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Two U. of I. alumni named to Luce Scholars Program

6/5/2012 | Madeline Ley, News Bureau intern | 217-333-1085;

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Two University of Illinois alumni are among 18 young scholars nationwide to be named to the Luce Scholars Program.

The program, an initiative of the Henry Luce Foundation, provides full stipends and internships for recipients to live and work in Asia. The purpose of the program, which began in 1974, is to increase Asian awareness among future leaders in American society. Luce candidates are nominated from 75 colleges and universities. Nominations are based on a candidate’s record of high achievement, outstanding leadership ability, and a clearly defined career interest with evidence of potential for professional accomplishment. Applicants must not have had significant prior experience in Asia.

The U. of I. alumni recipients are Daniel Rudin, of Cissna Park, Ill., who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in May 2006 in industrial design, and Renata Sheppard, of Cape Charles, Va., a May 2007 recipient of a master of fine art degree in dance performance and choreography.

Rudin grew up in the blue-collar community of Cissna Park, Ill., where his early exposure to labor issues influenced the trajectory of his career. He earned his associate’s degree in fine arts from Parkland College before transferring to Illinois to study industrial design with the goal of preventing work-related accidents. After receiving his BFA, Rudin began specializing in video production, using his knowledge from design to emphasize the body and its living spaces. His video often addresses work-related problems, using labor abuses of the black market as subject matter. In 2006, Rudin traveled through Central America to document parallels between chemical application in Central America banana cultivation and Midwest agricultural production. In 2007, he collaborated on a documentary dealing with issues of education, gentrification and youth incarceration stemming from the Chicago Plan for Transformation. The documentary became the basis for a peer-to-peer mentoring group.

In 2008, he returned to Central America to make a video on subsistence scavenging. The initiative turned into a short video, “El Fortín,” and became the basis for a fundraising project to donate transportation, roofing and business funds to the video’s subjects. In 2009, he began work toward a master of fine arts degree in studio arts at the University of Texas, where he was subsequently nominated for the Luce Scholars Program. He has continued work with the local homeless community to produce videos, TV reports and panel discussions. Rudin will spend his Luce Scholar year working with the social media organization and will continue his documentary filmmaking in the Philippines.

Sheppard is an interdisciplinary dance artist with formal training in theater, music and visual arts. She creates work for stage and screen. Her focus on interactive systems began by creating experimental Dance for Camera films and working as a researcher from 2007-2009 in the tele-immersive environments lab in the U. of I. department of computer science. In the lab, she developed a technology-based dance composition course and presented the tele-immersive system throughout the U.S., as well as in Canada and Germany. Sheppard completed a Fulbright Grant in Italy at the Virtual Reality and Multi Media Park’s Allied Sciences Arts Lab and received funding to continue a second year as the director and choreographer of FraMESHift, an evening length show scheduled for July 12. Sheppard also is leading Reviva!, an international summer workshop series at Arts Enter in Cape Charles, Va.

Sheppard continues developing performance and research with international collaborators, including the Liverpool-based Planet Arts Exchange. Supported by various funding, including the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the U.S./Italy Fulbright Commission and the U.S. Embassy, her choreography has been presented throughout the United States and in India, Italy and Germany. She has performed in works by Chamecki/Lerner, Merce Cunningham, David Parker and Sara Hook, and others. Her dance film, “The Wait of Gravity,” was an official selection at the 2011 San Francisco Dance Film Festival and New York’s SLAM Motion in Media Dance Film Festival, among others. The Luce Foundation has placed Sheppard with the Taipei National University for the Arts in Taiwan. Prior to leaving for Taiwan in the fall, Sheppard will receive intensive language training in Mandarin.

“What a remarkable year for arts candidates from Illinois,” said David Schug, a co-director of the U. of I. National and International Scholarships Program. “The Luce Scholars Program is open to young stars from every discipline, so the fact that two were selected with ties to our College of Fine and Applied Arts is a real coup for the university.”

Schug said his office is recruiting applicants for 2013-14 awards from among Illinois students and recent alumni. The application deadline is Sept. 26. For more information, contact Schug at 217-333-4710.

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