UNCG Student Teachers Become Classroom Leaders

Posted on April 12, 2024

A UNCG student looks over the work of a group of elementary students.

Today, you can find graduates of UNCG programs in over 75% of the state’s public school districts. Spartans also teach in numerous independent schools, community colleges, and universities across North Carolina.


iBelong Grants Continue to Foster Campus Inclusivity at UNCG

Posted on April 12, 2024

Three photos of the participants in the Native Fashion Show

Fostering an inclusive environment at UNC Greensboro is in the hands of everyone on campus, but the Division of Student Affairs aims to make it easier with its annual iBelong project grants.

In the 2023-24 academic year, Student Affairs awarded funding to nearly 20 projects to promote student belonging at UNCG. The effort started in 2019 with a campus survey to learn how the University can better promote an inclusive climate. Student Affairs continues to send out the survey. In 2023, 78% of undergraduate students and 81% of graduate students report being satisfied or very satisfied with their experience at UNCG.

The iBelong projects are an effort to continue helping everyone feel a sense of belonging with students, faculty, and staff encouraged to apply for the grants. The 2022-23 projects saw the largest amount of grant awards in the program’s history.


Terry Chavis, president of the Native American Student Association (NASA), used funding from the iBelong grants to focus on Indigenous belonging at the University.

“Our Native students are some of the lowest enrolled student populations in higher education across the board, at many institutions in the United States,” says Chavis, who is a doctoral student focusing on educational studies with a concentration in higher education. “UNCG has a unique opportunity since Greensboro has a relatively large Indigenous population within the state.”

The project was NASA’s first Indigenous Fashion Show, held in the Ferguson Building in March to showcase contemporary Indigenous clothing.

“We Native students don’t get to see ourselves and our traditions around campus. We only get to see it once or twice a year at the Powwow hosted by Guilford Native American Association and the Pow Wow at UNCG. This is a time where we thought we could showcase our contemporary regalia: bearded earrings, medallions, ribbon skirts, ribbon shirts, and how we wear those in everyday life.”

As an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Chavis says NASA helped him find community at the University. This fashion show was a way for others to see that community and showcase Native excellence.

“Each item, even each piece of ribbon, has a special meaning to this individual, so as they walk down that runway and across the stage to show their regalia, not only is it a very impactful opportunity for the larger audience, but it’s impactful to that Indigenous student who is able to say, ‘I am a student at UNCG; there’s not a lot folks out here like me.’”

Participant in the Native Fashion show at UNCG stands in a purple outfit.


Matt Fisher, who runs the Student Educator Learning Factory (SELF) Design Studio in the School of Education, is continuing his 2022-23 iBelong project titled “Thanks For Being A Good Human.”

The project includes art pieces that are created in the SELF Design Studio and then handed out to UNCG community members as an act of kindness. For Fisher, the effort was born out of a need for connection during the COVID-19 pandemic. It later turned into a project of giving laser engraved magnets to people at concerts to help them enjoy their experience.

“It was awesome, but then I realized I wanted to do it every day,” says Fisher. “So, I was at my computer and the phrase ‘thanks for being a good human’ came to mind, thinking about what I would say to someone to just appreciate them. It changed how I looked at the world, so instead of looking around and seeing things that are depressing and out of my control, I look for people doing kind things just randomly out of the blue.”

Students work in UNCG’s SELF Design Studio for the “Thanks For Being A Good Human” Project.

One of the recipients of the project was biology major Alex Nolan, who now helps Fisher with the process of creating items and giving them out.

“I was a transfer student and in the first few weeks of school I didn’t really know anybody,” Nolan says. “I was walking through the EUC and Matt approached me with this little round magnet and said, ‘I want you to have this,’ and he gave it to me and said, ‘Thanks for being a good human.’ It just made my day so much better.

The project doesn’t just include magnets. Nolan has helped create flowers out of felt along with bottle caps, key chains, and bracelets. A group meets each week to continue making items and prepare to give them out. This year’s iBelong grant has helped Fisher continue the project and increase the number of people participating.

“I wanted to create as much joy and happiness for as many people as possible,” Fisher says. “It’s nice to have the feeling that you made someone’s day.”

Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona and David Lee Row, University Communications

Find Where You Belong


From UNCG’s Carmichael Studios to Interviewing Tiger Woods

Posted on April 11, 2024

UNCG alum Todd Lewis interviews Tiger Woods.

Speech communication alum Todd Lewis ’89 is now a fixture on the Golf Channel and has interviewed virtually all the professional golfers.


Disney on Display: UNCG Faculty and Students Gain Perspective from Animation Collection

Posted on April 11, 2024

UNCG students sit at tables sketching at Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Dr. Heather Holian is one of three art historians specializing in Disney. Her recent collaboration with the Weatherspoon brought original Disney cels to UNCG, expanding students’ concepts of art and collaboration.


Weatherspoon Art Museum Closing for Remodeling

Posted on March 20, 2024

Students from UNCG look at artwork in the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Thanks to a grant from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, as well as state funding specifically earmarked for infrastructure projects, the Weatherspoon Art Museum is able to seize an unprecedented opportunity to improve the building and the visitor and staff experience. In order to make these changes, the museum will close for summer.

The museum is installing all new lighting throughout the upstairs galleries and subtly reconfiguring walls to allow for easier traffic flow between the Guild and Ivy Galleries. The Benjamin Auditorium will get a new computer system, and the first-floor galleries will be entirely repainted ahead of the 2024-25 exhibitions.

The upstairs lounge and seating areas will remain open and available to students up until the end of day Saturday, April 20. The first-floor spaces will close after May 25. During this time, staff, art history faculty, and construction crews will be the only ones allowed to access to the museum interior. Signage will be on all doors and gates.

The museum will reopen on August 13 to its regular hours from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Visitors will be able to see the changes made to the building to keep up with Weatherspoon’s strategic framework.

Before the first floor closes, guests can check out the 2024 UNCG MFA Thesis Exhibition from April 27 to May 25. This year’s exhibition will feature work by Erin Fei, Karrington Gardner, Sam Machia Keshet, Jason Lord, and Daniel Ramirez-Lamos and represents the culmination of each student’s unique experience at UNCG. The exhibition demonstrates the research, reflection, experimentation, critical thinking, and artistic skills honed by these artists while in the program.

Weatherspoon will hold an artists talk and reception for the MFA Thesis Exhibition on May 2 beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The Lalla Essaydi exhibition will also remain on view until May 25.

Updates will be posted on the Weatherspoon Art Museum website and in regular social media and email communications.

Photography by David Lee Row, University Communications


Opportunity Meets Initiative for UNCG’s Goldwater Scholar

Posted on April 10, 2024

Student in white lab coat works in a chemistry lab.
2024 Goldwater Scholar Marcos Tapia

UNC Greensboro is proud to announce that third-year chemistry student, Marcos Tapia, has been awarded the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

Tapia, a first-generation college student from Winston-Salem, was among only 438 students chosen nationwide for the Goldwater honor, which awards $7,500 a year, to cover up to two years of tuition expenses.

The scholarship is intended to support students with aspirations for research careers in natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering to ensure that the U.S. produces professionals in these critical fields. Many Goldwater Scholars have already published research findings in journals and presented at professional conferences, including Tapia.

Tapia’s Window of Opportunity

Tapia arrived at UNCG with a keen interest in energy storage. He was anxious to help scientists seek solutions for sustainable energy.

In his very first year at UNCG, he connected with an Assistant Professor Dr. Shabnam Hematian who was immediately impressed by his enthusiasm. Tapia joined her research team, which was studying electrochemical properties of substances found in nature to develop environmentally friendly technologies.

“We were working on science inspired by biological systems, like molecules derived from fungi that can be used in batteries,” Tapia explained. “It was fun to take something from nature and apply it to something totally different.”

Tapia refers to his connection with Hematian as a “window of opportunity.”

“UNCG is very unique because we have such a strong staff and excellent funding for research in our department,” he says. “Dr. Hematian had all these ideas and projects. It was the perfect time for me to be able to work with her.”

Student in a white lab coat reaches through a glove to handle samples behind a clear window. His teacher watches over his shoulder.
Tapia studies samples in the lab with Dr. Hematian.

Tapia’s Tenacious Drive for Answers

Faculty in UNCG’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry are known to encourage undergraduates in their labs, especially when those students display an aptitude for research work, and a commitment to the projects they are working on.

“Our lab is very collaborative and interdisciplinary, so we have a lot of projects going on at once and Marcos is a strong multitasker. His experience has broadened his perspective of chemistry,” says Hematian. “He has been able to present his research at conferences, connect with chemists, and receive important recognition. This honor is the culmination of his hard work, curiosity, and initiative.”

Student in lab coat works in a chemistry lab with a monitor screen showing graphs in the foreground.
Tapia juggles multiple research projects in UNCG’s chemistry labs.

In his second year at UNCG, Tapia was named a U-RISE Fellow by the National Institutes of Health. This fellowship, which prepares high-achieving science students from underrepresented groups for doctoral training, gave Tapia further opportunities to present his work and opened doors for his Goldwater Scholar appointment.

Like any good scientist, Tapia never wavers from asking questions that will enhance his understanding. “Last year, I attended a conference in Arizona,” Tapia recalls. “There, I met Dr. John Mateja, president of the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation, and was able to ask him specific questions about my application.”

Lee Phillips, director of UNCG’s Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creativity Office also praises Tapia’s initiative. “I have been incredibly impressed with Marcos since I met him in his first year at UNCG. He works hard to learn as much as he can about the things that will prepare him for a career as a research chemist. I couldn’t be more happy and proud of him becoming a Goldwater Scholar. “

Spartan Scientists on the Rise

Tapia joins two other Goldwater Scholars from UNCG who have been named in the past three years, illustrating the growing research opportunities and guidance that faculty provide students at UNCG.

This year, 438 scholars were chosen from 1,353 science, engineering and mathematics undergraduate students nominated by 446 institutions to compete for the award.

“Marcos Tapia’s selection as a Goldwater Scholar reflects how competitive and talented our Spartans are,” says Provost Debbie Storrs. “This highly competitive national scholarship will allow him to focus on his academic goals and engage in graduate-level research with support and mentorship from committed faculty and staff.  I am proud of what Marcos has and will accomplish.  He makes UNCG proud!”

Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photography by Bert Vanderveen.

Student and faculty member work in the lab with dry ice.

Spark a Reaction


Words of Wisdom: Alumni Authors Share Advice with UNCG Writing Students

Posted on April 10, 2024

UNCG English students sit at a table writing in their notebooks.

The master of fine arts creative writing program at UNC Greensboro has been a springboard for generations of poets and novelists. Many great authors laid their foundation for success in the publishing field at UNCG.

The two-year residency program is one of the oldest of its kind in the country. Students benefit from one-on-one mentoring with faculty and peer-reviewing one another’s work. Workshops and seminars help them tailor their specific interests in novels, poems, essays, and non-fiction.

The program’s journal “The Greensboro Review” helps them introduce their work to others. Through its Distinguished Visiting Writers Series, students hear from writers and editors – including alumni – who come to Greensboro for readings and master classes.

Even with star faculty, supportive peers, and engaging workshops, it will take time for writers to figure out their best practices, to learn how to talk to an editor, create a distraction-free writing space, and figure out the “right amount” of research.

April 10 is “Encourage a Young Writer Day.” UNCG caught up with some of its Creative Writing alumni who were eager to share their experiences with current MFA students.

Build community early, before you’re even breaking into publishing yourself. Find your people, whether that’s in workshops or in writing or book groups you maintain after your MFA is over. I think UNCG’s MFA Program has done a great job of maintaining and promoting community.

– Heidi Czerwiec ’95, ’97 MFA

When you publish your first book, you feel flush, like you finally have a hand of aces and you’re just going to keep playing them for the rest of your life. Inhabit that glow fully, because it’s short-lived. As soon as you start on your second book, you realize the first book was just one round in a lifelong game, and the real writer has to learn to keep growing.

– Maria Hummel ’98 MFA

To take some words I wrote and see them made into something as beautiful as a book still surprises me. It shouldn’t, but it does.

– Paul Crenshaw ’03 MFA

The words "Once upon a Time" typed using a typewriter.

A woman sits outside writing in a journal.

I usually find myself writing at the kitchen table. I’ve also discovered that I’m never going to be that cool, coffee shop writer. I might be able to leisurely revise or read at a coffee shop, but when I’m “on deadline,” I have to have solitude.

– Leslie C. Youngblood ’05 MFA

Turning off the Wi-Fi can be helpful, mostly as a symbolic gesture to myself that this is writing time. I recently ordered an old word processor from the 1990s; they’ve been making a comeback among writers who want distraction-free tools!

Sarah Rose Nordgren ’07 MFA

I tend to write better while moving. For years now, I’ve written the bulk of my books on my phone while on an elliptical machine. Something about the mix of exercise and movement helps.

– Kirsten Oliphant ’07 MFA

Get ready to read more books and articles than you think you’ll need. Good research is like an iceberg. When 10% of it is showing above the waves, you’ve done just about the right amount.

– Cathy Carr ’88 MFA

If I’m writing about a particular area of the country, I need to go there. I walk around. Drink coffee while watching people and just observing. I’m currently writing hockey books and have been to a number of games.

– Kirsten Oliphant ’07 MFA

Writers should do enough research to make their worlds plausible – have clear rules, borders, and a consistent internal logic. That stuff shouldn’t be vague. But I’ve often buried myself in research to hide from the writing. Ultimately, you want the reader connecting with and thinking about your characters, not how much research you did.

– Steve Almond ’97 MFA

A woman sits at a table writing while surrounded by books.

A man looks thoughtful while writing in a notebook.

While writing my first book, “Best Bones,” I went through a period of being obsessed with prion diseases and house servant handbooks written by servants in the 1800s. While writing “Darwin’s Mother,” I was obsessed with evolutionary theory. And my new book, “Feathers,” arose from an obsession with feather hats.

– Sarah Rose Nordgren ’07 MFA

My newest collection of essays is about the 80s. I was inspired by a decade. The culture, the Cold War, the music, the way many of us felt the world was going to end, and how often that was reflected in the media of the time.

– Paul Crenshaw ’03 MFA

I’m an amateur mushroom forager. I wrote a piece, “Consider the Lobster Mushroom,” about a mushroom – usually milk-caps – infested with another fungus that turns it bright orangy-red and makes it taste like seafood. The piece became a craft essay on writing hybrid nonfiction.

– Heidi Czerwiec ’95, ’97 MFA

When both my sons were four years old, they came up with the best poem titles. “Throne for the Death Blob” was a favorite. Who doesn’t want to imagine that?

– Maria Hummel ’98 MFA

If you say “yes,” to everything because you think that’s what editors want, you’re heading in the wrong direction. Editors want to work with you. They value your input. You make the novel stronger as a team.

– Leslie C. Youngblood ’05 MFA

Realize that your editor has a bit more distance from your work than you do and can probably see what you need to do in the next draft more clearly than you can.

– Steve Almond ’97 MFA

My editor wrote an email that I’ve always remembered: “Everyone on the team wants to work with Cathy again.” This is the attitude you want in the book business. Publishing is a small world. If you are a touchy prima donna, that word will get around.

– Cathy Carr ’88 MFA

Hands typing into a laptop.

A person writing in a notebook surrounded by crumpled paper.

There are some great social media groups that encourage writers to “Brag Your Rejections.” Others have the goal of accumulating 100 rejections per year, with ongoing tallies. It’s a fun way of reframing rejection as communally shared.

– Heidi Czerwiec ’95, ’97 MFA

If one person complains about a plot point or characterization, that’s just one opinion. If everyone is mentioning it, then almost certainly you do have a problem that you need to consider fixing. If I hadn’t noticed a pattern with the rejections for my first novel, “365 Days to Alaska,” and addressed that underlying problem, I think I’d probably still be submitting that book today.

– Cathy Carr ’88 MFA

I’ve suggested “writing sprints”: you write for a set amount of time without editing. I also like the idea of “freewriting” or “brain dumping.” I’m amazed that I get to create worlds and people. I try not to think about the goal of someone reading my work initially. There will be time for that later.

– Leslie C. Youngblood ’05 MFA

If a reader sees the meaning that I intended, that is confirming. If the reader sees a different meaning, that is illuminating and often tells me where I need to develop.

– Maria Hummel ’98 MFA

I have a couple of friends from my MFA days at UNCG that I share poem drafts with. They are smart, generous readers, and are great at pointing out when something can be cut from a poem, and when an image or idea isn’t as clear as it could be. Trust is crucial when you’re getting feedback.

– Sarah Rose Nordgren ’07 MFA

In one week, I had two emails from readers a little outside the norm of my readership. The first was a high school girl, who said she loved reading my books and they encouraged her to be a writer. The other was from a man in his 70s who said his wife had died, and my books were a way for him to remember what it felt like to have her and to be in love.

– Kirsten Oliphant ’07 MFA

A little girl leans back on the floor of a bookstore reading.

About the Authors

Story by Janet Imrick, University Communications
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications
Additional images courtesy of Adobe Stock

Author and UNCG professor Steve Dischell sits at a table with students and a stack of books.

Find the words that captivate an audience.

UNCG Appreciates Our Student Employees

Posted on April 08, 2024

Two students work behind a desk at the Kaplan Center with harnesses and carabiners hanging on a wall behind them.
Student employees work the desk at the climbing wall in The Kaplan Center.

UNC Greensboro employs more than 2,700 students throughout campus. From libraries and academic departments to student organizations, facilities and administrative offices, student employees bring a certain energy and connectivity to our campus community.  

This week, April 8-12, is national student employee appreciation week. If you see a fellow Spartan working on campus, thank them for the work they do, and keep in mind the resume building skills they are practicing along the way. Student employees are giving as much as they are getting, and the campus runs smoothly thanks to their efforts and professionalism. 

Meet a few of the student employees who play a vital part in building the welcoming and inspiring community we enjoy at UNCG. 

Woman stands with her arms crossed in front of a green screen.

Ayana Cholula 

Major: Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education  (M.Ed.) 

Campus Job: Graduate Assistant in the Office of Intercultural Engagement (OIE) 

“Serving as an advocate and support resource for students fills my cup. Helping them navigate their own collegiate journey has helped me with mine. I like to take initiative and develop constantly, so it’s nice to have that supported by OIE. After two years in this position, I have a massive network full of folx who have supported and assisted me academically, professionally, and holistically.”  – Ayana Cholula

Alec Gougeon 

Major:  Business Administration M.B.A., with a concentration in Marketing   

Campus Job:  Marketing Intern for UNCG Athletics

“It has been a huge help having someone so hardworking, helpful, and a true leader in this industry. Alec can easily step into any assignment or situation and be successful. I am proud of his growth and hard work over these past couple of years. Whoever gives him his first shot will be extremely happy to have him as part of their team.”
James Nance, Director of Marketing and Game Operations, UNCG Athletics

Man stands in front of a bring wall featuring UNCG baseball graphics and behind a table where he is handling marketing promotions.

Laiba Siddique 

Major: Studio Art with a concentration in New Media Design 

Campus Job: Graphic Design Intern at University Communications 

 “My campus job brings me immense joy due to the invaluable real-life work experience I gain daily. Each day presents an opportunity to learn something new, from working within brand guidelines to the thrill of creating impactful designs. This role not only hones my design skills, but also provides me with a comprehensive understanding of various facets of the design industry, including printing, advertising, marketing, and more.” 
– Laiba Siddique

Cailyn Stackhouse 

Major: Marketing with a concentration in Social Media 

Campus Job: Student Content Creator for Enrollment Communications 

“Cailyn has been such a great asset to our Student Content Creator team! She is engaged, always willing to help, and makes an effort to truly get to know everyone on our team and interact with students on campus. She is incredibly kind, outgoing, smart, and funny and I am so happy to have worked with her the past year!”Maris Jones, Digital Media Coordinator, Enrollment Communications

Student in a SGA sweatshirt stands in the EUC holding a ball.
Student stands in a broadcast room with a headset on and wires hanging on the wall behind him.

Kyle Maher 

Major: Media Studies 

Campus Job: Assistant Manager of Broadcast Operations for UNCG Athletics 

“I love being able to fuel my passions for both sports and media. I love that every day is something new and interesting, and the opportunity to work in Division 1 sports is next to none, especially as a student. This job has given me real work experience that will propel me for a career not only in sports broadcast, but in media as a whole.”  – Kyle Maher

Ivan Tarpley  

Major: Communication Studies and History 

Campus Job: First-Year Assistant for New Student Transitions (NST) 

“My campus job has provided me with a network of support that I have leaned on throughout my three years here at UNCG.  This job has given me experience in communication and problem-solving skills that are essential for my future career. All the things I have learned through NST & First Year Experience are transferable to any field I choose to go into after graduation!” – Ivan Tarpley

Student stands in front of a residence hall in a UNCG branded jacket. and backpack.
Student in a UNCG jacket stands in a bowling alley with a bowling ball.

Mannie Aquino  

Major:  Political Science and Philosophy major 

Campus Jobs: Attorney General for Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, First-Year Assistant for New Student Transitions and First Year Experience, Peer Academic Leader  

“I love my campus jobs because they allow me to work with students and families. I am getting incredible experience that I can use in my future career in the public sector working as a public servant.” – Mannie Aquino

Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications. Athletics employee photos submitted by Denise Archetto.

Bookstore employee in UNCG t-shirt checks out a student who is buying books.

Get Real-World Experience Serving the Campus You Love.


UNCG Students Engage in Collaboration and Creation in [where-else] at Elsewhere Museum

Posted on April 05, 2024

Elsewhere Museum


A Storybook, a Novel, and Three Corsets 

Posted on April 08, 2024

Sofie Muska and Annabelle Kizer, two of the 2024 Pubantz Artists in Residence.
Sofie Muska and Annabelle Kizer, two of the 2024 Pubantz Artists in Residence.

Three student Pubantz Artists in Residence create storytelling works. 

Once upon a time, Annabelle Kizer wanted to draw, but she didn’t know what. Her mom’s advice: “Draw something creepy.” 

Kizer, now a senior studying studio art at UNC Greensboro, sketched a girl holding a stuffed animal under an exposed light bulb. Darkness surrounds the girl. 

“I named her Insomnia,” Kizer recalls.  

When Kizer saw an announcement for UNCG’s Pubantz Artist in Residence (AIR) Program, she knew Insomnia could become more than the subject of a single sketch. 

Kizer is one of five students in the Lloyd International Honors College to receive funding from the program designed to bring projects in visual, written, and performing arts to life. 

Through the yearlong program, selected participants receive encouragement from mentors, meet with each other regularly and share their work in an annual showcase. This year, the showcase takes place at 5 p.m. April 11 in the Alumni House. 

‘A Deep Allegorical Dive into the World of Sleep’ 

Thanks to the program, Kizer’s Insomnia now plays a key role in “Children of Nightmare.” The illustrated children’s storybook takes what she calls “a deep allegorical dive into the world of sleep” as it follows the story of a protagonist who, with the help of embodied sleep disorders, overcomes their fears and finds their way home. 

The book draws on earlier research that Kizer had done into human sleep cycles and sleep disorders.  

“I’ve had a very deep fascination with the neurological systems of our brains and imagination in general,” she says. “When we sleep, we are actively storytelling to ourselves, and that is something I value deeply.” 

Kizer’s focus on visual storytelling and movement grew out of an early interest she had in choreography and dance. She entered UNCG as a dance major, but shifted to studio art with a concentration in new media and design as she realized she could take what she’d learned from dance and apply it to visual storytelling. 

“To be able to convey movement through static image is my greatest inspiration and goal in all my work,” she says. 

In the future, Kizer hopes to become the artistic director of an animation company, bringing together technicians with artists and animators to help tell stories. In the meantime, she hopes that those who read “Children of Nightmare” will come to appreciate a good night’s sleep. 

“Sleep is incredibly important for our body systems,” she says. “It’s something that we spend a big part of our life doing, and I’m hoping that the storybook can demystify sleep disorders and have people create a greater understanding and value for sleep themselves.” 

Sci Fi, with a Twist of Darwin 

Another AIR writer, Sofie Muska, hopes to get people thinking with her draft novel “Scions of the Solar Sea.” 

When she graduates from UNCG in Spring 2025, she’ll have completed three majors. When she’s not studying, Muska writes, rewrites, and writes even more.  

In December 2023, her draft had reached some 45,000 words. She started over, reaching around 15,000 words in January, and now she’s continuing to work back up with interwoven plot lines that take readers to an alien planet in the distant future.  

The novel revolves around two strangers, Aymond Estragon and Nereus Anastos, who navigate a world where a virus engineered to tackle an invasive species mutates and slowly begins to infect humans.  

“The planet is called Darwin, in keeping with the theme the novel explores, which is evolution,” Muska explains. “It’s an exploration of the idea of change and adapting to that change. I explore that both in a more natural setting when it comes to the organisms that inhabit the planet, as well as in a more social context with the characters that I have populated this planet with.” 

At UNCG, Muska is bringing interests in writing and science together, majoring in computer science, English, and languages, literatures, and cultures, with a concentration in French and francophone studies.  

She decided to apply for the AIR program when she was taking her last fiction writing class. 

“It was an opportunity to keep pursuing fiction writing and to keep working with Holly Goddard Jones, a professor I have come to respect a great deal,” Muska says. 

Right now, Muska plans to pursue a doctorate in computer science after she graduates in Spring 2025, and she wants to continue writing science fiction on the side.  

Binding Costumes to a Character’s Story and an Actor’s Needs 

For another Artist in Residence, Sophie Shahan, the value of costumes in theatrical productions can’t be overestimated. Every detail, she says, plays a part in helping tell a character’s story.   

In her project, Shanan tackles the defining details of corsets from different eras, from their outer embellishments to the fabric they’re made from to the design of the inner boning that gives them their shape.  

Although Shahan grew up with a strong interest in the arts, coming to UNCG School of Theatre’s design and technical production program “was like stepping into the unknown,” she says. 

“I had very little experience in theater before I came here,” she says, “but I found that sewing was my thing.” 

Shahan’s AIR project has given her plenty of opportunities to spend time in what she’s come to call her “second home” – the costume shop – and to interact with her project mentor, costume director Amy Holroyd. 

Shahan has fashioned three rehearsal corsets, demonstrating how they can be altered to fit different body types and different theatrical scenarios. 

“One of the best things about this project is I get to create multiple corsets and get to play around with what’s used in making each one, depending on what the performance needs are,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot about collaborating with performers and getting their take on things. It’s important to make sure they feel comfortable in things like breathing and moving. And it’s been great having acting-focused people be excited about this project, because it makes the late hours worth it.” 

Once the AIR showcase is over, Shahan plans to give the custom-made corsets to the three actors she’s worked with. But she intends to take the skills she learned in creating them with her into her career, wherever she may land. 

Story by Dee Shore
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

A UNCG creative writing student works on a story.

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