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CA News

Below is a collection of news stories and achievements from students, faculty, and staff from within the School of Contemporary Arts.

Summer 2023

Dr. Zachary Layton, assistant professor of music production at Ramapo College, in a fieldMusic Professor Zach Layton Receives MacDowell Fellowship

The sole criterion for being awarded a fellowship from MacDowell? Artistic excellence. Dr. Zachary Layton, assistant professor of music production, received the Norton Stevens Fellowship from MacDowell, an organization whose mission is “to nurture the arts by offering talented individuals an inspiring residential environment in which to produce enduring works of the creative imagination.”

Read Full Article 


Spring 2023

Ramapo Adjunct Professor Paul Pittman Receives Emmy Award for Documentary Film

The film, Life of Crime 1984-2020, executive produced by Jon Alpert and HBO won the Primetime Emmy award for outstanding Crime and Justice Documentary.

Paul Pittman, who is an adjunct professor in the Digital Filmmaking major served as one of the Producers on the project.  The film takes place over the course of 3 decades and examines the highs and lows of the vicious cycle of drug addiction and incarceration.

Paul describes the film as, “a great character study piece that delves into the psyche of individuals and their struggles with addiction. It is a story of despair, pain and revival.”

Life of Crime 1984-2020 is available to watch on HBO/HBOmax.

Photo by Carolyn Herring

CA Students Present at ECA & NJCA Conferences

Three of our communication students presented their research papers at the prestigious James C. McCroskey and Virginia P. Richmond Undergraduate Scholars Conference at the Eastern Communication Association annual conference in Baltimore on March 31st and April 1st, 2023. Vanessa Espinoza presented on gender as a social construct in Gone Girl. Gabriella Fonseca talked about the intersection of racial identity with ethnic identity. Emily Melvin presented on destigmatizing legal medical marijuana.

Next, seven of our students presented their research papers at the New Jersey Communication Association (NJCA) annual conference at Kean University on April 1st, 2023. Caroline Ungar presented her retail therapy campaign. Graciana Casola presented her addiction has no bias campaign. Jacob LoCascio presented his boxing, head trauma and safe boxing practices campaign. Nihar Shah talked about the mental and physical effects of being in the military. Shelley Kerr talked about her women as one campaign. Cristina Navarrete Carpizo talked about adding multicultural food and cross contamination policies to College campuses to ensure diversity and inclusivity. And finally, Tori Waschek presented her campaign to improve athletes’ mental health at Ramapo College. Tori Waschek also won the best student paper award at NJCA annual conference among all undergraduate and graduate paper submissions.

Professor John Peffer: “Notes on Cuts on Censored Records”

During the Summer 2022, Professor John Peffer completed work on an LP record and accompanying 50-page text that examines music recordings censored in South Africa by radio stations during apartheid. That project, titled “Notes on Cuts on Censored Records” is in production with the art/sound label, Nothing To Commit Records, for 2023.

Photo credit: “The Naughty Boys” c. J. Peffer (2016).

Professor David Oh’s Book, “Navigating White News: Asian American Journalists at Work” to be released March 2023

Professor David Oh’s lead-authored book will release in March 2023 – “Navigating White News: Asian American Journalists at Work” (Rutgers University Press). If you’d like to learn more about this book, please click here.

Professor Jackie Skrzynski Leads Immersive Art Experience

Unison Arts partnered with artist Jackie Skrzynski as she led an immersive art experience known as the Silent Walks at the River to Ridge Trail in New Paltz, NY. Rather than seeing an image of landscape in a museum or on a screen, viewers physically moved themselves through what they were observing. By framing the walk as art, participants shift their perception of “nature” “landscape” and “art.”

Jackie Skrzynski has led over 20 Silent Walks primarily at two locations, Black Rock Forest and Storm King Mountain. She chose the River to Ridge trail for the view of the Shawangunk Ridge, the farmland, and the open sky.

Skrzynski is planning a second walk as part of her solo exhibition with Unison arts in spring 2023.

The Flats

Spaced Evenly






Fall 2022

COMM Student Receives 2022 New York Women in Communications Scholarship – NBCUniversal Scholarship!

Kaitlin Balasaygun was awarded the 2022 Comcast NBCUniversal Scholarship from New York Women in Communications Inc. (NYWICI), the premier organization for media and communication professionals in the New York metropolitan area.

Balasaygun is a senior double majoring in Communication Arts (Journalism and Digital Media) and Photography. As captain of Ramapo’s women’s swim team, Balasaygun has produced several sports-related news features for her journalism/digital media classes, including an audio slideshow documenting the struggles faced by college swim teams during the COVID-19 shutdown, and a video profile of Paralympic gold medalist Robert Griswold.

During her junior year, Balasaygun was awarded the 2022 Jules L. Plangere, Jr., Summer Internship with the New Jersey Press Foundation, and completed a summer internship with Gannett USA Today’s Asbury Park Press. She was also a 2021 summer intern with Swimming World, a national aquatic sports publication. This semester, Balasaygun will be working for NBCUniversal as a Strategic Content Intern with CNBC.

Alumnus Anthony Scalia’s Documentary Playing at Film Festivals

Big congratulations to Digital Filmmaking ’15 alumnus Anthony Scalia, whose documentary Bendix: Sight Unseen will be playing at the prestigious Montclair and DOC NYC film festivals in the next months. It was a real Ramapo production: Erin Dubee ’15 co-produced, and Chris Komjian ’19 was a camera operator. Check it out if you can — it’s a fun and touching film about a unique man and his family. Well done Anthony, Erin, and Chris!


Spring 2022

COMM Students Present at the NJWGSC & NJCA Conferences

Communication students Angelina Reyes, Emma Gaglione, Gabriella Fonseca, Hailey Drake, Lucrecia Kleinmann and Luke Tedford presented their research papers at the New Jersey Women and Gender Studies Consortium (NJWGSC) Undergraduate Colloquium on 03/25/2022, and at the New Jersey Communication Association (NJCA) annual conference on 03/26/2022. Angelina presented on the impact of menstrual stigma on women at the NJWGSC undergraduate colloquium. Emma presented on music and psychology, Gabriella presented on creating awareness about the opioid crisis in New York, Hailey presented on destigmatizing mental health awareness campaigning, Lucrecia spoke on the pitfalls of fast fashion, and Luke talked about his campaign on banning plastic bags at the NJCA annual conference. These research papers were done for the Research and Writing Methods (Comm 266) and Global Communication Campaigns (Comm 318) classes.

Ramapo Design Student Receives Gilman Award for Internship in Japan

Read the full press release here:



Spring 2021

Ramapo Students attend NJCA Conference

Ramapo College Communication Arts students delivered a series of exceptional paper presentations at the New Jersey Communication Association (NJCA) annual conference on Saturday, March 20, 2021. The event was held remotely and hosted by Rutgers University.

Presenters included Jeffrey Toth (graduated last year; presented 2 papers), David Tierney (presented 2 papers), John Slocum, David Machon, Luke Tedford, Erika Starost, Katherine Buckley and Victoria Parente. While most of the students belong to the Global Communication and Media concentration, John Slocum is from the Journalism concentration in the major.

At NJCA, these undergraduate students, most of whom were presenting conference papers for the first time, deftly navigated panel sessions which primarily included graduate students and faculty members from various NJ colleges and universities.


Spring 2020

Two-Day Animation & VFX Conference

Students, Alumni and the local community were able to meet award-winning animation and visual effects gurus from blockbuster films such as Into the Spiderverse and Black Panther.

Friday Feb 7th, 7-8:30 pm New Jersey Young Filmmakers Festival. Free. Showcase of High school and college animators. Free to the public.

Sat Feb 8th, 1:30-4pm K-12 educator workshop on Animation, STEAM, and Grant Writing.

Sat Feb 8th, 1:30-4pm Jr. High and HS Student workshop on stop motion and 3D animation.

Sat Feb 8th, 5-7pm Animation and Visual Effects Experts Panel. Featuring Oscar-winning (Into the Spiderverse) alum Brian Walters, Cinematographer James Williams (Into the Spiderverse), Layout designer Scott Armstrong (Blue Sky Animation) Principal Creative Director at Perception John LePore (VFX for Marvel Films) and Alum Sam O’Malley (Major League Baseball animation).

This Image shows the Sat Feb 8th 7pm Alumni reception where Brian Walters was given “the golden Ramachuck” a special award celebrating tenacious underground community-building. The award was created by animation students!

Sat Feb 8th, 8pm Black Maria special Animation festival. The Black Maria Film Festival is an international festival celebrating the independent spirit of short films. This special animation-only screening is a unique opportunity to see short animation works from the Black Maria archive.


Fall 2019

Argus Quartet Performs Student Compositions

On December 2nd 2019, the award-winning New-York based Argus String Quartet came to Ramapo to perform a concert of original compositions by students of Prof. Gilad Cohen’s course “Musicianship III – Composition.” The students — most of whom have no prior experience composing notated music — had written their pieces throughout the semester while learning about musical aesthetics of 20th-century’s concert music, and they were thrilled to hear their music for the first time performed by a professional ensemble, a rare opportunity for undergraduate music students, and to share it with fellow students, faculty, family and friends.


Spring 2019

“Mosaic” Web Series accepted to Brooklyn Web Series Festival

“Mosaic,” a project by Professor Kelly Dolak’s Fall 2018 Web Series Production Class, has been accepted into a Brooklyn web series festival. Details can be found by clicking the following link:


DFL Student won Best Documentary at 2019 Basie Center Teen and College Film Festival

Digital Filmmaking student Jennifer Seitis won Best Documentary in the 2019 Basie Center Teen and College Film Festival. Jennifer’s documentary My Name is Anon(ymous), produced in Directing the Documentary class, is based on the process of producing the Ramapo theater production Anon(ymous) in the Fall 2019 semester.


Fall 2018

RCNJ High School Film Festival: 2018

This year’s RCNJ High School Film Festival had over 120 students and their family, friends, teachers, cast and crew attend the festival screening and reception on Saturday night. Please see the RCNJ Film fest Facebook page, linked below, for a brief recap and photos of the event.

Aizuri Quartet Returns to Ramapo College

The event was the Final Concert of the course “Musicianship III: Composition,” in which the award-winning Aizuri String Quartet performed original compositions that the students wrote throughout the course.  Throughout the semester, the students have been learning about the musical aesthetics of composers in the 20th century, experimenting with original composition endeavors, learning about composing notated acoustic music and writing for strings, and working on a substantial Final Project: writing short original pieces for string quartet (2 violins, viola and cello).  Professor Gilad Cohen invited the excellent Aizuri Quartet to campus twice: Once at the beginning of the semester for giving workshops about writing for strings and recording strings (the latter at Ramapo’s Les Paul Studio), and again  for an open rehearsal, where the students had a chance to hear their music for the first time and workshop them, followed by a public concert of the new works. Through experiential learning, the students learn by doing: they learn about music theory and history through analysis and composition, experience creating music and finding their personal voice, expand their professional toolbox, and receive an inspirational, scarce, and highly educational opportunity among young composers: to rehearse with and hear their works performed by a professional ensemble.

Original Web Series produced by RCNJ film students and Prof. Dolak wins “Best Editing” award

“Deep End,” the web series developed in Communication Arts faculty member Kelly Dolak’s class last spring, was nominated for New Jersey Web Fest Awards in three categories including Best Drama Series and Best Actor for senior Richard Bruno. It won the award for Best Editing by students Michael Nowicki, Christopher Heinz, Andrea Castro, Kyle Faber, and Stephen Rosado. The award ceremony was in September at the Claridge Theater in Montclair. This was not a student festival – most of the other nominees are working professionals in film, television, and web series. Dolak reported that “The festival coordinator was shocked when she found out that this was a student project.”

Original Web Series produced by RCNJ film students and Prof. Dolak selected to screen at NJ Festival in September

“Deep End”, an original 5-episode Web Series produced by Ramapo College film students, was selected to screen at the first ever New Jersey Web Festival. The series is nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, Best Editing, and Outstanding Drama Series. The screening will be held at the Clairidge Theater in Montclair, NJ on Sept 15 at 7:05pm.

For more information about the festival click here.

If you’d like to view the trailer for the web series, click here.


Spring 2018

Professor Zach Layton presents at Roulette in Brooklyn

There will be a performance a work of Professor Zach Layton’s (a concerto for bowed electric guitar and string orchestra) at Roulette on a program with Tony Conrad, Pauline Oliveros and John Cage on Friday, March 30th. For more information visit the event page here.

Professor Richard Sorce wins Best Brazilian Song of 2017

Contemporary Arts is pleased to announce that Professor Richard Sorce’s “Escrito No Vento (Written In the Wind)” has won Best Brazilian Song of 2017, sponsored by The Sounds of Brazil.

Student Animation CATCH! to be featured at Film Festivals

Student David Francis-Vaughan’s animation CATCH! is being featured in two film festivals, the Hayti Heritage Film Fest and The 60 Second Intl. Film Festival . David’s animation was created in Professor Ann LePore’s 3D Animation course during the Fall 2017 semester.


Fall 2017

Professor Zach Layton presents at  Roulette in Brooklyn

Assistant Professor Zach Layton, Victoria Keddie, Elisa Sanitago, Felicia Ballos present a new work for electronic video and sound controlled camera system and movement, live mixed by Brock Monroe and Joshua White (Joshua Light Show).

Optics 0:1: Combinations is the premiere of the second annual multimedia festival at the acclaimed Brooklyn performance venue Roulette, directed by Victoria Keddie exploring experimental audio/video and multi-media within the context of live performance.

Professor Ben Neill collaborates with Artist Carol Szymanski on ​NEW SOUNDS LIVE presented by ARTS BROOKFIELD.

Installation: Oct. 6-11, Performances: Neill/Szymanski Wed. Oct. 11, Pauline Oliveros Tribute Thurs. Oct.12

The Winter Garden at Brookfield Place,  230 Vesey Street, New York,  NY 10821

This New Sounds Live series offers a captivating installation, the world premiere of The Phonemophonic Alphabet Brass Band by sculptor and multimedia artist, Carol Szymanski, a long time collaborator of composer/performer Ben Neill. Presented in totality for the first time, The Phonemophonic Alphabet Brass Band consists of 26 brass sculptures forming a three-dimensional font, which have also been crafted to function as musical instruments.

Ben Neill and an ensemble of five musicians will perform his 2014 work MANITOGA, featuring eight of Szymanski’s horns as well as Neill’s own electroacoustic mutantrumpet. They will also present the world premiere of STEAK abc, which features all of the Szymanski horns on Wednesday, October 11. A Tribute to Pauline Oliveros performed by the Darmstadt Ensemble and led by Ben Neill and Zach Layton on October 12 will pay homage to the experimental composer who passed away last year and was central to the development of electronic art music, as well as the theory of Deep Listening. The series will conclude on October 13 with Colin Stetson’s enchanting performance of Gorecki’s Third Symphony.


Spring 2017

Ramapo College CantaNOVA Invited to Perform at New York City’s Lincoln Center with Eric Whitacre

Distinguished Concerts International New York City (DCINY) has invited Dr. Lisa Lutter and Ramapo College CantaNOVA to participate in a performance of The Music of Eric Whitacre for the DCINY Concert Series in New York City.  The performance is on Monday, April 16th, 2018 at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The full press release can be viewed here.

The Ramapo Chorale Tours Ghana

Chorale Trip to Ghana

Photo taken by Michelle Santucci

The Ramapo Chorale, directed by Professor Lisa Lutter, traveled to Ghana over spring break for a ten-day concert and culture tour.  Hosted by Ramapo’s sister institution, Kvame Nkrumah University (KNUST), highlights included a special performance at the U.S. Consulate in the capital city of Accra, a concert with the University of Cape Coast choir, and a grand finale at KNUST, where Ramapo students performed for an audience of more than 1000 together with internationally renowned roots highlife master, Koo Nimo, and the 200 voices of the KNUST choir.

This was the first trip to Ghana for Ramapo Chorale and the culmination of a ten-year vision shared by KNUST Dean of Students Kofi Owusu-Daaku , Prof. Shalom Gorewitz and Director Lisa Lutter. Celebrating Ramapo’s year of Sub-Saharan Africa, the trip was made by possible by the generosity of KNUST, the Ramapo Foundation, Roukema Center Director Ben Levy, Contemporary Arts Dean Steven Perry, Provost Beth Barnett, Director of Student Activities Rick Brown and the Student Government Association.

Ramapo Chorale has strong tradition of international touring that includes winning a gold medal at the International Academic Choral Festival in Prague and concerts in Costa Rica, Cuba, Estonia, the Philippines, Russia, Vienna, and at the Pacific Summer Music Festival in Guam. The Chorale was sponsored by the United Nations for a special performance of Songs of Children, based on poems from the Holocaust, presented at Bohemian National Hall, NYC.

Ramapo Chorale is open to all students without audition.

For more pictures of this trip visit the CA Flickr here. For more videos of the trip please visit the CA Vimeo account here.

Bobby Deitch: Album Release

Photo provided by Bobby Deitch.

Bobby Deitch, Adjunct Professor and Director of the Roadrunner Jazz Orchestra, is releasing an alum, Grateful, and will be playing an album release party on Tuesday, April 11th at Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. For more information please click here.


Tony-Winning Costume Designer Gregg Barnes to Open Lecture Series at Ramapo College of New Jersey

Read the full Ramapo press release here.

“Award-winning costume designer Gregg Barnes will be the featured speaker as the School of Contemporary Arts kicks off the Walt Santner Theater Lecture Series on Wednesday, March 8 at 5 p.m. at the Sharp Theater of the Berrie Center for Visual and Performing Arts.”

“Barnes, whose recent Broadway credits include Aladdin, Kinky Boots, Something Rotten! and Tuck Everlasting, among dozens of other stage productions, will discuss his work in costume design in a career that has spanned several decades. He won the Tony Award for Best Costume Design for his work on the Broadway productions of the Drowsy Chaperone (2006) and Follies (2011). Most recently, he was nominated for the Tony for Best Costume Design in a Musical for Tuck Everlasting in 2016. His current work includes the costume design for a production of Dreamgirls that opened in November 2016 at the Savoy Theater in London.”

Ramapo Student Success at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

Ramapo students Victoria Tommasulo and Eric Nickl both won KCACTF Region 2 awards, Victoria for Stage Management and Eric for Sound Design, which allows them to go on to the National Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Victoria Tommasulo is a Junior Theater major with concentrations in Stage Management/Directing and Design/Tech was recently awarded the Stage Management Fellowship from Region 2 of the 2017 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for her presentation of her work as Stage Manager for Of Mice and Men last semester. Victoria is a head student aide in the theater production shops and is currently the Production Manager for the student directed productions of The Nether and Keely and Du, as well as Assistant Stage Manager for the main-stage production of Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play. Past credits at Ramapo include Macbeth, The Great God Pan, and Miss Julie. She is also president of Alpha Psi Omega, Ramapo’s theater honor society.

Eric Nickl is a graduating Theater major with a concentration in Theater Tech. He is a Head Student Technician at the College working in Audio, Lightening, and Carpentry. When he is not at the college, he is a freelance technician on concerts, plays, and events in the NYC tri-state area. He is nominated from region 2 for Sound Design to go to the national level at Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Washington D.C. for his design on Ramapo College’s production of Of Mice and Men. He also won a week of classes at the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas.

Professor Gilad Cohen: Around the Cauldron Premiere at Carnegie Hall


On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, Music Professor Gilad Cohen’s new piece Around the Cauldron for violin, cello and piano will receive its world premiere at Carnegie Hall in New York.  Commissioned by Concert Artists Guild, the piece is based on themes from Cohen’s original music for Ramapo College’s 2016 production of Macbeth, and it will be performed by the award-winning Lysander Trio.  This performance joins a busy season that includes performances of Cohen’s music in Germany, Hong-Kong, Israel, Los Angeles, Austin (TX), Pittsburgh (PA), Ridgewood (NJ), and New York.

Concert Artists Guild Presents: The Lysander Trio.  Tuesday, March 14 2017 at 7:30pm, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, New York, NY.


Fall 2016

RCNJ High School Film Festival

On Sunday December 4th Ramapo College’s Digital Filmmaking program held its second annual RCNJ High School Film Festival. The Ramapo Digital Filmmaking program started the festival to provide a venue to showcase the impressive work being done by high school filmmakers, and give a glimpse of the next generation of New Jersey filmmakers. Over 150 people attended the screening of 24 films from high schools around the state, with awards presented for Best Editing, Cinematography, Writing, Documentary, Fiction Film, and Best of the Fest. Each awardee received a plaque and an Amazon gift card, and all festival participants received an engraved “Oscar” trophy.


Notable Alumnus: Juno Zago

Juno Zago, a 2016 graduate of the CA Visual Arts program, curated “Catching up with the Class of 2012” as part of the Open Doors Citywide Arts Festival. The show opens October 19th and runs through November 11th.



Notable Alumna: Jen Ponton

Jen Ponton, a 2006 graduate of the CA Theater program, stars in “Love on the Run”, a film which was released in August, 2016. Jen Writes, “I star in this with the incandescent Frances Fisher, the badass and hilarious Steve Howey, and laugh riot Annaleigh Ashford. We made an incredible movie and I couldn’t be more delighted for it to be out in the world!”

You can check out Jen’s website here.

“Love on the Run” is ready to be seen on VOD and Digital: Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu, Hoopla, DirecTV and Dish Network.


Spring 2016

Notable Alumna: Lexi Lapp

Lexi Lapp, a 2014 graduate of the CA Theater program, has recently starred in an Off-Broadway production titledd “Stet”. To read the New York Times review of “Stet” please click here. The show finishes on July 10th, 2016.

Forum: What Does a Genuine Commitment to Diversity Look Like? – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Recent Contemporary Arts graduate, Vanna Garcia (2016), was amongst five individuals interviewed for an article in the May 20, 2016 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “Forum: What Does a Genuine Commitment to Diversity Look Like?” Alongside two professors, a College President, a University VP of Diversity, and a Senior Fellow at a progressive think tank, Vanna provided commentary on the title question. To view the article, please click the link below.

Source: Forum: What Does a Genuine Commitment to Diversity Look Like? – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Outstanding Achievement in DFL-Anthony Scalia

Senior DFL student Anthony Scalia’s film was accepted in the Project FX Student Film Festival in Red Bank, NJ in April of 2016. He also placed second for Best Film, winning more than $1000 in film equipment. To view Anthony’s winning film, click here. Scalia Winner


Tyler’s Suite Performance- April 2016

Irene Ryan Acting Award Winner

The Ramapo College Chorale, directed by Lisa Lutter, teamed up with the Ridgewood High School Choirs to perform “Tyler’s Suite”, at the West Side Presbyterian Church on Sunday, April 24, 2016. To view the full article at please click here.


Fall 2015

Irene Ryan Acting Award Winner

Occupied Space Staff


Lawrence James Hickmon won the Irene Ryan acting competition at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) for our region.   Together with his acting partner Sam Simone (Ramapo Theater ’15)  he will be heading to Washington DC, all expenses paid, to compete for the national award.

Photo taken by Eva Fazzari

Photo taken by Eva Fazzari