The College of Fine Arts and Communications Convocation Ceremonies Celebrate the Graduating Class of 2023
This year, the College of Fine Arts and Communications (CFAC) held three inaugural convocation ceremonies in the new state-of-the-art Concert Hall of BYU’s Music Building on April 28. The College holds separate ceremonies for the School of Communications; the Art Department and Department of Design; and the Departments of Dance and Theatre and Media Arts and School of Music.
Each ceremony opened with the hymn “Because I Have Been Given Much” as the graduates and their friends and families recognized the people who supported them during their time at BYU. Dean Ed Adams opened the ceremonies by congratulating the graduates for their academic achievements.
During his remarks, Adams addressed the challenges that students experienced during their education. “The burdens students bear in our demanding programs are heavy under the best of circumstances. But you as graduates of 2023 overcame unique challenges that neither you nor your faculty mentors could have anticipated four years ago,” said Adams.
Students “gave concerts for empty halls but learned how to cultivate online audiences around the world. Overall these challenges led to ingenious technological and artistic solutions,” Adams continued.
Adams praised the students, saying, “As communicators, performers, artists and designers, students embraced the challenges of the Covid pandemic by asking with greater urgency… how do I take what’s in my mind and my heart and find a way to send that over a distance—from a page, a gallery wall, a screen or online—to the heart and mind of the person who needs it?”
Each ceremony featured student work or presentations from graduates selected to represent their respective academic units.
School of Communications
School of Communications graduate Olivia Bryant opened the ceremony, speaking on how “Faith Unlocks Grace.”
Recounting the Biblical story of the woman with the issue of blood, she said, “Faith requires action and grace is the gift Jesus bestows after we extend our faith.”
Bryant has tracheal stenosis, a birth defect that closes her airway and affects her voice and breathing. She’s had many invasive surgeries over the course of her life, which made her feel insecure about her voice in her youth. “I was embarrassed to speak loudly and avoided it as much as possible in school,” said Bryant. Through the grace of Jesus Christ and with the help of her family, she learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Bryant chose to study communications to help conquer her shyness and fear of speaking. As she advanced through the comms studies program and developed her creative voice, she experienced firsthand how Jesus Christ can assist us in “our trials and insecurities and help us push our boundaries and limits.”
Following Bryant’s address, music performance graduate McKenna Taylor played “Adoration” by Felix Borowski on the violin. Taylor was accompanied on the piano by Zac Adamson.
Public relations major Julianne Updike next spoke on “Crafting Fulfillment.”
Updike related an experience while in Washington D.C. for a capstone project. She stumbled upon a rally on behalf of women in Iran. Afterward, she mourned the never-ending pain, suffering and injustices in the world and how difficult it is for people to feel fulfilled in life and at work when “everything seems to be going wrong in the world.”
Then Updike had an epiphany. “I realized I didn't have to shift focus; I needed to expand my view. I had only seen the pain at that rally but I could have also seen the protestors' hope or their faith that their actions would have an impact.”
Updike said, “As I learn to also see the resilience and hopeful efforts around me, I begin to see more opportunities to do good. I craft my messages and my actions to create goodness and that is where I find fulfillment.”
Departments of Art and Design
The convocation ceremony for Art and Design opened with art education major Karmina Chelson speaking on “The Artistic Conversation.”
Chelson shared how she felt prompted by the Spirit to make a change in her education plan when she changed her major to art and minor to English. She first discovered the idea of art as a conversation as she delved into art history classes and shared how becoming a teacher opened doors for her.
“I wanted my students to speak with fluency in art,” she said. “My sweet friends were learning the power of conversation in art to form connections with each other and their own understanding.”
Art education has helped Chelson find new methods of discovering deeper relationships with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. “I love helping people become creative beings like our Father in Heaven, something that is so innate to our divine natures,” she said. “As an educator, I want to emulate the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ. My relationship with my Savior has become more deep and personal as I teach my students.”
Graphic design major Lydia Lowe then spoke about how “For Some Things There Are No Wrong Seasons.”
BYU helped prepare Lowe for a successful and full life. Lowe shared about her time working in Paris and the experiences she had taking part in large photoshoots and designing billboards. It was a difficult but a growth-promoting opportunity that helped her develop in many ways.
“Design has taught me so much about being adaptable,” Lowe said. “After thorough research, I think I will know exactly what my finished product will look like. After a couple of iterations, my designs will turn out different and better than anticipated. There is joy in creating a beautiful solution from a problem.”
Lowe explained that even though life does not always go according to plan, there is no substitute for hard work and making necessary changes.
“There are no real seasons; we bloom when it is right for us,” she said. “It is more important that we become who we need to and allow our journey to shape us, not to focus on when we cross certain milestones.”
Ashley Rands, a brass performance major, played “Calypsiete” by David Rogers on the trombone. Rands was accompanied by EJ Miranda on the trumpet and Juliet Preston on the piano.
After the performance, art major Eliza Trépanier spoke on “An Openness to Nourishment.”
While at BYU, Trépanier realized that making art is more than just making things. “The community within the art department doesn‘t just create objects to look at, sounds to listen to or collaborations to engage in; we create experiences,” said Trépanier.
“Think of it in terms of yielding to the Spirit and receiving revelation,” said Trépanier. “Oftentimes the key to solving a problem in art and in life is being willing to receive from an outside source to nourish and heal inside us.”
Almost every day at school, Trépanier asked herself, “What am I doing? I’m not studying art; I’m just making stuff!” She came to the realization, “We’re not just making stuff. We’re creating experiences and connections. We’re nourishing the human spirit.”
Illustration major Ashley West spoke on “Vision of Visions” after Trépanier’s remarks.
When West was thirteen, she cut up an old leather jacket to make a pair of shoes. “I knew what I wanted, I planned how to do it and I pulled out all the stops to make it happen,” West said.
For West, having a vision is essential to creating but the vision is not yet realized. During this gap between vision and creation, it is easy to be distracted by things that are already real.
“It takes a lot of energy to put our efforts into something that we can’t touch, hear or see except in our own minds,” said West. Despite this, she encouraged the other graduates to take the risk to use the time and resources to turn a vision into reality.
Departments of Dance, Theatre and Media Arts and School of Music
The convocation for the Department of Dance, School of Music and Theatre and Media Arts Department opened with a performance by John Burton, a music performance major playing “Viktor’s Tale” from “The Terminal” by John Williams on the clarinet. Burton was accompanied by Bryce Turner on the piano.
Following Burton’s performance, dance major Mariah Sainsbury spoke on “Opportunity and Community.”
In her junior year of college, Sainsbury tore all the ligaments in her leg while performing backflips on a trampoline. “I knew the road back to dancing was not going to be easy but I also knew I wanted to at least try,” Sainsbury said.
Despite her severe injury, she had the opportunity to perform with fellow student Baylee Van Patten in a Faith + Works presentation led by Contemporary Dance Theatre director Keely Song.
Sainsbury said, “We formed immediate bonds of understanding that inspired a community of support within the atmosphere of creativity and workability. I always felt physically safe and understood in our small and careful movement explorations.”
Despite her slow recovery, Sainsbury felt support from her family, friends, physical therapists and dance community the entire way.
“There are times in life where others support and carry you. We need one another,” Sainsbury said. “There is comfort in understanding and there is power in hope and community.”
Media arts graduate Emma Volz spoke on her experience with “Reaching Unity in Diversity: Lessons from the Walls of Ancient Cusco.”
For a project, Volz traveled to Cusco, Peru, where she reconnected with her friend, Norma. Norma grew up in a community that spoke Quechua, “the endangered language of the Andes,” and is trying to keep this language alive through teaching children.
Volz wondered how she could best capture the people and experiences of Peru. She was drawn to Saqsayhuaman, an ancient Incan fortress with individual stones that fit together perfectly to form a large, unified structure.
Volz connected the unity she saw in Saqsayhuaman with the unity she found as a film major at BYU. She acknowledged that each member of a filmmaking crew has their own individual talents and roles and each crew member contributes to making a unified project.
“During our years [here], we have learned this great truth,” Volz said. “Like the great stone walls of Saqsayhuaman, we have found that embracing our differences as we work toward a common purpose only makes us stronger. We stand unified in our purpose to use our art to inspire greatness and goodness.”
Dean Adams concluded the program and said, “Graduates of 2023, you will go forward into your lives as artists, scholars, citizens and saints with a type of grit, creativity, resiliency and passion that only emerges when it’s hard-fought.”
Congratulations to the class of 2023!
We want to celebrate you and your grads! Share your story with us here. Learn more about other CFAC grads here.
For the 2023 digital convocation program, FAQs, a message from the deanery and more, check out the CFAC convocation website.
To see more photos of graduates and the ceremonies, visit our full Facebook album.