conceivably, the exploration of ideas in the capstone could lead to real things being produced," Moore says.

External professionals also lend their guidance; last semester, for example, students took part in a workshop at Open Works, a community-based hub for fabrication tools. "It's looking outside the classroom—they're interacting with real people and real problems.

"And that's the interesting challenge: these projects address real issues, which means that students don't necessarily always come up with an answer or a solution, and they learn that through the process, too—just as they will in the real world once they graduate. Now, they're already equipped to face both challenges and opportunities."

Amelia Ann Berninger '17 offers insight into her Capstone experience 


Although not currently an academic degree, music—which is offered as a minor—can be found throughout the university, from the Marching Band to the Greenspring Valley Orchestra, and more.

Today's vision for the program, says Mark Lortz, Interim Director of Music, is to have a music department that combines performance ensembles such as the choir, band, and orchestra with academic courses, from music history and music theory to music technology and performance studies. "This will give students in the minor a much broader understanding, both theoretically and applied, of the foundations and impact of

music, both historically and today."

He also wants more students to consider becoming music minors. "The idea is that students involved in ensembles, such as the Gospel Choir, All Natural, and others, can truly benefit from the academic aspects of the music minor. We want to spread the word about the importance of music on campus. It's fulfilling to both the students who are involved and the community."

Lortz stresses to students who feel that they're not talented enough to participate that the program caters to the informal learner through a supportive atmosphere and a family environment. "We're extremely collaborative. We would like to have the orchestra perform with the choir, the choir with the marching band. We're also encouraging marching band members to be part of orchestra or choir—the fact is that the more you do, better you'll get."

Among others helping Lortz to achieve his goal will be new orchestra director Harlan Parker, Ph.D., who has been at the Peabody Institute for 28 years and will continue teaching there, and new choir director Beverly Gandolfo, who taught in Carroll County Schools for more than 30 years.

"We're still having a concert at end of each semester but we're also looking at other opportunities on campus that show our range, such as pop-up performances like the choir singing at a dinner or orchestra members playing during a recruitment event," Lortz says. "It's a new semester, a new vision, and a new direction that is student-focused and all-inclusive."

Looking Ahead: Film and Moving Image

Starting this fall, the film and moving image program has consolidated into a two-track structure, says Chris Reed, Chair and Professor of Film and Moving Image.

"When the major was introduced under its current name in 2013, the program offered four tracks: cinematography, editing, producing, and writing," he explains. "As we have evaluated the track requirements since then, we have noticed that our technically minded students identify interests in both cinematography and editing courses and producing and writing courses by taking electives in those areas." Now, the program offers the two tracks of cinematography/editing and producing/writing to both streamline and round out students' academic experience.

Reed adds that the outside world of various film-and-moving-image professions also drove the decision to combine the tracks. "There is an increasing need for filmmakers who can do these combinations of shooting and editing their own material, for hire, and writing and producing their own material, for production. As such, the combination of our tracks better serves the professional needs of our graduates."

Elliot L. Hirshman, Ph.D.

This is my first President's Perspective for Ventures magazine, and I am glad to have this forum to call special attention to the achievements of our talented students, faculty, staff, and alumni as well as the new developments on our campus.

I have had the opportunity to meet many students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and community supporters during the past several months and it is my pleasure to share a few reflections about our community. 

Ours is a community focused on the success of our students, putting them first and foremost in all of our efforts. You will hear people relate stories—some as old as the university's founding 70 years ago and others reflecting recent events—of the close-knit community we are and how this makes a difference in the lives of those who have studied and worked here. It was especially heartening to hear from a student who shared that Stevenson aspires to be the friendliest university in the country. This sense of community and caring defines our university.

Coupled to our strength as a community is our ability to provide students with an exceptional college experience and a connection to their career. Time and again, I have heard of faculty and staff whose teaching and mentoring helped prepare an alumnus for their life and career. I have heard of how students' involvement in campus clubs and organizations helped broaden their perspectives and how the coaches of our athletic teams brought out the best in our student-athletes. The creation of lifelong friendships and relationships is a constant in all of these experiences. The picture is clear: We are providing our students with extraordinary experiences that shape their lives, personally and professionally.

Our feature article, "Practical Arts," in this issue of Ventures captures these vital aspects of the Stevenson experience. The story takes a look at how we have structured academic programs in the visual and performing arts to give students an exceptional learning experience, a pathway to career possibilities, and the mentoring that fosters their personal and professional achievements.

You will also read about Stevenson University Online, formerly the School of Graduate and Professional Studies. The name change stems from a strategic initiative to position the school more directly as a leader in online education for working adults and professionals who are seeking the next stage in their professional lives.

As the 2017-2018 academic year progresses, I look forward to meeting many more members of our Stevenson community and learning how the university transformed their lives.

Professor Amanda Licastro

Amanda Licastro, Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric at Stevenson's School of Humanities and Social Sciences, was recently awarded the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO) Paul Fortier Prize for her paper entitled "Teaching Empathy through Virtual Reality."

Licastro presented her paper at the highly competitive Digital Humanities Conference in Montreal where approximately 2,000 people competed for the honor to be named a Paul Fortier Prize winner. The award, given for the best paper by a young scholar, honors late University Distinguished Professor of French, Paul Fortier.

ADHO panelists described Licastro as a trailblazer in the digital humanities field as her paper illustrated the potential of virtual reality in a teaching context. "This project demonstrates the potential for digital humanities to foster a deeper human understanding, specifically by focusing on and exploring the question of empathy in an educational context," ACH representative to the ADHO awards committee Micki Kaufman said. "The project illustrates the possibilities that innovative teaching provides as well as the power of digital humanities to foster greater social engagement and understanding through pedagogy."

Licastro, who said she was deeply honored to receive the prize, strongly believes in Stevenson students and hopes to demonstrate that everyone has boundless potential as humans.

"My presentation gave me the chance to showcase the innovative ingenuity of our students and to demonstrate the power of collaborative, project-based pedagogy," Licastro says. "Introducing any new technology into a learning environment is risky, but I believe it is vital to prepare our students to be leaders in their chosen industries, which means making the most cutting-edge tools available to them for consideration."

An English professor at SU since 2015, Licastro taught herself the skills necessary to understand digital technology and teach it to others. She encourages students to explore the unknown and learn new skills that are outside of their comfort zones.

Crystal Clear: Chemistry Goes Mobile

Crystal Clear: Chemistry Goes Mobile

Jeremy Burkett, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry, has created a new mobile chemistry app to supplement topics in general chemistry courses. Called "Crystalz," it is currently available in the iTunes App Store. The app helps students visualize crystal lattice structure and packing in high-definition, space-filling form or in simple wire frames. The models can be moved and rotated in the app, allowing students to see the crystals from any viewpoint, and provides structural information about bond angles and sizes.

Walk the Walk

Take a Walk on the Wild Side: The Dell Family Pathway

The new Dell Family Pathway gives the SU community many reasons for bridging the Owings Mills North campus. Did we capture yours?

Welcome Stevenson University Online

In August, SU announced a name change for its School of Graduate and Professional Studies: Stevenson University Online. The name change stems from the desire to position the school more directly as an online education provider, leader, and innovator, says Susan T. Gorman, Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost.

"Rest assured that although the school's name has changed, it remains one of seven schools within Stevenson's administrative structure," she says. "Its goal remains the same: to provide our students with the high quality, career-focused, and personalized education they have come to expect from Stevenson."

Joyce Becker, Dean of Stevenson University Online, says that the university; its students, faculty, and staff; prospective students; and partners will all experience the many benefits to this change.

"One aspect of the change is that we're adding new, fully online bachelor's and master's degree programs as well as modernizing and enhancing current online and hybrid degree programs," Becker explains.

Another benefit will be the creation of upper division, lower division, and post-baccalaureate certificate programs in a variety of specialized fields that could provide further professional development opportunities. For current and prospective undergraduate students, there will be additional options for bachelor's-to-master's degree programs based on the growing number of master's programs.

Students who complete a Stevenson University Online program or any of the campus-based programs will earn a Stevenson University degree and diploma.

Since 2002, Stevenson University has pioneered delivering master's and bachelor's programs to working professionals seeking to complete a degree or use a degree to advance their careers. In 2006, it launched its online Master of Science in Forensic Studies program and, as of 2017, offers 13 online master's, seven online bachelor's, and four online certificate programs in areas such as nursing, healthcare management, forensic studies, forensic science, cyber forensics, STEM teaching, literacy education, communication studies, and business technology management.

For more information about Stevenson University Online, visit


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