Tiara Starks ’22

Tiara Starks

Communication Major Aspires to Lead Social Change through Entertainment Industry

Since she was little, Tiara Starks ’22 has loved watching movies. As she got older, she became even more interested in what goes on behind the scenes and how a story unfolds from pre-production to the final product.

The opportunity to turn that passion into a career and the chance to follow in the footsteps of students before her who had internships at leading companies in the industry cemented her decision to enroll at the University of New Haven.

I am determined to make a difference and to use the arts for the empowerment of diverse and underrepresented groups.

She endeavors to use her creativity to make a difference by raising awareness to sensitive topics such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and mental health issues.

“My goal is to work in the entertainment industry while promoting social change using mediums such as writing, film, television, and theater,” she says. “I am determined to make a difference and to use the arts for the empowerment of diverse and underrepresented groups.”

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Michael Kennedy ’19

Michael Kennedy

Theater Arts Major Feeds Off Audience Reaction 

Soon after the Tree of Life synagogue attack, Michael Kennedy ’19 and the crew of the University of New Haven’s production of the musical classic “Cabaret” decided to dedicate the show to the victims.

“I would love to live in a world where “Cabaret” is no longer a relevant musical, but it still is,” says Kennedy, who played the role of the Emcee, adding to his list of credits that has included roles in the University’s productions of “A Chorus Line,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “Our Town,” and “Psycho Beach Party.”

Whether it is laughter or tears, causing the audience to feel something is a beautiful experience that we all share.

A theater arts major who plans to earn an MFA in acting and pursue a career as an actor, says his favorite part of being on stage is getting a response from the audience.

“Whether it is laughter or tears, causing the audience to feel something is a beautiful experience that we all share,” he says. “It is not something that can be replicated in film and television. The live experience of theatre is an incredible thing.”

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Marissa Reilly ’20

Interior Design Major Marissa Reilly

Aspiring Residential Designer Helps Brainstorm Development of Major Downtown Redevelopment

As part of her interior design studio course, Marissa Reilly ’20 created plans for Meriden 2020, an innovative mixed-used housing development being planned for one of Connecticut’s biggest cities.

She designed a townhouse to meet the needs of a specific client: a single Mom who is a nurse; her adult son who goes to school, works nights and gets home late; and her two school-aged sons, 10 and 12.

It’s been a really cool project. It’s so connected to what we’ll be doing in our careers.

She created a separate apartment for the older son on the first floor with its own entrance, a kitchenette and a half bathroom. The second floor featured an open kitchen and dining and living space, and the third floor included two bedrooms, a laundry area, and a full bathroom.

Reilly’s professor praised her insight into her client’s needs.

“That kitchenette is a great feature,” said Professor Jesse Peck. “It gives the older son autonomy.”

Reilly – who plans to become a residential designer – says she was energized by the experience. “It’s been a really cool project,” she says. “It’s so connected to what we’ll be doing in our careers.”

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Lisa Zhen ’18

Lisa Zhen

Interior Design Graduates Helps Shape Space at ESPN

Soon after graduating, Lisa Zhen ’18, an interior design major, secured a position as a facility designer at the Bristol, Conn., headquarters of ESPN, a sprawling campus of more than 120 acres that features nearly one million square feet of space. 

“I was very excited to take this next step in my career journey,” she said.

She is part of the facilities design team at ESPN that partners with project managers, safety and security to help employees transition smoothly into new work environments while ensuring company branding standards are met or, as she says, exceeded.

Previously, Zhen worked at Tile America as a design consultant, helping customers and contractors with tile designs for their residential spaces like foyers, kitchen, and bath areas.

The University prepared me for success by having passionate and practicing professors who helped and advised me whenever I needed advice with my career plans or an internship I had.

As a student, she gained experience in the field as an intern at ATL Environments, an interior design studio in Stanford, and she served as a senior design assistant with La-Z-Boy, which enabled her to travel to customers’ homes to assist with the selection of custom furnishings.

“The University prepared me for success by having passionate and practicing professors who helped and advised me whenever I needed advice with my career plans or an internship I had,” she said.

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Lisa LaFountaine ’19

Lisa LaFountaine

Music and Sound Recording Major Sets Sights on Film Industry

For as long as she can remember Lisa LaFountaine ’19 has envisioned herself becoming an independent record label owner. Soon after arriving at the University of New Haven, she discovered that while she enjoyed her music industry classes, she fell in love with her music and sound recording courses.

She is now pursuing a double major in music industry and music and sound recording. “I think both degrees will set me apart and help me excel in the future,” she says.

The University has helped me define success by becoming an independent learned and enabling me to take charge of my future.

During her junior year, she spent a semester participating in the University’s study-away program in Nashville, where the University has a partnership with Blackbird Studios, one of the top recording studios in the world. An internship she secured at the Nashville-based Digital Audio Post – a postproduction audio company that specializes in audio for TV and film – helped her discover her passion for audio in cinema.

“My dream job is to do some sort of mixing in post-production of film in score, in Foley or in sound effects,” she says. “The University has helped me define success by becoming an independent learned and enabling me to take charge of my future.”

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Liana Stampalia ’18

Music Major Liana Stampalia

Music Program Enabled Graduate to Pursue Her Passion

For Liana Stampalia ’18 some of her favorite moments as music major came during an advanced performance class she took that enabled her to work one on one with a faculty member to develop her piano skills and prepare for a recital.

 

“The one-on-one time and individualized instruction provided by the music faculty in areas such as piano and voice makes the University of New Haven different than any other school,” she says.

I have always loved performing, but I discovered a new love when I first learned music theory.

As a student, Stampalia intern with KEYS, a nonprofit that endeavors to provide one-on-one music lessons for inner-city students. Today, she is a piano and violin teacher at Claire’s Musique Notes in New York.

 

“Music has been my passion since elementary school,” she says. “I have always loved performing, but I discovered a new love when I first learned music theory.”

 

Stampalia, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in music education, believes her experiences at the University have put her on the fast track to success.

 

“I am confident in my abilities and the skills I accumulated,” she said.

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Aneisha Green ’20

English Major, Aneisha Green

Writing Offers Outlet for Creative Expression

Growing up, Aneisha Green ’20 says her favorite thing to do was to write.

“At 8 years old I was typing multiple-paged stories with the dreams of potentially becoming published,” she says.

Today, she is pursuing her passion as an English major with a minor in creative writing.

Creative writing has opened up a door to the freedom of creative expression.

“Some of my favorite memories as a student include times in Dr. Horton’s class where he simply gave us a lucid prompt and the freedom to expound upon it. It was in these instances that my creativity flourished and I began to hone my gift even more.” 

Green, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in education, says the writing courses she has taken have enabled her to develop the ability to write in various formats beside prose.

“Creative writing has opened up a door to the freedom of creative expression and has challenged me as well,” she says. “Instead of writing with comfortability in mind, I now feel the pressure to go above my former threshold and to raise the bar.” 

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Amanda Cohen ’19

Amanda Cohen

Actress Feels Most Confident on Stage

Amanda Cohen ’19 aspires to combine her background in theater and her education in the psychology of crime and terrorism to help create a more peaceful world.

“The theater is a safe place, where people are equal and belong,” she says. “Participating in theater has helped me grow as an individual and enabled me to sculpt my craft.”

There is no greater feeling than being able to communicate with a live audience.

A criminal justice major, Cohen plans to move to New York City after graduation to pursue a career as an actor.

“I cannot picture a life without theater or being on a stage,” she says. “There is no greater feeling than being able to communicate with a live audience. I have always felt most comfortable and confident on stage.”

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