Class of Spring 2019
Class of Fall 2018
Class of 2018
Class of 2017
Class of 2016
Class of 2015
Rebecca Ayres is a Houston native with a background in anthropology, literary theory and behavioral science. She has been active in independent theatre since 2003 and has worked with Spacetaker (now Fresh Arts), Infernal Bridegroom Productions (now The Catastrophic Theatre), DiverseWorks, Mildred’s Umbrella, dos chicas, Kid Ornery and many more. She is also active in animal rescue and has volunteered with the ASPCA (New York) field operative and as a dog and cat caregiver, as well as with Alley Cat Allies (Houston) as a trap-neuter-return advocate and Friends for Life (Houston) as a kitten foster. She is currently the managing director of Mildred’s Umbrella, Houston’s only feminist theatre company, and is committed to promoting equality and inclusivity in the arts. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from New York University and a Master of Arts in Arts Leadership from the University of Houston. When not theatre-ing, she likes to garden and walk her dog.
Brittney Flowers is a native New Yorker but has spent most of her years in Georgia. Before coming to Houston, she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance. Since her arrival in Houston, Brittney has become involved with both Houston Ballet and METdance. Using what she has learned in the Arts Leadership Program and her employment with these organizations, she will continue to gain useful experience in administration to further her growth as a leader.
“The M.A. in Arts Leadership Program has helped me mold the career I want and provided me with the necessary steps to reach the new goals I have created while in the program. I have learned things about myself that have helped me define who I strive to be as a leader.”
Lauren Hainley is a problem solver, planner and partner devoted to expanding the perspectives of the arts industry. In partnership with Fresh Arts, Lauren completed Five Ways Arts Organizations Can Use Data to Tell Their Stories as her Practicum. Before pursuing her master’s in arts leadership, Lauren worked full-time as an administrative professional and part-time as an actor, director and stage manager. She is a former student of Academia del’Arte in Arezzo, Italy, and a graduate of Hendrix College with a Bachelor of Arts in theatre. In her free time, she helps people see the beauty around them that they cannot see on their own with her company Archeya Photography.
Tyler Kay Reichert, "Tyler Kay"
Tyler Kay Reichert, “Tyler Kay,” completed her B.A. in art at the University of Houston where she continued to obtain her M.A. in arts leadership.
Tyler Kay owns and operates Tyler Kay Designs, LLC, a visual art company specializing in mural creation. She has completed projects and exhibited artwork both nationally and internationally. In the future, she strives to engage the public with their surroundings through the administration of participatory art projects.
“The Arts Leadership Program has enabled me to better understand the operations and management of arts organizations, both at the nonprofit and for-profit level. The courses provided me the knowledge of tools and skills necessary to operate my own visual arts company. I was educated on countless topics relevant to pursuing a career in the arts which included: art law, finance, grant writing, strategic planning and career development. I am grateful for the hands-on experience and mentorship provided in this program. I learned so much from my classmates, my professors and professionals within the community. I am certain that the connections made through the Arts Leadership Program will continue to serve my career in the years to come.”
A proud Houston native, Kristen Turner is a marketing and public relations nonprofit professional and passionate supporter of classical music. Her former education background includes both a B.M. and M.M. in vocal performance, during which she experienced opportunities to perform and teach professionally, helping to fortify her dedication to the field of classical music. Alongside her performance background, she has worked within arts administration over the last few years, specializing in public relations and marketing. Most recently, she has worked on long-term projects with several Houston organizations, including the Texas Music Festival, Bach Society Houston and the Apollo Chamber Players. Within her roles at these organizations she has had the opportunity to help build online brand awareness through digital marketing campaigns, coordinate press and media relations, and oversee the management of marketing materials and artwork creation, all helping to develop each organization’s unique identity in the community. Overall, her professional experience has helped to build upon strengths as a connector, storyteller and, above all else, advocate for the arts.
“Before entering the Arts Leadership Program at the University of Houston, I had lost my sense of direction in the arts world. Now, I feel more driven than I have in years. Not only has this program given me the tools necessary to pursue the career of my dreams, but the confidence to know that all the success coming my way is well-earned and deserved. I can honestly say this has been one of the best and most defining decisions of my life.”
Photo/Marissa Paz, Little Pieces Studio
Julia Claire Wallace is a Houston-based artist and organizer. She holds a B.F.A. in painting from the University of Houston, in addition to her master’s in arts leadership. She continually blurs the boundaries between art and life, creatively facilitating performance art collectives and events, as well as creating in a variety of media including social practice, painting, writing, spoken word, social media, performance and video. She is the foundress of Performance Art Houston, an entity created to cultivate the Houston performance art scene. She co-directed the international performance art festival Lone Star Explosion 2012 and is a founder and director of Experimental Action, a performance art festival in Houston.
“The Arts Leadership Program connected me with incredible resources and brilliant minds from the Houston arts world. It also gave me insight into the workings of this field and skills that have moved me forward towards the accomplishment of my goals. Additionally, I was given effectively crafted opportunities to learn more about myself and solidify and strengthen myself as a powerful and responsible leader in the arts. I am incredibly grateful for my experience in this program.”
Ileana Yordan is an arts administrator with a passion for gallery management and the visual arts. She holds a B.A. in international business with an academic background in art history from St. Edward’s University. She began her arts administration career working as the creative director for the Olaju Art Group, a start-up nonprofit arts organization in San Antonio, and moved to Houston to pursue a master’s in the M.A. in Arts Leadership Program.
During the program, she completed her Practicum at the Lawndale Art Center and has worked as the gallery manager at Catherine Couturier Gallery, curating exhibitions and working alongside artists and Houston’s visual arts community.
“The M.A. in Arts Leadership degree is an incredibly enlightening program that has given concepts such as entrepreneurship and community engagement profoundly deepened meaning. The program has significantly broadened my perspective to the scope of arts administration, strengthened my theoretical and practical knowledge, and provided valuable tools that have empowered me to continue building a truly meaningful and impactful career as a leader in the visual arts.”
Photo Cred: Rene Hernandez
Briana Gonzalez is a native Houstonian who is passionate about art museum management and museum education. After successfully completing her Practicum placement at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in the Exhibitions department, she became the administrative assistant for Exhibitions in August of 2017. She holds a B.A. in art history from Baylor University, and received her M.A. in arts leadership and graduate certificate in museum education from the University of Houston in December, 2017. During her time in the program, she served as the graduate assistant to the director of the Arts Leadership Program, and was a founding member of the Arts Leadership Alumni and Student Association, serving as chair of the Professional Development Committee.
“Being a part of the Arts Leadership program at UH has been a fantastic experience for me personally and professionally. I feel completely prepared for whatever path my professional career may take, and confident that I now have the skills to meet any administrative challenge. It is the intangible qualities of the program which makes its students so successful, and to which I owe my success: the ability to forge new professional relationships, acquire and build confidence in new skills, and the opportunity to take professional leaps of faith. The flexibility of the program makes it maximally effective, even if you have never worked in the arts before or have taken time away from the arts, the program adjusts to each person’s journey.”
Photo/J. LaCour Photography
Karoline Hurlen Melstveit
Karoline Hurlen Melstveit is a classical saxophonists and arts leader with a passion for music and finance. She has a bachelor of music in performance and studied saxophone with René Wiik at the Grieg Academy of Music in Bergen, Norway, and with Andreas van Zoelen at Fontys School of Fine and Performing arts in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Karoline has also been taking private lessons from Carina Rascher as well as with members of the Rascher Saxophone Quartet. She is a freelance musician and instructor active in Europe and America and has performed alongside the Rascher Saxophone Orchestra. She completed her Practicum placement at the Houston Symphony’s finance department, and will be the first international student to graduate from the Arts Leadership Program at the University of Houston.
“I love how flexible this program has been. I have gotten the chance to combine classes in arts management with master level accountancy classes at the Bauer School of Business, and the opportunity to focus on music management for my practicum placement and in my core classes. The students in the program are all masters of so many different arts and crafts, and I think it is great that we all are given the chance to create our own path to arts leadership.”
Ryann Roussel is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and holds a B.A. in English literature from Louisiana State University. Ryann worked as a business development manager in the private sector before deciding to pursue an M.A. in arts leadership, hoping to merge her love of the arts with her business background. She currently works at Theater District Houston as the special events and digital media manager.
“Before discovering this program I didn’t know that I could be involved with the arts professionally, without being a professional artist. The Arts Leadership Program helped me pivot my career track and find a job in a sector that I am passionate about.”
Caroline Docwra grew up on the Southwest side of Houston better known as Alief and as a creature of habit, has never left. She holds a B.S. in biology with a minor in art history and recently completed her M.A. in arts leadership from the University of Houston. Caroline has a passion for working with Houston communities and has worked with various organizations including Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Fort Bend Theatre, Houston Center for Photography and the Children’s Museum of Houston.
She currently works as a grants coordinator at Houston Arts Alliance, serving the greater arts and cultural community. Previously, her work with the Houston Center for Photography spanned over seven years of coordinating classes, exhibitions, publications, public programs, fundraising, strategic planning and the day-to-day operations of the organization. She has curated several exhibitions, including most recently “Her Feet Planted Firmly on the Ground,” “Travelogues: On the Road with Nathan Hoang, Sara Macel, and Natalie Slater,” “Somewhere in the Balance,” “In the Wake” and “Sight Lines: Looking at Guns.”As an arts administrator, she aims to be a resource for encouragement, guidance and support to all artists.
“The MAAL Program has change my life. I never knew I could do the things I have accomplished through this program. I have gained a new confidence in myself, my abilities and my experiences. I am so thankful for all the people I have met; these contacts have been the most valuable to my career and life.”
Justina Faye Hall
Justina Faye Hall received both her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in creative work and an M.A in arts leadership from the University of Houston.
Justina completed her Practicum placement as an intern in The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, an opportunity which further supported her passion for engaging communities through arts and culture. She has grown tremendously through lessons learned in the program and will continue defining and amplifying her unique identity as an arts leader.
“I have learned more about myself in this program than I have in any other academic setting. As a result, I’ve become less afraid of stepping outside of my comfort zone. The MAAL Program emphasizes collaboration, networking and the beauty of embracing your challenges, strengths and vulnerabilities to become a well-rounded arts leader.”
Photo/Mitch & Gunner
Alexandra Di Nunzio
Alexandra is a fundraiser and arts advocate who enjoys creative problem solving and thrives on challenging projects and successfully “flipping” programs. She looks forward to using her M.A. in arts leadership to further her professional work and is excited to reach out in the Houston community to serve a variety of causes and organizations. Through the MAAL Program, she has worked with Society for the Performing Arts and HITS Theatre. Alexandra currently works as a development operations manager for the Houston Ballet.
“The MAAL Program has given me not only the knowledge and network to effectively impact the community, but the confidence to create my own path within the arts sector. I am so grateful to all of my peers and professors.”
Chenay Newton is an arts administrator who has a passion for dance and arts education. She began her career in the non-profit sector upon completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia. A native Virginian, Chenay moved to Houston to pursue a career specifically in the arts, beginning with earning her M.A. in arts leadership from the University of Houston. During her time in the MAAL Program, she worked with Houston Ballet and the Children’s Museum of Houston.
“The Arts Leadership Program has helped me combine my love for dance and arts education with the administrative backing to make meaningful impact as an arts leader.”
Isabelle Dom works in the Education and Community Engagement department at the Houston Ballet where she focuses on audience engagement and issues of access to the arts.
Isabelle holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance and a Bachelor of Arts in global studies from Randolph College and a Master of Arts in Arts Leadership from the University of Houston.
“The Arts Leadership Program is impressively crafted. The professors are not only industry professionals themselves but they increase access to other industry professionals through guest speaking. The projects assigned are practical and relevant and send students out into the community, which only contributes to each student’s network. Most importantly, my fellow MAAL students are equally impressive, all in their own right. My relationships with them are, by far, my most valuable outcome.”
Rashida E. Moore
Rashida E. Moore is a native Texan who holds a B.A. in applied music from Baylor University and will received her M.A. in arts leadership from the University of Houston in May 2017. As a performer, arts advocate and fundraising professional, she has over eight years of experience in non-profit development and has also served organizations in the areas of membership, special events management and education. During her time in the MAAL Program, Rashida maintained employment with the American Institute of Architects, Houston Chapter (AIA Houston) and has had the privilege of profiling and working alongside seasoned arts leaders from Houston-based organizations including Ars Lyrica, Community Artists’ Collective, Houston Ballet, Opera in the Heights and the Society for the Performing Arts. She completed her Practicum placement in Washington, D.C. with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and worked as an intern in the Office of Council Relations and Special Initiatives during the museum’s first year of opening. This opportunity was a great honor and served to refresh and reinvigorate her passion for emboldening philanthropy for arts and culture organizations. As an arts leader, Rashida values and speaks to the power of the performing, visual and literary arts to transcend language, culture, race, ethnicity, class and abilities to communicate and promote unity, empathy, dialogue and cultural exchange.
“The MAAL Program at UH has been quite an experience for me. I chose to remain in the workforce and pursue this degree part-time over the span of four years which provided for an experience that was full of challenges. But, I now walk away with a valuable 21st century education that will propel me forward as a change-maker, innovator and forward-thinking arts leader. I am confident that this program has prepared me well to bridge the successes of the past with the vast opportunities for the future of the arts in our country. Yes, it took me some time to get here but, it’s surely been worth the wait!”
Briar Koehl completed her B.A. in art history and studio art with a concentration in painting at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana and her M.A. in arts leadership from the University of Houston.
During her time in the program, she has worked in the Houston area at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Cindy Lisica Gallery and served as the events co-chair for the Arts Leadership Alumni and Student Association Board.
“I am more thankful than words can describe for my time in the M.A. in Arts Leadership Program. It has given me the administrative and theoretical framework that I did not receive through my undergraduate art history and studio classes. Through my two years in the program, I have met and grown wonderful relationships with my professors, peers and arts leaders in the Houston area.”
Jordon Nickerson is a Houston based musician and administrator focused on developing new business models in the music industry. Jordon completed his undergraduate degree in music marketing at the University of Texas at San Antonio. After relocating to Houston, he began playing violin in the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra, and later serving on the Board of Directors of the organization. In August of 2016, Jordon became the operations manager of the Houston Youth Symphony.
“The Arts Leadership Program has been valuable for me because it helped me get over many of the psychological barriers to pursuing a career in the arts. The thought of making a career out of the arts can be anxiety inducing, but when you have the solid understanding of how organizations work, practical hands-on experience and the support of a community, all of which the Arts Leadership Program provides, you’re able to make that leap of faith with much more confidence.”
Denae Powell is a native of Bassfield, Mississippi and a graduate of Tougaloo College. Denae is a huge advocate for arts education and its importance to the growth and development of future generations.
“My B.A. in art education gave me the tools to teach and nurture children in an artistic fashion. This MAAL degree has given me the tools to work with adults, educating and informing them on the importance of ensuring that each child gets quality and equitable access to arts education.”
Nancy Agin Dunnahoe
Nancy Agin Dunnahoe is a creative marketing professional, music publicist/archivist and proprietor of Neon Artifact, a content agency for the arts. She graduated from the University of Houston Honors College with a B.A. in creative writing and an M.A. in arts leadership from the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts at UH. Nancy manages a legacy collection of Texas underground music, arts and cultural ephemera, which she preserves and shares as the digital humanities effort, Wild Dog Archives. She and her co-collaborator, Tayvis Dunnahoe, are also preserving the Audio/Video Plus archive and own a collectible VHS business specializing in genre film.
Nancy has assisted Lawndale Art Center, DiverseWorks and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) with organizing and promoting events and exhibitions. While completing her Practicum in 2016, she co-organized an exhibition of select artifacts from the archive of Mydolls, Houston’s original femme punk band, and participated in the 20HERTZ lecture “A World of Our Own: Mydolls and the Houston Punk Scene,” for which she created a zine catalog.
“The incredible mentors I’ve met during my graduate studies have helped me grow, not just as a creative entrepreneur, but as an advocate of our local arts community. Houston has many unsung heroes and creative pioneers. Through the MAAL Program, I’ve honed my vision of creating an agency dedicated to shining a light on and preserving their stories so we can know our city’s significant artistic and cultural impact.”
Kathrine Zeren Gilmer
Kathrine Zeren Gilmer is the owner and designer of a Houston-based collection of men’s accessories, Kathrine Zeren.
She is passionate about promoting sustainability in design and helping to build up the apparel design and manufacturing industry in the Houston area. Her past experience includes working as an art and design educator and designing for a major corporate retailer. She holds an M.A. in arts leadership from the University of Houston and a B.F.A. in apparel design from the Rhode Island School of Design.
“The Arts Leadership Program at UH has helped to broaden my understanding of what it takes to effectively manage an arts-based organization, both at the nonprofit and for-profit level. I know that the connections I have made as a result of the program will continue to play a vital role in my future work.”
Kayla M. Boffone
Kayla M. Boffone is a director, educator and arts advocate with over five years’ experience in arts education. Throughout her time in the MAAL Program, she worked with the Houston Shakespeare Festival, Indo-American Association and Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company.
“The Houston arts scene becomes your classroom as you are provided the opportunity to explore every type of arts organization. I am grateful for the hands-on experience and mentorship this program provided.”
Olivia Howell-Wilson completed her B.A. in art history at the University of North Texas and her M.A. in arts leadership from the University of Houston.
When thinking about furthering her education, she began looking into graduate programs that could enrich and define her career goals to advocate creative freedom and support the education of the arts to children. Due to a successful Practicum placement through the Arts Leadership Program, Olivia now works as the Maker Annex Coordinator at the Children’s Museum of Houston.
“The Arts Leadership Program offers a unique experience with professors ranging in backgrounds, talents and expertise. During my studies, my professors and advisors went above and beyond to guide my passions and help define my strengths and weaknesses so that I could become a more effective leader.”
Michael McFadden is a Houston-based arts writer, critic and organizer. He has organized exhibitions and programming around the city in solo projects and through the curatorial collaborative Suplex and has worked closely with several organizations in the visual arts community, including Project Row Houses and Art League Houston. Michael is an advocate for the rights of artists and is interested in the socioeconomic construction of the value placed on art. He is also your new best friend.
“The Arts Leadership Program is an excellent means for discovering, tapping and cultivating the potential that one holds for their work in the arts. Through the theoretical development and practical application of ideas, you can learn how to support an existing organization or construct your own.”
-Photo/Alex Barber, courtesy of Art League Houston
Graciela Ruiz is a Texas native with a diverse background in the visual arts. She holds undergraduate degrees in fine arts and art history from the University of Houston. In May 2016, Grace also received her M.A. in arts leadership from the University of Houston.
She has worked in an administrative capacity with C2 Art Advisors, Rothko Chapel and, most recently, the new Sugar Land Cultural Arts Department. In her work with the City of Sugar Land, Grace was vital to the implementation of a Cultural Arts Strategic Plan in the first year of its existence. Drawing on her wide array of administrative experience, she was able to support the burgeoning art community of Houston’s fastest-growing and most diverse suburb.
In addition to her administrative work in the arts, Grace also continues to explore her interest for book arts, contemporary craft and ceramics. In her free time, she volunteers for animal welfare organizations across the city. She lives in Houston with her husband, three dogs and one bearded dragon.
“The Arts Leadership Program has been an exceptional experience. Thanks to the program I was able to take advantage of many networking opportunities through class assignments, presentations and site visits. I am more in tune with Houston’s growing art community than ever.”
Jon Lindsey is a founder of Self Actualization Gallery and Blue Agave Writers’ Workshop, and also serves as a member of the MASS Gallery collective.
Jon holds an M.F.A. in critical studies from CalArts and an M.A. in arts leadership from the University of Houston.
“The M.A. in Arts Leadership Program has given me a clear-sighted understanding of how arts organizations operate, survive and flourish, as well as the freedom to test these theories, and myself, in real-world settings. The program makes perfect sense for experienced arts administrators looking to take the next step in their careers, and future arts leaders ready to get their feet wet by diving in head first.”
Duke Hunter earned his B.S. in liberal studies at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After moving to Houston with his wife in 2012, he began looking into graduate programs that could integrate a multi-passionate approach to building a career that encompasses experience in education, performance and arts management. Duke works as an associate teacher with the Houston Independent School District, a freelance musician, a private music instructor at Vivaldi Music Academy and as a house manager at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH).
“This program lays out a theoretical framework for the most crucial areas of nonprofit arts management — development, finance, marketing and public relations, and nonprofit management theory. I’m proud to be part of this program because I think it perfectly complements my undergraduate work in the humanities. Because of the comprehensive curriculum in this program I feel prepared to step into any managerial role with confidence and effectiveness.”
Alyson Landry is relatively new to Houston, having moved from Florida two years ago to begin her graduate studies at the University of Houston. Since her arrival in the Lone Star State, Alyson has worked with Houston Grand Opera in the Office of the General Director as well as with the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs developing the City of Houston’s Arts and Culture Plan.
Prior to going back into the classroom as a graduate student, Alyson was the director of the Theatre Department at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts in Florida for six years. A passionate advocate for arts education, she helped to develop the school’s Arts Integration program — presenting her findings in New York and Chicago for the Arts Schools Network annual conferences. Along with teaching, Alyson has worked professionally in regional theaters and trained in London. She holds a Bachelor of the Arts degree in theatre from Florida State University.
"Being a brand-new Houstonian, the Arts Leadership Program offered a phenomenal opportunity to learn about this vital, diverse and thriving arts community from the ‘"insider perspective’ of proven leaders in the field. The professors imbue their courses with management savvy, professional connections and years of experience from a variety of leadership positions in the Houston arts scene. I feel excited, confident and eager to apply my knowledge in the arts community of my new hometown!"
Jessica Dodingtonis a native of St. Paul, Minnesota whose background includes working both on and off the theatrical stage for over the past decade. She has a B.A. in both theatre and dance performance from Gustavus Adolphus College, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Jessica completed her M.A. in arts leadership at the University of Houston in May 2015.
She has worked in the Houston area at Stages Repertory Theatre, Main Street Theater and the Aurora Picture Show. Additionally, Jessica has worked with Jewett Consulting, Queensbury Theatre and at Houston’s City Hall at the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. Currently, Jessica is the marketing and development director at the Aurora Picture Show.
In complement to Jessica’s work in the arts, she is a Yoga Alliance certified vinyasa yoga instructor and has been teaching in Houston for the past eight years. Jessica currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Expanded Environment, a non-profit organization devoted to demonstrating alternative ways of integrating biologic agents into design and architecture.
“I am proud to have been part of the first graduating class in the Master of Arts in Arts Leadership Program and am thankful for the hands-on experience the program provides. Leaving the program, I feel much more connected to Houston’s arts community and confident in my ability to lead in the city I love.”
Andrea Huang has made a habit of being ahead of her time. From graduating a semester early from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor in Arts in theatre arts and her distinction as being part of the first graduating class from University of Houston’s M.A. in Arts Leadership Program, Andrea is comfortable in her role as part of the next generation of leaders in the nonprofit sector due to her background and enthusiasm for learning, passion for performance, dedication to the business of arts sustainability and international exploration.
“I started the program as an aimless young artist and am now graduating with all the tools I need to have a successful arts career. I have learned so much from the professors, professionals within the community and the unique hands-on experience I wouldn’t have had elsewhere.”
Dane Manuel is a native Houstonian. A huge supporter of music and education, he graduated with a Bachelor of Music with a minor in education from the University of Houston in 2011. In 2013, Dane founded the Houston Wind Symphony with the help of some friends and other proponents of music and education. Wanting to fully embrace this new organization, he returned to UH to take part in the inaugural year of the Arts Leadership Program, where he graduated in 2015 with his master’s degree. Dane is a teacher, conductor, music clinician and arts administrator. In his spare time, he composes and transcribes music.
“I was always a supporter of asking the right questions. But, as I created my own nonprofit organization, I didn’t know what questions to ask. The Arts Leadership Program taught me what questions to ask and how to show myself how to ask more. To draw from the fictional character Agent Starling, I can once again take the high powered finger of perception and point back at myself. I can now look both outside and inside to improve myself and my organization.”
Carolyn Casey Figueroa
Carolyn Casey Figueroa, a native Houstonian, received her undergraduate degree from University of Houston and then pursued a master’s degree in arts leadership. She grew up appreciating music, theatre, dance and the visual arts. As her love for the arts multiplied, she worked to support and advocate for artists and art projects and now is pursuing a career as an arts administrator, manager and art director. She began as project manager for a local arts organization, Aerosol Warfare, in 2008 and is arts manager to the well-known local artist GONZO247. She is a co-director of the Houston Urban Experience (HUE) Mural Festival and a co-founder of an emerging graffiti and street art museum organization. Carolyn combines passion and efficiency to assist local artists in various areas. She strives to protect and sustain the arts in the communities she works with and find innovative ways for the arts to adapt to constantly changing times.
“The M.A. in Arts Leadership Program at UH has been a transformative experience that will impact my current and future endeavors in the arts. The arts business skills (soft and hard skills) that I have gained through this program will forever be a guide in my work. The program has prepared me to be a leader who recognizes that the arts are meant to be engaging, meaningful, pliable and ever changing. I feel more prepared than ever to adapt to change and be a pioneer in the field.”
Kara Cothern is a visual artist and art education advocate living in Houston, Texas. Upon receiving her B.A. in art history from the University of Houston in 2016, Kara began to work in local galleries, growing increasingly enthralled with the richness of Houston culture and the powerful role of art in bringing people together.
In 2017, Kara returned to the University of Houston to join the M.A. in Arts Leadership Program. Recognizing the critical role of arts education in forming local culture and shaping generational success, Kara shifted her focus to arts education. Currently, she works at Arts Connect, a collective impact organization working to bridge the gap in arts equity throughout Houston Independent School District. Kara lives in Katy and is the proud mother to a wonderful dog, Rembrandt-Martin.
"The M.A. in Arts Leadership Program opened doors to new areas of interest, mentorship opportunities and connections throughout the nonprofit community. Through this program, I received the essential tools and direction necessary to affect change in Houston arts."
MLE (Emily) McWilliams
MLE McWilliams is an energetic arts leader who looks to build enduring relationship for nonprofits, so they can help to transforms the local communities. Currently, she does this through her work at the Children’s Museum of Houston, where she creates engaging events and innovative experiences.
During the program, she completed her practicum at the Children’s Museum of Houston in the Business Development Department, where she helped to strengthen a relationship between the museum and Houston’s LGBTQ community through participating Pride Houston’s Festival and incorporating LGBTQ non-profits into the museum’s Open Doors Program.
During her free time, she writes for Houston-based queer online magazine Spectrum South and when it’s warm out, you can find her relaxing in the local pool.
“The M.A. in Arts Leadership Program provided me the tools, guidance and support to help me strategize and focus on my goal of becoming a non-profit arts executive.”
Zachary Gresham is an educator, administrator, artist and musician. Zachary is currently the program manager for Arts in Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and is an instructor in the College of Education and the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts at the University of Houston. Previously, he worked at Art League Houston, Lawndale Art Center, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs at The City of Houston. His articles and interviews have been published in SchoolArts Magazine, Teaching Artist Guild Quarterly, TRENDS, The Journal of the Texas Art Education Associationand Art History Teaching Resources. His artwork has been included in several group exhibitions, including Lawndale Art Center’s “The Big Show,”where he received a juror award in 2017. Additionally, he is a cellist, where he performs with various community groups, including the Symphony of Southeast Texas. Zachary holds a B.A. from Lamar University, a certificate in nonprofit leadership from Rice University, participated in the Community Arts Education Leadership Institute (CAELI) through the National Guild for Community Arts Education and completed his M.A. in arts leadership and M.Ed in curriculum and instruction — art education from the University of Houston.
Rachael Fernandez is an emerging arts leader with a background in the performing arts industry. She earned her bachelor’s degree in stage management from Indiana University and, since moving to Houston, has worked for several companies including Houston Ballet, Main Street Theater for Youth, Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH), The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO). Rachael hopes to use her skills as a creative problem solver and momentum driver to support the creative vision of artists and develop equitable access in the arts community. As an administrator, it is Rachael’s goal to effectively manage complex systems in the nonprofit landscape. When she is not working, Rachael enjoys reading, spending quality time with friends and cuddling with her cats.
“The M.A. in Arts Leadership program gave me the tools I needed to become the professional I want to be. Not only have I gained a new set of skills to prepare me for my work ahead, but I have also gained a network of valued peers, colleagues and friends.”
Bobbie Hackett is an arts leader and musician, with a bachelor’s degree in music/voice from Southwestern University and a master’s degree in arts leadership from the University of Houston. She enjoys using her creative talents to build positive work environments and to help maximize the impact of others. She particularly enjoys supporting entrepreneurs by developing new ideas with the creators and tackling the administrative tasks that would otherwise hold them back from accomplishing the work they are most passionate about.
Bobbie completed her practicum at the Houston Arts Alliance, where she developed and implemented an operations plan for the Grants department. She digitized and organized the Grants department’s records and streamlined final reporting for grantees by helping the department shift to a fully digital final reporting process.
Currently, Bobbie serves as program manager for Frame Dance Productions.
“The M.A. in Arts Leadership program prepared me for every administrative dilemma that has come at me thus far, but, more importantly, it gave me the tools to get out of my own way. I’m more confident and effective both personally and professionally than I would have been without this program. Pursuing this degree ignited passions I didn’t know I had and gave me the courage to pursue them.”
Mary Karcher completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Missouri in art history and archeology. She grew up in California and was exposed to some of the best art museums in the country, creating a fascination for the arts and museum industry at a young age.
While she does not consider herself to be an artist, she is a passionate advocate for the arts as well as a skilled digital marketing professional with an interest in the connection of art and technology.
During her time in the M.A. in Arts Leadership program, she completed a practicum at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in the marketing department, where she developed the marketing plan for the blockbuster exhibit “Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art.”
“The M.A. in Arts Leadership program has opened many doors for me over the past two years. From working with excellent and talented professors to having extremely gifted student colleagues, this experience gave me all the tools I needed to develop my professional career.”
Candace Noel is an award-winning graphic designer, creative director, visual artist and floral designer. She is also the founder and creative director of Houston-based floral design company, Flora Noel. Candace, a native Houstonian, earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic communications and master’s degree in arts leadership at the University of Houston. She is a creative entrepreneur who strives to solve problems through design. Candace specializes in branding and has helped small businesses and nonprofit organizations with branding for over 12 years. She is also especially passionate about Latin American performing arts. Former Mayor Annise D. Parker, on behalf of the City of Houston, proclaimed September 26, 2015 as “Candace Noel Day” for her community engagement, her commitment to social causes — for example, her service to the Salsa, Sabor y Salud program — and for elevating the arts through her artistry. When she is not designing or searching for new typography, she can be found painting, traveling or dancing salsa.
“The M.A. in Arts Leadership program was a wonderfully transformative experience and taught me how to design the creative life I desire for myself.”
Natalie Wells is a brand strategist and designer with a passion for supporting artists and entrepreneurs. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with concentrations in photography and graphic design from Nicholls State University in Southern Louisiana. Natalie has worked in in-house, freelance and agency capacities as a problem solver and communicator. She joined the M.A. in Arts Leadership program to forge a strong connection between her love of the arts and her marketing experience. She completed her practicum at The Black Sheep Agency where she developed a campaign for Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room initiative — a project that helped secure her current full-time role there as an account manager. She now enjoys the challenge of working with a variety of nonprofit organizations and helping them reach new audiences.
“I didn’t simply go to graduate school — I had the honor of joining a community of fiercely dedicated, talented peers who challenged me and rallied behind me as I forged a new path in my career. Every instructor energetically showed up ready to push beyond academic theory to deeply meaningful discussions about the future of our industry. The exploratory format gave me the space to tailor my studies to my own professional and personal goals, and I met new people every step of the way who I know will be closely held mentors, friends and peers for years to come."