Ashley Cooper, 2026 MFA Candidate (Arts Leadership)
Ashley 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)
Vincent Maluwa is an Arts Manager from Malawi, Africa. He graduated with B.A.H in Drama from the University of Malawi. Vincent is an Alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), a U.S. Department of State's premier professional exchange program. For the past 10 years, he has worked in the Arts and Culture sector in Africa in various capacities such as: actor, director, researcher, cultural translator, festival producer, curator and music school administrator. He has also worked with Diplomatic Missions in Malawi. Elated to be at Virginia Tech, Vincent is looking forward to building his capacity in arts leadership and network with like-minded artists. He intends to use the body of knowledge that he will amass to transform and grow the creative industry in Malawi.
Ashley Pope, 2024 MFA Candidate (Arts Leadership) is from Birmingham, Alabama where she graduated from Samford University with a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre. She has previously held positions such as music, voice, and theatre teacher, assistant business manager, and graduate assistant for companies such as Red Mountain Theatre, Samford Academy of the Arts, Mason Music Studios, College Light Opera Company, and Moss Arts Center. She has also worked as an actor and host for The Dinner Detective in Birmingham as well as performed in numerous shows within her local community. This past summer, she was the Nonprofit Management and Organizational Development Intern at Wonder Universe and the Assistant Director for the Blacksburg Summer Arts Festival. Ashley is thrilled to be starting her final year at Virginia Tech. She looks forward to gaining new experiences and further developing her skills in order to play a vital leadership role in keeping art organizations vibrant and allowing artists to continue to positively impact the world through visual and performing arts.