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A&S Magazine Fall 2019

College People: Award for Projects in the Arts

From stages in London and North Carolina to a community health center in South Africa, three Arts & Sciences students are working with their muses, thanks to grants from the University Award fo

By: Matt Kelly

College People: Award for Projects in the Arts

From stages in London and North Carolina to a community health center in South Africa, three Arts & Sciences students are working with their muses, thanks to grants from the University Award for Projects in the Arts program.

Third-year drama major Payton Moledor is studying classical acting this fall at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art; fourth-year drama major Heidi Waldenmaier attended the Amer-ican Dance Festival in Durham, North Carolina, this summer; and fourth-year English and cognitive science major Samuel Wilson reported on tuberculosis outside Cape Town this summer.

Modeled on the University of Virginia's Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards, the University Undergraduate Award for Arts Projects gives selected students up to $3,000 for projects that expand their creative expression and showcase artistic accomplishments.

“These awards recognize the creative work of our students in the UVA arts community,” said Brian Cullaty, director of UVA’s Office of Undergraduate Research. “The funding provides them with a means to explore creative expression and showcase their significant accomplishments in the arts.”

This year's projects are funded by the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Vice Provost for the Arts.


Payton Moledor, of Roanoke, Virginia, was scheduled to study classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, or LAMDA, for three months this fall.

“This scholarship makes possible a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study classical acting at its birthplace,” Moledor said. “London is one of the largest theatrical centers in the world, and being exposed to the greatest performers and plays of my generation will give me a unique chance to research theater in an immersive way that isn’t available at UVA.”

In addition to her theatrical training, Moledor plans on attending performances at the West End, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the National Theatre. She will perform in three classical plays at LAMDA over the course of three months.

Marianne Kubik, associate professor and head of movement in the Department of Drama, said that Moledor is a serious student of theater performance.

“She selected UVA for its academic rigor, interdisciplinary focus, and encouragement of training in the arts,” Kubik said. “As soon as she arrived on Grounds, Payton sought opportunities to develop her acting and singing skills and participate in our theater community. This was how Payton introduced herself to UVA drama, and she’s been an active member of our community since.”

Moledor is a J. Sanford Miller Family Arts Scholar in Drama and co-president of the Virginia Players, a student group within the Department of Drama. She is also the publicity manager for First Year Players, a committee member on the UVA Student Council Arts Committee, and a social media student worker at the University Communications Office.

Moledor plans to pursue theatrical performance professionally after graduation and eventually seek a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting. 

HEIDI WALDENMAIER | Drama Major, Dance Minor

In addition to her drama major, Heidi Waldenmaier, of Onancock, Virginia, is pursuing a minor in dance. While attending the American Dance Festival this summer, she was scheduled to spend five weeks participating in classes, workshops, and performances in a variety of disciplines.

“ADF will help me become a more skilled dancer and learn about dance disciplines from different cultures and backgrounds,” she said last spring. “I plan on interviewing artists, recording my experience, and using the new techniques I will have learned at the festival to create a dance piece for the UVA Fall Dance Concert 2019.”

A Miller Arts Scholar, Waldenmaier is a member of The Whethermen, an improvisational comedy troupe. She is a graduate of Nandua High School and plans a career as a performer.

Kim Brooks Mata, associate professor and head and artistic director of dance, described Waldenmaier as a bright, motivated and insightful dancer and student. Mata predicted that Waldenmaier’s summer experience would broaden her horizons.

“Ms. Waldenmaier’s time at the American Dance Festival will provide her with unique opportunities to deepen her practice, gain exposure to new forms, and engage multiple practicing professional dance artists through their teaching and creative work,” Mata said.

SAMUEL WILSON | English and Cognitive Science Major

A Gloucester, Virginia, native, Samuel Wilson worked in the Khayelitsha Community Health Clinic outside of Cape Town, South Africa, where he hoped to do journalistic research into tuberculosis, a leading cause of death there.

The project combined two of Wilson’s interests: writing and medicine. Working in the clinic would allow him to gain clinical experience and develop a more globalized view of health care, while working on a planned feature article would help him advance his skills as a writer and journalist.

“I am writing a long-story, feature article on the tuberculosis crisis in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa,” he said last spring. “I will be interviewing physicians, patients, and nongovernmental organization health care workers on their perspective as to why the curable disease has continued to plague the country for several years and how they view the effectiveness of new treatment regimens.”

Wilson is a member of the Peer Health Educators; the Undergraduate Research Network; and Nu Rho Psi, the National Honor Society in Neuroscience. A research assistant in the Social Neuroscience Lab, Wilson is a recipient of the Sydney Elizabeth Owens Memorial Award, which funds a transformative experience for an undergraduate student; the Charles H. Koch Award, for students involved in foreign affairs; and the Wagenheim Award, for the best short story by an undergraduate English major. 

Wilson plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in neurology while continuing to develop as a writer.

Elizabeth Denton, director of the area program in literary prose and an assistant professor of creative writing, said Wilson has an energetic commitment to both medicine and writing.

“Sam wants to be a doctor, and although I can’t speak to his academic achievement in regard to medicine, I can speak to his strong ability to empathize with others; his sensitivity to his classmates’ work and to literature; his alert and wise presence in class, with comments that are thoughtful and insightful; and his determination to become a doctor and a writer in order to help underserved communities gain and maintain access to fundamental medical assistance.”


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