School of Art and Design senior wins Provost's award for undergraduate research

As a graduating senior, learning she had won an award from IU's Office of the Provost for her undergraduate research was the perfect way for fashion design student Marley Isaacson to end her collegiate career.

On May 6, she will be awarded her undergraduate degree from the School of Art and Design knowing that she made the most of her four years at Indiana University.

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Marley Isaacson works on her designs in a studio inside Kirkwood Hall. Photo by Chaz Mottinger, IU Communications

"No matter what you're passionate about, you can definitely find opportunities here on campus to take it all the way and learn as much as you can," said Isaacson, who is from Northbrook, Illinois.

And for her, that passion is fashion design.

She spent a lot of time as a young girl sketching in her notebooks, but it wasn't until she took a design course in high school that Isaacson realized her calling. She considered several fashion design schools, but IU won her over for its hands-on and well-known fashion design program with the bonus of a Big Ten campus atmosphere.

Isaacson enrolled in IU's introductory merchandising and design course during her first semester on campus. Deb Christiansen, a senior lecturer in the School of Art and Design, spent eight weeks of the course covering careers in fashion design. Isaacson recognized her passion for fashion design right away, and Christiansen would become one of her biggest mentors throughout the next four years.

In fact, Christiansen is the one who encouraged Isaacson to apply and nominated her for the Provost's Award for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, which Isaacson won in the Performing and Creative Arts category. Her application detailed her process competing in the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund's Geoffrey Beene Case Study Competition, for which she researched sustainable initiatives in the fashion industry. She was tasked with designing a sustainable product for a mass-market retailer, keeping in mind the company's objectives and target market. Isaacson was a top-four finalist, winning $30,000 in scholarship money.

"Being selected for this award is so surreal for me," Isaacson said. "When I applied, I really never thought that it would get to that point. It's really cool as a senior to be able to show the provost and the school what I've been doing and to have that be recognized."

In her time at IU, Isaacson has experienced the merger of the former apparel merchandising and design program into the newly formed School of Art and Design. She was chosen to speak at the April rededication of the school's new space in Kirkwood Hall.

"The new school is going to be so amazing for students interested in merchandising, design and art," she said. "I find the cross-disciplinary classes especially interesting, such as woodshop and 3-D printing. These are things I've never done before, and it's cool to take those types of principles and apply them in my design work."

Isaacson said it was helpful to her merchandising and design background to be in class with interior design or studio art students to learn to think about things differently.

After graduation, Isaacson will begin a full-time job designing for Macy's in New York City.

Meet the other four IU Bloomington students who were also named recipients:

  • Katherine Blake

    Katherine Blake was nominated for the award by her mentor, Kelly Berkson, assistant professor in the Department of Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences, for her honors thesis, "Rhoticity in Cajun French." (Rhotics are "r-like" sounds such as the consonant at the end of the word "four"; in many languages, rhotics affect the sound of the vowel that occurs before them.)

    "Katie Blake is a student who approaches life with a winning combination of passion, enthusiasm, keen intellect and unparalleled competence," Berkson wrote in her nomination letter. "She is a promising young scholar with an intense work ethic and a commitment to striving for excellence. She craves interaction, thrives when challenged and is hungry to learn more about the world."

    After graduation, Blake will continue her studies in one of the linguistics Ph.D. programs to which she has been admitted.

  • Hannah Busey

    Hannah Busey was nominated by her mentor, Armin Moczek, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology, for her paper "Conservation, Innovation, and Bias; Embryonic Segment Boundaries Position Posterior, but Not Anterior, Head Horns in Adult Beetles."

    Busey initially worked in Moczek's lab as a high school student as part of a summer internship program. She joined his lab the fall of her freshman year and has since been a permanent member of his research group.

    "Hannah's skills and talents, the way she approaches challenges and opportunities, and the quality and significance of her work thus far are all indicative of an exceptionally promising career in academia," Moczek wrote.

  • Nathan Manworren

    Nathan Manworren was nominated by his mentor, Angie Raymond, Department of Business Law and Ethics at the Kelley School of Business, for his thesis, "Why you should care about the Target data breach." He led a team of two other students to draft the academic paper, which involved researching the legal issues and implications of the 2013 data breach.

    "During months of discussions, research, editing and revision, Mr. Manworren worked tirelessly to learn about the legal issues and the technology that led to the breach," Raymond wrote. "I have worked with many students over the years, and Mr. Manworren is, without a doubt, one of the hardest-working, articulate and reflective individuals."

    Since the publication, he has continued working with Raymond on academic publications and is part of a group of students working to develop a conflict resolution app for the IU community.

  • Catherine Xu

    Catherine Xu was nominated by her mentor, Christoph Irmscher, Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, for her essay "Tracks in the Snow," published in the second volume of the Indiana University Journal for Undergraduate Research.

    The essay is based on artist and environmental activist Subhankar Banerjee's 2000 trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to photograph polar bears. The work explores a number of threads regarding Banerjee's artistic journey from descriptive to interpretive work, including the role of politics in Banerjee's evolution as an artist and environmental activist and comparisons of his different publications over time.

    "Catherine, who is a very accomplished photographer herself, was interested in Banerjee's aesthetic choices and the placement of his images both in his exhibitions and books," Irmscher wrote. "Tracing his development as an artist, Catherine was able to show how Banerjee's aesthetic delight in stark landscapes gradually morphed into political commitment, a narrative that she supported by interviewing the artist himself."

The Provost's Award for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity originated in 2010 to recognize undergraduates who collaborate on or spearhead excellent or original academic work. Students are nominated by professors and are then selected by a committee of administrators and faculty. IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel presented the awards at a reception March 31 at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.