This year’s winners of the Varg-Sullivan Endowed Graduate Awards are Mona Jahani, MFA Candidate in Theatre Design, the Outstanding Achievement in the Arts recipient, and Naiyan Du, Ph.D. Candidate in Linguistics, the Outstanding Achievement in the Letters recipient.
The Varg-Sullivan Endowed Graduate Awards, presented by the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University, were established in honor of Paul Varg and Richard Sullivan, former Deans of the College of Arts & Letters who dedicated their professional lives to excellence in the College. Recipients of this award are selected based on best performance/exhibition at a national or international event in the arts and best presentation at a national or international event or best-published article in the letters.
Mona Jahani is specializing in Costume Design and Digital Rendering as an MFA Candidate in Theatre Design in the Department of Theatre and will graduate with her MFA degree in Spring 2023. She has served as a designer and technician for several theatrical productions at MSU, including the costume design for Bright Star, which runs this week, April 19-23, at the Pasant Theatre in the Wharton Center for Performing Arts.
Other recent work at MSU include costume designs for Monsieur d’Eon is a Woman, Wendy & the Neckbeards, and Julius Caesar. For her work on Monsieur d’Eon is a Woman, Jahani was selected as a winner of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) – Midwest 2022 Digital Design Competition, received an Honorable Mention in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region 3 for Theatrical Design Excellence in Costume Design, and won the 2023 Howard Vincent Kurtz Emerging Theatre Artist Award from the Costume Society of America, which provides financial assistance to students selected to present their research/creative work at the CSA National Symposium. This year’s national symposium is May 23-27 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Ms. Jahani has produced exceptional work in our program, developed a regional reputation, and will undoubtedly cultivate a national reputation as an educator and artist,” said Kirk Domer, Professor of Scene Design and Graduate Program Director in the Department of Theatre who nominated Jahani for the award. “As her career progresses, I am confident that Ms. Jahani will make significant contributions to the profession regarding theatre pedagogy in design, technology, and fashion history.”
“Ms. Jahani has produced exceptional work in our program, developed a regional reputation, and will undoubtedly cultivate a national reputation as an educator and artist.”Kirk Domer, Professor of Scene Design and Graduate Program Director
As an instructor, Jahani has taught “Introduction to Theatre Technology” and “Undergraduate Theatre Practicum.” She also has served as a Teaching Assistant for two general education Integrative Studies in Arts and Humanities (IAH) courses.
“Whether demonstrating sewing techniques, facilitating a discussion on the role of an artist in society, or lecturing on the history of fashion as it relates to theatrical storytelling, Ms. Jahani is always professional, engaging, and respected. She has a knack for keeping the interest of her students and offers a highly thoughtful approach to the material,” Domer said. “I am constantly impressed by her dedication to student growth. Her success comes from her ability to learn from her students while simultaneously providing a creative environment for learning. She continues to demonstrate talent as a natural teacher capable of leadership and rapport with her students, all of whom have given her consistently high ratings.”
Jahani, who has a B.A. in Drama and Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, has accepted an offer to be an Assistant Professor of Costume Design at Southeastern Louisiana University and will begin that position in the Fall 2023.
Naiyan Du defended his dissertation in March and will receive his Ph.D. in Linguistics in Spring 2023. He recently moved to Japan and is now an Assistant Professor at Baiko Gakuin University where he is doing linguistic research on East Asian languages while teaching English and linguistic courses.
Du’s research has focused on using experimental methods to probe the nature of phonological representations and deepen the understanding of the relationship between the sound system as part of the linguistic knowledge and competence (phonology) and the production and perception of sounds as part of linguistic performance (phonetics).
He is the first author of the peer-reviewed journal article “Phonetically incomplete neutralization can be phonologically complete: Evidence from Huai’an Mandarin” to soon be published by the journal Phonology.
“The journal Phonology is the top journal for the field of phonology that has an extremely low acceptance rate,” said Yen-Hwei Lin, Professor and Chair of the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures who nominated Du for the award. “It is an amazing achievement for a graduate student to publish an article in a journal that could pose challenges even for established scholars. Note that in the field of experimental phonology, co-authorship is the norm given the complex and interdisciplinary nature of most projects. As the first author of the article, Naiyan was responsible for most parts of the study and writing.”
Lin pointed out that the article makes significant contributions on multiple fronts and leads to a deeper understanding of the intricate interaction of different language modules and how they are represented and processed in the human cognitive system.
“Naiyan has been extremely hard-working and has established himself as a rising star in theoretical and experimental phonology.”Yen-Hwei Lin, Professor and Chair of the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures
“Naiyan’s publication in Phonology contributes to the field in significant ways,” Lin said, “his accomplishments as a Ph.D. student are impressive, and his scholarly and career trajectory is exceptional.”
Du received his M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Virginia and has dual bachelor’s degrees in English Language and Literature and Teaching Chinese as Foreign Language.
“Naiyan has been extremely hard-working and has established himself as a rising star in theoretical and experimental phonology,” Lin said. “By being active in publications and conference presentations, completing his dissertation ahead of time (despite the challenges during the pandemic), and accepting a job offer in Japan, Naiyan has displayed an enviable profile that serves as a model for graduate students of linguistics.”