UTeach Fine Arts Student Advisory Council

“Be a Leader! Take the initiative to organize things you’d like to do. Treat the people around you with respect and have enthusiasm when interacting with others. Keep working hard toward your goals, refining your skills and never give up!” Matthew Chan, B.A. Biology, B.M. Music Studies, 2016

The Council is a group of students enrolled in COFA’s UTeach Fine Arts programs in Art, Dance, Music, and Theatre. Fine Arts faculty appoint students to the Council. Members give feedback and advice to the Associate Dean of Fine Arts Education. They also plan and host activities that allow students to meet their colleagues and faculty from other departments and schools within the college preparation programs. In addition, the Council created opportunities for students to gain connections and opportunities to advance their careers after graduation.

Members of the Council:

Grace Bohn – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Education, 2021

Headshot of Grace Bohn, UTeach THeatre studentGrace attended Pearland High School in Pearland, TX. She loves both theatre and teaching, so it seemed only logical that she combines the two and pursue Theatre Education. She has been acting since she was 6 months old and has loved exploring every aspect of the theatrical world ever since.

“It’s a rigorous process and you only get out of it what you put into it, but seeing a child’s face as they experience the magic of something you’ve had a part in creating is unlike anything else. I can’t get enough of it.”

To new students entering the program, Grace says “don’t give up. Some days will feel impossible to get through and sometimes it will seem as if it’s thankless work, but it matters infinitely”

Cellise Brown – UTeach Dance, B.F.A. Dance, 2022

Photo of UTeach Dance student Cellise Brown

Cellise attended Obra D. Tompkins High School in Katy, TX. Growing up she had several inspiring dance teachers, but sadly also had some dance teachers that made continuing to love the art form very challenging for her. Cellise’s confidence was knocked down, her presence and attentive attitude felt as though it was being taken for granted. This led her to feel as though she wasn’t good enough to pursue dance as a profession.  Having experienced these different teaching methods, she soon realized that she wanted to help make a change in the way dance is taught to young boys and girls and be the teacher that inspires young dancers to be the best version of themselves!

“Take in everything each of your professors has to offer. Notice the things you like about their class and what helps you most! And take advantage of the amazing artistic opportunities Austin has to offer.”


Deja Criston – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Education 2022 – Council Co-Chair

Photo of Deja Criston

Deja attended Cornerstone Christian Schools in San Antonio, TX. Theatre Education specifically introduced her to the importance of self-confidence, collaboration, trust, and social awareness.  Deja believes that teachers have this wonderful way of planting seeds of greatness within us, to bring out our total potential and that being a teacher is a huge responsibility; every day they are given the power to influence and inspire while being a vessel of compassion to help students achieve goals. 

“The legacy of my teachers will forever live in me through the life lessons I have learned, the memories we have made, and the love that has been shared. This type of legacy and inspiration is something I hope to ensue on my future students.”

“Opportunities, connections, and personal growth are all things that I have gained in my time in the Theatre Studies program. I was graciously welcomed into UT’s COFA community where I have been able to express and strengthen my craft with supportive and encouraging individuals.”

“To anyone considering entering the field of fine arts education I would say never stop learning, be confident in yourself, and take risks. With any fine arts path people are going to doubt you and tell you to have a backup plan but when you’re actively pursuing what you love all no one can stop you. Plenty of opportunities are coming your way so don’t be afraid to take on new challenges, you never know what you’re capable of until you try it. You are going to experience a lot of negative and positive influential voices but just remember that your happiness is a priority.”

Lindsay Edwards – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Education, 2022


Juan Angel Leyva – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Studies, 2020 – Council Co-Chair

Photo of Juan Leyva

Juan became interested in teaching in the seventh grade when his oldest sister who directed a summer theatre program had him lead warm-ups and run scenes. His passion really grew in his freshman year of high school as he helped middle school students with diction and acting techniques. By his senior year, he knew this is what he wanted to do.  He graduated from Pharr San-Juan Alamo Early College High School, located in the Rio Grande Valley.

“The UTeach Theatre program here at COFA has really pushed me to view things differently. It has pushed me to think at a higher level and has inspired me to want to make a difference in the world.”

“Trust the process and be open to change. Let your experience here in the UTeach program challenge your current way of thinking. If you keep an open mind and you are willing to learn, you will gain the most out of this program and grow even more as a person.”

Tori Loper- UTeach Dance, B.F.A. Dance, Minor in Business, 2021

Photo of Tori Loper

Tori attended Westwood High School in Round Rock, Texas, where her experience with the drill team and visual & performing arts program, as well as her dance studio’s pre-professional competitive company, inspired her to become a teacher. Through various opportunities for teaching and choreographing in these environments, Tori felt a deep connection with sharing her experiences and passions for dance with others.

“The Dance Program helped me find a community within such a big campus. This program has provided me so many opportunities to find myself and what I stand for as an artist that I hope to bring into my future as an educator. Trust the process and be confident in yourself.”

A.J. Marks – UTeach Music, B.M. Music Studies, Instrumental Emphasis, 2022

A.J. attended LASA High School in Austin, Texas, where he had many teaching and leadership opportunities within his middle and high school band, as well as the encouragement of educators and musicians around him, which led him to pursue arts education further.

“The Music Studies program provides students with opportunities to develop not only as impactful educators but also as artists. Between the teaching preparation/practice and the musicianship crafted alongside driven and talented students and professors, I could not feel more certain of my path in arts education.”

To new students entering the field, “be open to new opportunities that may intimidate you at first. The UTeach program will stretch your comfort zone and it is in this uncertainty that you will learn the most.”


Daniela Martinez – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Education, 2021

UTeach Art student Daniela Martinez

Daniela attended Keystone School in San Antonio, Texas, where the visual arts program was not fully developed. She was the first in her school to send out an AP art portfolio and was also in the school’s first group to participate in a Visual Arts Scholarship Event (VASE) competition. In addition to helping strengthen participation in the arts at her school, she has been a camp counselor at the “Summer at the Academy” program since 2013, helping out with arts programs, which ultimately led her to fall in love with art education.

“Having the ability to give students a positive outlet is extremely rewarding for me, and being able to encourage and provide a safe space to create is an important part of my mission as an art educator.”

Indya McKnight – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Education, 2022

Photo of Indya McKnight

While attending Byron P. Steele II High School in Cibolo, TX, Indya felt as though she was extremely blessed to have the experiences that she did within her high school theatre department. She was challenged, supported, accepted, and loved. She believes that all-in-all it was her peers and director that led her to seek teacher preparation. For Indya, it was as simple as hearing them say that they thought she would be a great theatre teacher that pushed her to choose this field of focus. Theatre is what makes her happiest and it only makes sense to continue pursuing it for the rest of her life.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time in the Studies program at COFA thus far! We have some amazing classes, programs and events offered to us, as well as really wonderful staff and faculty members! I’m so grateful to have been a part of some really amazing projects and events, I look forward to what the future has in store!”

I would advise new students to take advantage of every opportunity they are offered, try new things, and take risks! Don’t
be afraid to put yourself out there and always ask questions!”

Benjamin Montero – UTeach Theatre,  B.F.A. Theatre Studies, 2020           

Photo of Benjamin Montero

Ben started theater classes in his sophomore year at Robert R. Vela High School in Edinburg, Texas. The high school theatre director mentored him and provided support. He has always wanted to teach. After an emotional scene in performance during his senior year, he knew that theatre would become his life’s passion. At COFA, he has gotten to collaborate with and befriend many talented people who come together to make art and unite to make stories come to life. For Ben, the professors are great people who have provided enlightenment.

“In just a little over a year, I have learned more about theatre and more about myself than I have in all the rest of my life. Being at UT has just reassured me that I am in the right profession.”

“Take every opportunity you can, and take those seriously as well. That is how you will make connections that will later benefit you in ways you cannot even imagine.”


Leslie Tang – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Education, 2021

Photo of UTeach Art student Leslie Tang

Leslie attended Heritage High School in Frisco, TX. The positive push that her high school art teacher provided, the fun challenge of creating art, and the great atmosphere of her high school art class made her seek teacher preparation so she could create such a teaching environment for future students.

“The UTeach Art program has enriched my own thoughts about teaching and how to reach a deeper understanding about the ways to teach art. From creating my own art to teaching out on the field, I can see that there are endless possibilities for educating students about making their own artwork.”

“Don’t give up. There are multiple opportunities waiting for you. All you need is to reach out and grab them.”


Nathan Tran – UTeach Theatre, BFA Theatre Education, 2022

Photo of Nathan Tran, UTeach Theatre student

Nathan attended Plano East Senior High School in Plano, TX. Having the opportunity to direct his own show as a senior in high school made him fall in love with teaching theatre. Also just having such inspiring theatre teachers that really impacted his life made him want to do the same for future generations. Nathan wants to impact people’s lives with the theatre.

“This has probably been the best experience I’ve ever had in my life. The people I have met in this major have become my best friends and my family, to me that’s what makes theatre so special, the bonds you make with the people you meet. Being in this program has just made me excited for the future and to become a teacher.”

“I would advise new students to take care of yourself, it’s very easy to be swept up in the college life and having busy schedules, but be sure to allow time to practice self-care, hang out with your friends, and please sleep. That being said, I would also advise new students to take the opportunity to experience everything from being in shows to just hanging out with your friends on a weeknight. Really just live in the moment and be present because soon the college years will be over and you’ll look back at your time here at UT and as a Studies major and think of it as the best years of your life.”

Stone Wang – UTeach Music, B.M. Music Studies, Instrumental Emphasis, 2020

photo of Stone Wang Stone attended William P. Clements High School. He’s dreamed of being a music educator since the 7th grade. Having so many meaningful performances and experiences as an aspiring musician has made him want to make that possible for other students in the future. Music shaped the path of his life and he wishes to create that kind of positive impact on others.

“UT’s Music Studies program has enriched my life through many different aspects of music and learning, from the range of music performed by ensembles to the brilliant preparation for teaching provided by professors. It is an experience unique to the Butler School of Music.”