Graduate Students

Meet our graduate students!

Ryan Akers

Ryan Akers is a third-year graduate student in painting, with an assistantship. His painting, Penteco$t, was selected for the Director’s Award in the biennial 44th Montgomery Art Guild Museum Exhibition (2021). Akers organized and curated the online exhibition What You Unlearn.

Riley Balzer

Riley Balzer is a graduate student in art history, with an assistantship. Balzer presented her research “Connoisseurs vs. Forgers: A Conversation on the Intersections of Art Forgery, Patronage, and Methodology,” at SECAC 2022. At the 27th Annual Graduate Student Symposium in Art History (March 2022), she won first place in the Best Paper Awards. As an undergrad senior at UT Knoxville, she presented at UA’s 22nd Annual Graduate Student Symposium in Art History (March 2017) in the undergraduate poster session. She worked as a curatorial intern under the current assistant director of the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture during 2016-2017 academic year. In 2013, she served as an intern for the East Tennessee Historical Society, Knoxville. Balzer was also a professional ballroom dance instructor. Balzer’s interests in art history lie primarily in the Renaissance/Baroque period. In 2017, she received the BA in art history with a minor in French and Francophone studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her undergrad senior research paper, “Artemisia Gentileschi: Criticisms of the Feminist Perspective,” looked at the ways early feminist scholars may have done more harm to Gentileschi’s artistic reputation than they intended. Balzer sought to show changes in feminist scholarship since that time. At the end of her senior year, she was recognized as the top graduating art history major at UT-Knoxville.

Stephen Blades

Stephen Blades is a first-year graduate student in sculpture with an assistantship. He assists in 3D Design (ART 131) classes. Blades received the BFA degree in sculpture from Louisiana State University in 2010 and teaching certification for art, K-12, from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2012. He was awarded Honorable Mention at the Rawls Museum Arts’ Opening Up juried exhibition in Courtland, Virginia, has demonstrated at the Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Mini Maker Faire and at blacksmithing events, art exhibitions and craft fairs around the region. He is on Instagram: @bladesworkshop.

Ivy Borden

Birmingham, Alabama, native Ivy Borden, class of 2023, is a double major for the BA in art history and Southern Studies and in the Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP) in art history. She received the Bradley Endowed Scholarship and the Marilyn Williams Elmore Endowed Art Scholarship for the 2022-23 academic year. Borden founded and served as president of the student organization Art Forward, which hosted the Undocumented Migration Project’s Hostile Terrain 94 in 2021 at UA and curated an adjoining exhibition of international artists.

Nathan Childers, “Peters Denial,” 2022, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches. Image courtesy of the artist.

Nathan Childers is a graduate student in painting. Childers’ oil painting, Peter’s Denial, received the Best in Show award in the exhibition Queer Aesthetics held at Mississippi University for Women Galleries, in fall of 2022. Childers describes himself and his practice as “a contemporary Southern LGBTQ artist whose paintings aim to honor people and places that might not otherwise receive a second look by taking the time to faithfully render and appreciate all their wrinkles and rust and the stories behind them.” Childers’ exhibitions include Georgia Watercolor Society 42nd National Exhibition (honorable mention), Ink Only III National Juried Print Biennial, Art Fields (2020 and 2021), Georgia Watercolor Society 42nd National Exhibition, Mark Arts Oil Painting National Exhibition and Kansas Watercolor Society National Exhibition. Childers has also participated in solo and three-person shows at Lowe Mill Arts in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Carrollton (Ga.) Center for the Arts. He was awarded a UA Graduate Council Fellowship in 2021-2022. Before coming to UA, Childers received a BFA cum laude in painting from the University of West Georgia.

Taylor Daubin

Taylor Daubin is a first-year (fall 2022) graduate student in art history with an assistantship. Her major areas of concentration are Ancient and Medieval art. Daubin, who hails from Brentwood, California, earned her BA magna cum laude in psychology with a minor in art history at UA in 2022. As an undergrad, she worked as a gallery assistant in the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art and served as an Education Abroad student assistant. Daubin spent spring 2021 in a study abroad program in Rome.

Will Henry, “She’s a Taurus,” 2020, ink on cardboard, 8.5 x 7 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Will Henry is a graduate assistant in printmaking with a secondary concentration in photography. His Master of Arts thesis exhibition presented in February 2022 in the Sella-Granata Art Gallery, was titled Heaven Sent…Hell Bound, Transmutations, A Heathen’s Heresy: Story of a Gritty Loser. The primarily of ink drawings on paper, Henry said, reflect his experiences as a Black queer non-binary man reimagined through visual elements such as Black and queer cultural tropes and religious iconography, in order to examine themes of the constructed self, sexuality, intimacy, violence, culture and the human desire to be seen and heard. He received the BFA in studio art from the University of Montevallo in 2017 with concentrations in photography, graphic design and printmaking and a minor in art history. His design clients include University of Montevallo Spectrum Gender/Sexuality Alliance, University of Montevallo Phi Gamma Delta and the University of Montevallo Communications Department.

Parker Hunt is a graduate student in ceramics. Hunt presented his MA thesis exhibition, Renewal, in February 2022 in the Sella-Granata Art Gallery. Influenced by his training as a production potter, he said that he creates “abstract forms that I see as blank canvases for color exploration” and uses “surface and pattern designs to reminisce upon familiar moments.” He has exhibited in national and regional juried exhibitions and has served as an artist assistant at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (Tenn.); visiting artist at Carlow University, Pittsburgh, Penn.; artist-in-residence at the Walnut Gallery and at Mary G. Hardin Center of Cultural Arts, both in Gadsden.

a person making an object from clay
Dillan Ladner

Dillan Ladner is a graduate student in ceramics with an assistantship. Ladner holds the Master of Arts in Teaching from Belhaven University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture from University of Southern Mississippi. They served as the ceramics instructor for Meridian High School (Mississippi) and a Meridian Arts and Entertainment Center adult ceramic instructor. Ladner was an assistant instructor in ceramics for the 2022 UA Art Camp. In 2022, Ladner’s work was juried into the Southern Mississippi National Ceramics in Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Wildfire Ceramic Studio’s CHROMA, in Missoula, Montana; the 48th Annual Bi-State Art Competition in Meridian, Mississippi; and the Alabama Clay Conference Student/Mentor Show. They won a special merit award in the Light Space Time Gallery’s Abstracts exhibition, and second place in The In Art Gallery’s 2nd Greatest Student Exhibition. They have served as a board member for the Meridian Museum of Art and the Meridian Arts Council. Their website is here.

Molly Lay

Molly Lay is a graduate student in sculpture, with an assistantship. Lay received a BA in studio art from Samford University and studied a semester at the Burren College of Art in Ireland. She held an internship at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Education and Community Engagement and worked as a curator for the Great Explorations Children’s Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Jigisha Lokhande

Jigisha Lokhande is a graduate student in photography and holds a research assistantship as a photographer in the UA Division of Community Affairs. She also works in a variety of mediums of printmaking, in alternative processes and in collage. Lokhande received the BFA from Central India School of Fine Arts, and has freelanced and held internships with Rogue Code, a software company in Mumbai, India.

Aidan Miles-Jamison
Aidan Miles-Jamison

Oxford, Alabama, native Aidan Miles-Jamison, class of 2023, is an art history major with a minor in Queer art and Blount Scholars Program, and is in the accelerated master’s program (AMP) in art history. He received the Farley Moody Galbraith Endowed Scholarship for the 2022-23 academic year. From a national call for proposals, Miles-Jamison presented his research paper, “Queering the Label: Three Works of Contemporary Art from Thailand, Everywhere, and Nowhere,” at the sixth annual refereed AKMA / MWSU Undergraduate Art History Symposium at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Katharine Murray, “Live at the Songbyrd, Pinky Pinky No. 2,” lithograph, 15 x 22 ½ inches

Katharine Murray is a graduate student in printmaking and a McNair Scholar. She received the Bachelor of Science in Art from the University of Montevallo and an associate’s degree from Wallace Community College in Dothan. Murray was awarded a Levitetz 2023 Innovation Seed Grant for her art project, “Grabbing Traces.” The grant will support Murray’s experimentation and learning in drawing and printing techniques. Murray was an assistant instructor in printmaking for UA Art Camp. She was a Katzenberger art history intern for the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum where she designed their “wine and design” curriculum and researched intaglio techniques for their docent demonstrations. As an undergrad at the University of Montevallo, she was a McNair Research Scholar in Sculpture and Sustainability and received the Green Fund award to build a public sculpture in the form of a music wall.

Kole Nichols in the Sella-Granata Art Gallery, UA

Kole Nichols is a graduate student in printmaking, with an assistantship. He assists in printmaking and color theory courses. Nichols holds a BFA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Nichols was included in a three-person exhibition at Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia, in August. He has interned with artist Sara Garden Armstrong, assisted photographer Kenwyn Alexander, and taught drawing classes at Space One Eleven in Birmingham.

Celeste Pfau

Celeste Pfau is a first-year graduate student in printmaking with a interdisciplinary approach. She has been awarded a UA Graduate Council Fellowship for 2022-2023. Pfau’s pronouns are they, them, she, her, not in any hierarchical order. She has been a practicing artist based in Birmingham, Alabama, since she received the BFA degree from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 2011 and Pfau is an alumna of the Alabama School of Fine Arts. “Natural spaces, whether wild or planted,” Pfau states on her website, are her “muse and source of materials” for her two- and three-dimensional work. She “gathers flowers, foliage, seeds and roots” to create botanical monoprints on paper, fabric or other materials. The prints “involve the careful arrangement of ethically harvested plant matter and oil-based inks” printed on a manually operated etching press. Pfau also creates botanical sculptures and collaborates on site-specific installations. She was juried into the 51st Kentuck Festival of the Arts in Northport, Alabama (2022). Watch a video from Alabama Public Television’s Monograph with Celeste Pfau talking about her work process (begins about 10:54). Her website is and she is on Instagram.

Debanjaly Sen

Debanjaly Sen is a graduate student in painting with an assistantship. She holds an MFA in education from Sister Nivedita University, New Town, Kolkata, and a BFA from the Indian College of Art and Draftsmanship in Kolkata. She received the Chancellor Merit Scholarship in support of her MFA studies, 2019-2021. Sen’s work was selected for the Kolkata Centre for Creativity AMI Art Festival, and the Rabindra Bharati University Annual Art Exhibition in 2020; the West Bengal State Academy of Dance in 2019 and 2020; and I.C.A.D Annual Exhibition in 2018; and the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata in 2016. Sen participated in group exhibitions at the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata; and Gaganendra Shilpa Pradarshanshala in 2018. And she has participated in the Kolkata Street Art Festival and the West Bengal Charukala Utsav Art Fair, both in 2018.

Olivia Sims
Olivia Sims

Olivia Sims is a graduate student in art history and has an assistantship. Her area of concentration is 19th-century Europe, specifically female art circles in England. Sims is in Track 2 of the MA program and is working toward the certificate in museum studies. While a graduate student, Sims has been a student assistant at the Paul R. Jones Museum, a research assistant for the digital art history database Global Makers, and an archival research project member of AWARE (Archives of Women Artists, Research, & Exhibitions). She is the 2022-2023 incoming president of the UA Society of Art History Students, also known as “The Guild,” where she previously served as graduate student representative (or Il Vecchio). She presented her research, “Bound to Bodichon: Prominent Female Networks Found in Effects of Tight Lacing,” at SECAC 2022 (Southeastern College Art Conference), and at the 27th Annual Graduate Student Symposium in Art History. In 2020, Sims presented “A Socio-Feminist Approach to Emily Mary Osborn’s ‘Nameless and Friendless’” at the annual meeting of SECAC.

Michele Taylor is a graduate teaching assistant in art history in Track 2 of the program, and is working toward certificates in museum studies and in book arts. Taylor received the BA in English from UA in 2020, although she started out as a music major playing mellophone in the Million Dollar Marching Band from 2016 to 2020 and served as first chair French horn in the UA Symphonic Band 2016-2018. She took art history as an elective and fell in love with the subject, taking several courses including Gothic architecture and American art and architecture. She was named to the Dean’s List all four years.

Amanda Warr

Amanda Warr is a first-year graduate student in sculpture. Warr had a sculpture accepted to the online exhibition, Diversia – November 2022. The Alabama native creates sculptures and mixed media artworks with salvaged electronic waste (e-waste). By representing the ‘corporate world’ and its persistence, she said, her sculptures “conceptually and discernibly reference social responsibility theory and the protection of the environment. The experimental form of resistance evidenced in her work intends to catalyze progress against the logic of modern capitalism and provide a platform for social art activism to promote discourse on the growing worldwide issue of e-waste.” Warr holds an MA in sociology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, an associate’s degree in electronic systems technology from

Julie Weber

Julie Weber is a graduate in art history, with an assistantship. Her concentrations are in modern and contemporary art history, in Track 2 of the program and is working toward the certificate in museum studies. This summer Weber served as a Havner Curatorial Intern at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art and will serve a year-long Goodrich Internship at the Birmingham Museum of Art beginning in September. Weber received the BFA in photography in 2012 from UA, graduating magna cum laude. After working in arts administration for several years, she said that she wants to “work closely with artists, specifically younger, emerging artists, as a museum curator or exhibition designer.”

Tom Wegrzynowski - photo Copyright All rights reserved by eTech-Office of Educational Technology
Tom Wegrzynowski

Tom Wegrzynowski is a graduate student in art history. Wegrzynowski’s painting, Triumph of the Masters, received the Reece Museum Award in the 2022 International FL3TCH3R Exhibit: Social & Politically Engaged Art, held at East Tennessee State University’s Reece Museum and juried by Wesam Mazhar Haddad. At SECAC 2022, he presented “Portraits of a Chair: The Russell Brothers Studio,”  in the session (Re)Framing the Subject: Unexpected Revelations in Portraiture. He holds an MFA in painting and has been a full-time instructor in studio and art history at UA since 2006.

Read news articles about our graduate and undergrad students here.

Go to this page for more information about our graduate programs.