The Honors Program Senior Symposium showcases the work of graduating students. Students were asked to select a project or assignment that best represents their growth and development as students and individuals. Due to the current social distancing restrictions, I am showcasing the students’ work in an online format. Thank you for viewing the contributions of the Honors Program Class of 2021.

I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate Gabrielle Amato, Paige Bidleman, Ashley Cocca, Madelyn Jensen, Kimberly Korhummel, Megan Marafino, Maria Mariano, Madison Martin, Lindsay Neilson, Alyssa Phillips, and Kelly Thomas on their incredible achievements. I am so proud of all they have accomplished during their time at Villa Maria College. This show is a testament to all the hard work and effort they have put in at Villa Maria College over the past four years.

Elizabeth Battaglia
Director, Honors Program
Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences

Alyssa Phillips

Artist Bio

Before I attended Villa Maria College, I went to a trade school, Niagara/Orleans Career and Technical Center. Although my choice of color was always spectacular, my physical drawing capabilities were not where they should be. I barely drew before and during my time getting my certificate in Animation and Film Production. Now, since taking classes such as Drawing 1 and 2, Preproduction 2, Background Design and currently Anatomy Drawing and Sculpting, my drawing skills have improved tremendously. I could never understand shading, or where to even begin the process, until I took Background Design. I now know how to render my drawings with multiple different lighting sources. This class has also taught me how to create better perspective backgrounds. I was never good with environmental drawings. I was always a character artist, excelling in animal-like designs. I can confidentially say I can draw backgrounds much better than I ever did before. I never thought I would be able to accomplish such a feat.

The two major classes that taught me how to better design my characters were Preproduction 2 and Anatomy Drawing and Sculpting. Professor Giardina has experience in this area of expertise, formerly having worked for Cartoon Network. I am very grateful to him for teaching me what he knows about character design in Preproduction 2. My designs were greatly improved and many of my classmates and professors love them. Professor Giardina also taught the Anatomy Drawing and Sculpting class. I was never good at drawing humanoid characters, but this class taught me anatomy through lots of practice and critique.

Overall, my skill as an artist has improved, as has my self-confidence as a student. I am grateful to all my professors for their helpful critiques, which allowed me to become the best artist and student that I can be. Without any of them, I would not be where I am now with my skills as an artist.

Ashley Cocca

Artist Bio

I finished growing up at Villa Maria College. I began as a young adult with big goals but vague understandings of how to achieve them. Freshman year, the puzzle began to take form and I decided to get into animation. I wanted to be a storyboard artist. Through the help of my mentors Joe Giardina and Jeffrey Werner, I used my free time to practice boarding. In my Sophomore year, I even created a short film that was based on strong poses and showed my drawing and storyboarding capabilities. Although it did not get into festivals as I hoped, it was shown in the Junior-Senior Show. Due to financial difficulties and having completed college courses in high school, I was able to graduate early and my junior year became my senior year.

In putting together a portfolio, I revised old work and created new. I watched many videos for advice and am happy with the results. I am currently using this portfolio to apply for intern positions at many studios. The portfolio showcases all of the skills I learned while at Villa Maria College from digital painting to good posing.

Villa Maria College was more than just schoolwork for me, though. Last year I became an Achieve Tutor for animation and fine arts and met my boyfriend. I help my boyfriend with his music project SVTOKO and through this have gained an appreciation for music as well as fine arts. I have made one other good friend, and they both made my experience much better and more meaningful.

Ashley Cocca's Portfolio

Gabrielle Amato

Artist Bio

Since coming to Villa Maria College, I have not only changed as a person but developed a lot of knowledge regarding what my major really is in the field. My major is Interior Design. While a lot of people think of this major as just picking out paint colors and furniture, it is a lot more than that; interior designers create spaces for people to explore and feel a certain way in their environment. Knowing how a space affects people’s health is also important in this field. Villa Maria College allowed me to understand what it is to become a designer. The teachers made perspectives and renderings a lot easier to understand than if I went somewhere else or just launched into the field blindly. I also feel like I was a part of a community as well. I was able to meet so many new people and got to help a lot of new people as well. Tutoring students who were just coming in or just a level below me was really inspiring. I was able to help and learn alongside them the different ways people could think and do things. I was able to improve how I wrote things when coming to Villa Maria College and how to deliver what I meant when talking about a project.

When coming into the program, I thought the projects were going to be simple, but they take a lot of time and dedication. The classes start by completing work by hand and then slowly progressing into different types of software. Some software is more complicated than others, which means it takes a lot more time. It was also shown to us that how to board things properly is very important in the field. I never knew how much work had to be done on just presenting something until I started taking my first couple of classes at Villa Maria College. The students even banded together to help one another complete a project. We tend to joke around but we really mean it when we say: “we are one big family; we look out for each other and help when someone is struggling.” It is why I even picked up tutoring; I saw a lot of underclassmen struggling and I knew I had a few hours to spare, so I would stay after their classes and help them. Some would take the help, others not so much, but it was amazing to see someone be able to understand something a lot easier just by someone else taking it step by step for her. Some teachers go quickly, while others present so much information that the students did not understand it all. I was able to create a way where the students could understand, but not take hours just for them to get to where they needed to be. A good example is when teaching AutoCAD, I was able to show a couple of commands and then have them do it themselves. After they had done it a couple of times, they were doing the commands and so much more.

AutoCAD, Revit, InDesign, and Photoshop are all programs I got to learn when coming to Villa Maria College. In high school we only learned how to use Photoshop and even then, one had to be in other classes to take the class to learn the software.  I never knew any of these programs until coming here, and now I can not only use them but teach other students how to use them. I use these programs every single day to make my presentations look as close as I can to professional. Even when making up a materials board, I learned the purpose of each fabric, how to be able to board each fabric properly, and how to put information into Revit, so it looked like it was a photo taken from the space. I never knew how much I loved just learning about the software offered here and picking out furniture and materials.

Kelly Thomas

Artist Bio

College can be a terrifying yet exciting journey for many people; you never really know what will happen or where you will end up in life. When I first started at Villa Maria College, I was very unsure about my major. I was an anxious teenager who could not even imagine myself doing the things I have done over the past four years, let alone creating art that I would be happy with. I have worked to make not only myself proud, but my family, friends, and professors as well. I started off setting incredibly high expectations for myself, and while that was not the healthiest choice (I often overworked myself to reach perfection), it did teach me that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was. I pushed myself to complete every assignment to the best of my ability and in return I excelled in all of my classes. I, of course, struggled with some classes as all students do, but I forced myself to persevere because I held my academic success at such a high standard and priority.

Now that I am finishing my senior year, I have a chance to look back and reflect on my growth as a person and as a student. I have spent time bettering my mental health, managing my workload in healthier ways, and taking on more responsibilities as I entered adulthood. I can honestly say that I am proud of the person I have become and where I am at today. I am finally confident in my choice of becoming a Photographer and excited about my decision to add a Marketing minor. Villa Maria College has helped put me in a position as an artist where I feel comfortable sharing my work with the public. My professors and advisors have truly given me the best guidance I could have ever asked for; I do not think I would have been as successful with my photography shows, projects, internships, website, resumé, etc. if it weren’t for them. My work itself, along with my skills and talent, has grown astronomically after my time at Villa Maria College.

Although I am not the best photographer in the world, I feel as though my work is much more dynamic, conceptual, and impressive than it was when I started my freshman year. I have grown not only as a person, but as a photographer as well. Looking back now, I never would have thought I would be where I am today, especially with what I have accomplished and changed about my life in the past four years.

This time for self-reflection really has opened my eyes and reminded me that I am a strong person, and I can do anything I set my mind to. Villa Maria College has helped shape me into a young artist, woman, and professional, and I will be forever grateful and proud for choosing this school. The past four years have been some of the best and worst years of my life, but I would not trade them for the world. Here’s to whatever lies next for me in the future!

Kimberly Korhummel

Artist Bio

After graduating high school in Eden, New York, Kimberly chose to further expand her education at Villa Maria College. She chose Villa Maria College due to its faculty to student ratio, allowing her to receive a more one-on-one learning experience. This personal education experience has also given her the opportunity to make closer connections to friends in the area and expand her horizons in the community. Kimberly chose to pursue graphic design as a result of her passion for creativity, art, and design. As an empath, she has the ability to recognize the emotion and psychology of projects, allowing her to see and feel from different perspectives. She finds herself expanding ideas through hands-on experiences and deepening the process of design. She finds contributing as a team member in a small environment to be most rewarding, and she hopes to make an impact in the world with her design education.

Over the span of her college career at Villa Maria, Kimberly has learned a great deal about herself as a person, and she continues to display growth. She has gained more of a sense of community through programs such as the honors program, the leadership program, and service learning. As a member of the Delta Epsilon Sigma, the national honors society, Kimberly has been given the opportunity to volunteer within the Buffalo community more than she ever thought possible, and she is extremely grateful for her experiences. Villa Maria College has taught her career readiness skills, such as multitasking, dedication, organization, and responsibility. Kimberly is thankful for everything Villa Maria College has offered her and is eager to see where her design career takes her once she receives her BFA in Graphic Design.

Lindsay Neilson

Artist Bio

When I first entered Villa Maria College, I felt somewhat lost in the grand scheme of things. I was not too sure what my real passions were or what I wanted to do with my career but always knew I had this dream to create and my high creative energy would find its outlet at Villa. With that idea in mind, I entered into the Graphic Design program and used all my electives to explore other areas of creative programs to expand my creative reach. Throughout all the different courses and community outreach completed, I slowly began to find that passion in the niches of advertising and branding, specifically with graphic design, photography, and animation. Communication was always difficult for me in every aspect, but I found a voice within all that work and realized I could utilize my creativity to make a statement. It instilled a lot of confidence within myself that I always lacked growing up, all the while giving me the power to express myself fully. With the help of the professors and some really amazing friends at Villa Maria College, I was able to constantly grow in these newfound skills as a creative person. It felt like I could come out of the shell I have been in for so much of my life and finally reach my full potential. Even though I know I have come so far throughout my time at Villa Maria College, I am still learning to navigate my own personal growth and become a better creative every day.

The different mediums of work I am presenting showcase the growth I have experienced in both sectors and my passion to continually share my own personal voice as well as the voice of others. I am very excited to continually share this passion in my work as I enter into the job world this upcoming May. I am beyond thankful for every person who helped me get to where I am throughout my time at Villa Maria College.

Madelyn Jensen

Student Bio

My time here at Villa Maria College has introduced me to a variety of subjects that have allowed me to grow into a well-rounded student, prepared for the next step into the real world. I have written more papers than I can count over the past four years not only in my major but for electives as well.

In my freshman year at Villa Maria College, I took Human Resources. For my final paper, I chose the topic of executives and severance packages. This paper was one of the first research papers I had in college and after turning it in, my professor asked if I would like to have it submitted into the Undergraduate Research Symposium. I said yes, and this became another new experience for me. Being early on in my college career, I was not quite comfortable with speaking in front of people, especially since this was pre-covid and it was actually in front of people and not over Zoom. I am thankful for this experience. This project introduced me to a deeper part of the human resource world as well as allowing me to set goals on how I wanted to improve my presentation skills going forward.

While there are many papers that I have written for classes in my major, the ones that I found to be most difficult, and ultimately the ones that challenged my comfort zones, were the papers for my elective courses. My work in English 103 and Art of Philosophy stood out the most to me when looking back on my work.

For my final paper for English, I chose to write an objective paper about stem cell research. While I had written many objective research papers for my major, I had yet to write one like this. At first, we were asked to write a paper about a topic of our choosing as an option piece. I chose to write about stem cell research. It is a topic that I have always found to be fascinating, and I thought this would be a good way to explore the topic some more. We were then asked to use the same exact topic and write an objective research paper on it. Normally, this would not have been too difficult, but after writing a paper about my own personal feelings, having to take a giant step back to write a paper completely based on facts took quite some time and energy.

For Art of Philosophy, I wrote my final paper on a subject called Mimesis. This is a topic that I had no prior knowledge of, in any way. Trying to understand what mimesis was and then explaining it to others was a task and a half. It was a different kind of relief to turn in this paper because it was not the relief of meeting a deadline and simply getting another paper done. It was the relief of writing about a topic that took a lot of time to understand and then putting it into a well-structured format that others could then understand my time here at Villa Maria College has not only taught me how to write from many different angles, but Villa Maria College has also taught me how to step outside of my comfort zone. The presentations and experiences with my course work will help me in the future to take on a variety of tasks. It would be a very lengthy paper to explain all the ways that Villa Maria College has prepared me for the next step in my journey, but I am thankful for every experience and the student I have become over the past four years.

Madison Martin

Artist Bio

It is almost hard to believe that my time at Villa Maria College is coming to a close. It seems like just yesterday I was getting ready to go to orientation and start the next chapter in my life. Even though my college experience is coming to an end, I have a lot of new experiences and knowledge that I can take with me moving forward. Throughout these past four years I have become a more well-rounded individual through the experiences I have had and the people I have met along the way.

After reflecting on the past few years of my life, I am proud of myself for my personal and academic growth. One of the main things I have noticed is that my drive and determination to succeed scholastically is much greater than when I was in high school. The shift to hybrid/online learning is one of the primary reasons that I have grown as a student. When we were fully online at the beginning of the pandemic, I had to be even more on top of my assignments and budget my time to ensure that I was able to complete all of my work. During that time, I realized how capable I am of adapting to situations that are completely unexpected. Now, the unknown of life looming before me is not as terrifying as I once thought of it to be, because I know that I can handle whatever comes my way.

Villa Maria College has helped me to break out of my shell and become more outgoing and involved in extracurriculars. I became a student ambassador, an orientation leader, ALL leader, and tutored my peers, which are things I never would have done prior to coming here. I was never the type of person to put myself in a position in which strangers would be looking to me for guidance, and I am glad I challenged myself to do that. I found myself in many positions in which I was in a leadership role and, to my surprise, found myself excelling in them. Being the center of attention or putting myself in a situation in which everyone is watching me is something I strongly dislike, but I found myself teaching a class and giving tours to prospective students. Without the opportunities Villa Maria College presented me, I would not have grown into the person I am today. I tried to take every opportunity that was offered to me and I have learned so much about myself from them.

While I was living these past four years of college, I never took the time to slow down and take note of how much I have grown and developed. It has been a stressful journey to say the least, but I would not change anything about it. I do not know exactly what career path I want to take with my degree, but when I leave Villa Maria College, I know I will be prepared for whatever it is I decide to do. I cannot wait to see what comes my way in life and I am more ready than ever to find out.

Maria Mariano

Artist Bio

Prior to attending Villa Maria College, I was timid and very unsure of what my future would look like. Coming here definitely has broadened my horizons and assured me that the future is bright. I have met so many amazing and talented people here at Villa Maria College, both students and professors, most of whom have really helped me learn so many important things I need to know to have a successful career in the future. Not only have they assisted in my tremendous growth as a student, but as an individual as well.

Walking in on my first day as a freshman Interior Design student was intimidating, especially considering I had no Interior Design background coming from high school and only a little bit of an art background from when I was younger. My work and projects started out pretty rough. I was always hard on myself and the work I created and was always trying to push myself to do better. Through the years, however, I have gained more knowledge about the design process and started becoming more confident in my work and projects. As a senior, in the final semester of my college education, I will be taking with me the knowledge, life lessons, and key attributes that I have gained from Villa Maria College and will continue to use them for the rest of my life.

I always have thought of Villa Maria College as my “home away from home.” Both the students and staff made sure to make everyone feel welcome and equal and made sure to spread positivity and kindness around the campus. For that, I am proud to have been a Villa Viking for the past four years!

Megan Marafino

Artist Bio

After spending four long years at Villa Maria College, I can rightfully say that I have changed both as a student and as a person. I came to Villa Maria College not entirely sure about my chosen career path and for the first year and a half, I will be honest, I was winging it. It seemed like everyone else in my class was so interested in interior design and I was just dragging along behind them. I felt like even though I was learning so much, I could not relate to the passion others were feeling about their work. I am so extremely proud to say that not only is that no longer the case. I feel very confident in my knowledge of interior design! After working for even the smallest bit of time at my chosen senior internship, I feel ready and excited to experience the “real world.”

None of this would be possible without the endless help and support from my friends, family, classmates, and professors. Because of them, I have worked on prioritization and therefore learned how to manage my time more effectively, thus leaving time to spend on myself. Villa Maria College has truly brought me my closest friends and relationships that I know will last a lifetime. I have changed as a person as well, as I have so much more patience and compassion than I did before my time at Villa Maria College.

I am so excited for what the future holds for me, and I cannot thank everyone at Villa Maria College enough for helping shape me into the woman I am today.

Paige Bidleman

Artist Bio

During my time at Villa Maria College, I definitely can say that I have changed and grown as a person due to my experiences. In terms of my artistic talent, I have learned many techniques, programs, and methods that have improved my work. I also have been allowed to experiment with these new methods. I have been able to start planning out multiple stories based on different interests I have developed during my time here, and I have been able to apply my new skills to improve and solidify these stories in the way I want to. My anatomy drawing skills have improved overall, and my art style has evolved thanks to the lessons I was taught.

I also was able to experience being a leader of a group and figuring out how to work through what comes along with it. I was a quiet kid coming into Villa Maria College, and I can say now as a senior that I have really come out of my shell and learned a lot about myself that I did not know. I have had many experiences, both good and bad, and they have shaped me into who I am now and allowed me to grow as a person. I am not sure if I would be where I am now if I did not come to Villa Maria College, as it has affected many areas of my life and changed me, and I can say that I am happy with who I am today in terms of myself and my skills.