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Ashley Cooper, 2026 MFA Candidate (Arts Leadership) is an Arts Administrator from Gaffney, SC who graduated with a B.A. in Performing Arts - Theater from Clemson University. As a life-long theater practitioner, her production experience ranges from actor, stage combatant, props artisan and stage manager. Since moving to an administrative role, she has worked to support teaching, technical, and performance artists with logistical, financial and community support and seen the challenges the industry faces at a community and regional level. Having held positions such as Assistant Company Manager (Utah Shakespeare Festival) and Operations Coordinator (Brooks Center for the Performing Arts), she is excited to embark on graduate studies to pursue solutions to the financial and cultural issues facing industry professionals to maintain the viability of our industry. Ashley is excited to focus her research on non-profit funding models, sustainable business practices for the entertainment sector and the vital role arts and community organizations play in public revitalization.

Liz Gray, 2025 MFA Candidate (Arts Leadership)
Liz Gray is a candidate for her MFA in Arts Leadership and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit and Nongovernmental Organization Management at Virginia Tech. Previously, she attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (Stella Adler Studio, BFA Theatre), The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (London, Certificate), and The Upright Citizens Brigade (NYC). 

Liz has been an arts educator, improviser, director, actor, administrator, and adjudicator in schools, theatres, and competitions across the country. Over the past few years, she held the positions of Communications Director and Company Manager for the Colorado-based Merely Players theatre company, while also teaching on the faculty in the Performing Arts Department at Fort Lewis College. She is an instructor and project manager with Virginia Tech’s Center for Communicating Science and recently presented at the National Conference for In Vitro Biology. She has also presented her research on endowments and city-nonprofit funding relationships to several boards of directors. Liz is currently the Director of Development for the nonprofit theatre company, Backyard Stages, based in New York City; and, is a member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals.

Liz is passionate about the communication of science and research to non-scientists, multi-modal educational practices, aesthetic accessibility, lateralized leadership, generative board governance, and providing platforms for underrepresented theatrical work. All of this is to say… funny faces are her job.

Vincent Maluwa, 2025 MFA Candidate (Arts Leadership) is an arts administrator from Malawi, Africa. He graduated with a B.A.H majoring in drama from the University of Malawi. Vincent is currently a Mentee in the inaugural cohort of the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) Mentorship Program supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and he is also an Alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), a U.S. Department of State's premier professional exchange program.

Vincent has served in the arts and culture sector in various capacities such as researcher, cultural translator, festival producer, curator, music school administrator, facilitator, theatre director, actor, and judge for the Teaching of English in Malawi (ATEM) Drama Festival. He has also worked with diplomatic missions in Malawi. This past summer, he was tutoring with Virginia Tech’s Center for Refugee, Migration, and Displacement Studies. He also attended the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) Conference. Vincent's commitment to his field is further demonstrated through his membership in the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) and the National Organization for Arts in Health (NOAH). Vincent is passionate about non-governmental organizations and development, the intersection of arts and displacement, arts and health, arts and social justice, peacebuilding, and creative placemaking.