Alumni Spotlight

Discover the inspiring careers of our alumni who leveraged their University of Notre Dame degree to set in motion their success around the world. To share your story after graduation and embolden current students, please fill out this form.

Waleed Johnson

Waleed Johnson '15
Engineer, Ford Motor Company

An engineer by day [he develops mobile apps for Ford Motor Company] and artist by night, Johnson's work has been shown in galleries in Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. Johnson, who was a 2015 Reilly Scholar, also served as an officer of the Voices of Faith Gospel Choir. He received the 2015 Barbara H. Roche Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Painting, as well as the Mabel L. Mountain Painting Prize.

Johnson recently wrote an article for the International Review of African Art. [Read more...]

Samantha Coughlin

Samantha Coughlin '15
User Experience and Visual Designer, PodOp

Samantha Coughlin has spent the last two years at PodOp—a NYC startup focused on changing the way stories are crafted and experienced. Lead designer at a small shop, Sam works on designing interactive content and building tools to assist in the creation of complex narratives. Whether that’s exploring themes like empathy and perspective, viewer agency, or immersive engagement, her primary goal is creating “technology that furthers or enhances traditional storytelling.” Mosaic, an interactive app experience directed by Steven Soderbergh, was released in the fall in collaboration with HBO. It was featured by the App Store and Google PlayStore, and heralded by some as “the Most Innovative TV Series Maybe Ever” (Daily Beast, 2018). Bobby McKenna, '10 served as art director for the project. Outside of work, Sam helps run a small collective aimed at connecting new friends from their own extended networks and has served as a designer in residency for Columbia Business School.

Eileen Murphy

Eileen Murphy '14
Product Designer, New York Times

Eileen Murphy is a Product Designer at the New York Times specializing in video and virtual reality products across all Times' platforms and properties. Most recently, her team released The Daily 360, an unprecedented journalist endeavor to publish one new 360 virtual reality video on every platform each day for over a year. Eileen was the primary product designer for The Daily 360, creating an intuitive and cohesive watching experience across the NYT website, mobile site, iOS and Android native apps. 360 videos transport viewers directly to the center of the story; immersing them into the scene and allowing them to explore the surroundings for themselves. Watch for yourself.

Justin Schneider

Justin Schneider '11
Founder, Wolf & Shepherd

Justin Schneider, Industrial Design alum, was awarded the grand prize at the 2015 McCloskey Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Mendoza College of Business. His company, Wolf & Shepherd, creates high-end footwear with high-performance comfort. Justin also won the Irish Angels award, giving Wolf & Shepherd the opportunity to pitch its plan to 90+ Limited partners of VC firm with 67% of companies pitching receiving funding from asking price. Justin Schneider was also recognized in January 2017, as a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree in the retail and eCommerce industry.

Mary Cecilia Mitsch

Mary Cecilia Mitsch '10
Associate Director, Marianne Boesky Gallery

Mary Cecilia Mitsch is an Associate Director at Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City where she works with artists, exhibition management, and sales. Mary spent several years at David Zwirner Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in New York prior to accepting the new position. Mary Cecilia will specifically be co-directing a new gallery space that Marianne Boesky Gallery has opened on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Marianne Boesky Gallery represents some of the world's pre-eminent artists including Frank Stella, Rachel Feinstein, Sue de Beer and Anthony Pearson among many others. Mary Cecilia studied Graphic Design and Art History at Notre Dame. She graduated in 2010 and pursued her MA in Art History at Savannah College of Art & Design before moving to New York to pursue gallery management.

Will Mcleod

Will McLeod '09
Co-Founder and CPO, Keen Home Inc.

In 2007, while still at Notre Dame, Will McLeod became the inventor and later the founder of SmarterShade. SmarterShade, now owned by a new company and called VG glass, is a smartglass company that manufactures windows that can brighten and darken a room in response to light and temperature as well as be controlled by an app. After selling his 6 yearlong endeavor in 2013, McLeod cofounded the smart home products company, Keen Home, with which he is still heavily involved. From all of his successes and various other experiences in engineering and manufacturing, he is now cultivating his current project, a practical how to book, Mechanical Engineering for Hackers, which was released November 2015. Will was recognized in January 2016, as a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree in the manufacturing industry.

Mansour Ourasanah

Mansour Ourasanah '07
Senior Designer, Whirlpool's Advance Studio

Industrial Design alum Mansour Ourasanah was awarded the Vilcek Foundation’s Prize for Creative Promise in Design, recognizing immigrant contributions to the American arts and sciences. The Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Design complement the Vilcek Prize and are awarded to foreign-born individuals who have demonstrated exceptional achievements early in their careers.

Mansour Ourasanah is a senior designer for Whirlpool’s Advanced Studio in Chicago, where his role is to create innovative user-centric solutions for a new generation of global and hyper-connected consumers. His work focuses on the importance of storytelling in the design of products that address complex emotional and environmental challenges.

His project, LEPSIS: The Art of Growing Grasshoppers — a vessel that can be used to grow insects for food in efforts to promote sustainable meat production and consumption amongst urban populations — is one example of his achievements in the design arena. Ourasanah was born in Togo.

Alexis Belis

Alexis Belis '00
Assistant Curator in the Department of Antiquities, J. Paul Getty Museum

Alexis Belis arrived at Notre Dame with a plan. Following in her father’s footsteps, she was ready to major in physics, tackle the requirements for medical school, and become a doctor. Today, she is an assistant curator in the Department of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Eager to get started on her physics and pre-med courses her first semester, Belis unsuccessfully tried to opt out of the University’s fine arts course requirement. She nearly missed her true calling. “That first fine arts survey course changed everything,” Belis said. “It turned out I wasn’t nearly as excited about or interested in my physics courses.” Instead, Belis quickly became enamored with the ancient architecture the class explored with Associate Professor Robin Rhodes. “I love architecture because I like puzzles and how they fit together,” she said. “Robin’s class was very much looking at how buildings fit together." Belis received her BA in art history and music from the University of Notre Dame in 2000, and her PhD in the field of classical archaeology from Princeton University in 2015. [Read more...]

Julie Farstad

Julie Farstad '97
Professor of Painting, Kansas City Art Institute

Julie Farstad is a Professor of Painting, and Chair of the Painting Department at the Kansas City Art Institute. She works in oil, watercolors, and quilted fabric paintings that explore girlhood, mysticism, and landscape. Born and raised in Elmira, New York, Farstad earned a BFA in Painting from the University of Notre Dame in 1997, and an MFA in Painting from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2000. Her work is represented by Zg Gallery in Chicago, Illinois. Farstad has exhibited her work nationally, with solo shows most recently at Zg Gallery, Plug Projects in Kansas City, Missouri, and Studios Inc. in Kansas City. She was awarded a three-year residency at The Studios Inc. in Kansas City in 2010 and her work was exhibited in Women to Watch 2010, Body of Work: New Perspectives in Figure Painting at the National Museum for Women in Arts in Washington, D.C. Julie Farstad lives in Kansas City with her husband and two children.

Katie Hazard

Katie Hazard '97
Program Manager, Burning Man Arts

Katie Hazard, ’97, is currently the Program Manager for Burning Man Arts in Black Rock City, NV. When asked as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up, she never dreamed that could be an option. Burning Man Arts, through art grants, mentorship, and art management programs, supports the creation of impactful, interactive artwork around the world. Black Rock City is home to the annual Burning Man Festival.

While at Notre Dame, Katie received a B.A. in art history, took gender studies courses, worked in the AAHD slide library (back when they used slides), and received the department’s annual Allan and Radwan Riley Award in art history in her senior year for her undergraduate thesis paper. Hazard’s career path first led her to work with museums including the Art Institute of Chicago, and then as Senior Grants Manager at Harvard University for 10 years, specializing in international women’s health. While living in Boston she was an operating partner in a community artist space and organized an arts festival in Vermont.

Katie Hazard started attending the Burning Man Festival in 2000, and volunteered for ten years before joining the staff in 2013. Her perspective on art was transformed. Katie’s years at Notre Dame gave her a solid foundation in art history and the ability to interpret the visual landscape anew. As a lifelong museumgoer, it was a shock to be able to touch the art, to climb on it, and to have no labels or for every work to have personal meaning. What seemed like a one-off festival trip turned into eighteen years of dedication to the mission of changing the paradigm of art from a gallery object to an interactive, participatory, shared experience of creative expression.

As Program Manager for Burning Man Arts, she manages and serves on the committee which awards grant funding to artists, she directs art management processes and staff emphasizing community engagement, partners with organizations to install Burning Man art globally, and she curates the annual placement of 400 art installations.

Adam Fung

Adam Fung MFA '08
Associate Professor of Painting, Texas Christian University

In the few moments of downtime between juggling his studio art practice, parenting, and teaching painting, Adam Fung has had frightening, haunting visions of a world without ice. Since creating a film centered around the concept that “nature is a construct that distances us from our own planet changing actions”, he has turned his attention towards re-creating images from his encounters in the Arctic. Fung’s upcoming solo show Iceberg X, at Ro2 Art in Dallas, Texas, finds the artist and professor returning to polar-related topics. These land, ice, and seascapes conclude with a jarring X laid semi-transparently over the surface, a disruption of the illusionary image. Fung’s interest in the changing planet was solidified when the University of Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters generously funded his travel to Antarctica for research related to his MFA thesis exhibition. Fung has been traveling the world for inspiration ever since, visiting Panama, Austria, Norway, Australia, and Japan among others. Recently, Fung has been pursuing research interests in Iceland and the high Arctic (as a member of the 2016 Arctic Circle summer solstice artist residency and expedition) that include landscape painting, using technology and drones to create a film, memory, and mapping, and using visual art to discuss climate change. Adam Fung is an assistant professor of painting at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas. Fung holds an MFA in painting from the University of Notre Dame and a BFA in painting from Western Washington University. Frequent updates, more information, and new work can be found at

Tarrah Krajnak

Tarrah Krajnak MFA '04
Associate Professor of Art, Pitzer College

Tarrah Krajnak was born in Lima, Peru in 1979. She received her MFA in Photography from the University of Notre Dame in 2004. Krajnak is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA. Her previous teaching positions include the University of Vermont and Cornell University. Krajnak is an active artist and has exhibited nationally and internationally at Honor Fraser Gallery, Houston Center for Photography, SUR Biennial Los Angeles, Silver Eye Center for Photography, Center for Photography Woodstock, San Francisco Camerawork, Philadelphia Photographic Arts Center, The Print Center, Art London, Art Basel Miami, The National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, and Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books. Her work has appeared in both print and online magazines including the LA Review of Books, Nueva Luz, and Camerawork. She received grants from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Arizona Commission on the Arts, and was awarded an emerging artist grant from the Harpo Foundation in 2018. Her solo exhibition 1979: Contact Negatives at as-is Gallery in Los Angeles was recently an Artforum critics' pick and was reviewed in Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles in April 2019. She has a forthcoming monograph with TBW books which reconfigures Ansel Adam's The Making of 40 Photographs into a commentary on her own place within the history of photography as a woman of color.

Jennifer Dasal

Jennifer Dasal MA '04
Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, North Carolina Museum of Art

Jennifer Dasal has created an art & art history-themed podcast titled ArtCurious. Dasal launched ArtCurious last summer and releases new episodes every two weeks. “I’m hoping to give more of an interesting spin to art history,” Dasal says, putting historical stories in a modern-day context and weaving in interesting parallels and side notes. For example, “the very first episode that I did was about the thefts/forgeries/possible falsehood of the Mona Lisa-- that actually stemmed from a story that I heard from one of my professors at the University of California, Davis, where I did my undergraduate work. She was convinced that the Mona Lisa on view at the Louvre was fake. I thought that was such a strange idea, so I wanted to dig into the work’s background (particularly in the 20th century) and learn more. And that started it all.”