Presidential Scholars

Posted by Brandi Engel on

Each year our faculty select exemplary students who not only hold themselves to high artistic and academic standards but are also aware of the impact they make on the world.


Alyssa Zamora.Alyssa Zamora, who is graduating with a BFA in music theatre performance and a minor in family science. She is a Foundation Scholar at Western Michigan University, a full merit-based scholarship awarded to students who have demonstrated immense resilience. She is also a member of the Lee Honors College, a Zack L. York Scholar, and is a two-time Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholar sponsored once by the Walt Disney Company and sponsored another time by NBC Universal. In 2019, Alyssa went on a Theatre Intensive Study Abroad to England where she studied Shakespeare and physical theatre. Alyssa has spent time as a Teacher’s Assistant at WMU and is most proud of her work as a Teaching Artist with Education For the Arts, teaching at elementary schools throughout Kalamazoo county. 

After graduation, Alyssa will be attending the Radiant School of Ministry in Kalamazoo. She is passionate about using theatre for improving family life and educating youth and she looks forward to channeling these passions in missions and serving others. While her main areas of study include singing, acting, and dancing, she is especially excited about directing live theatre and films, including assistant directing WMU’s spring production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. 

She is so thankful for the incredible honors and awards she has received and is so excited to give back to the people and communities that got her where she is today. 

Ben Marshall.Ben Marshall is graduating with a BFA in Acting. This August after graduation, Ben is moving to New York City where he can begin his post-collegiate professional career. Ben has had the opportunity to perform at various regional theaters and summerstocks throughout his four years of training at WMU such as, Thunder Bay Theater, Timber Lake Playhouse, and Clinton Area Showboat. Pre-pandemic, Ben was contracted to perform in Farmers Alley Theatre’s summer season of Bright Star and High Fidelity, but was unable due to COVID-19. While at Western, Ben performed in various mainstage productions including: Fish In the Dark(Stewie), Shakespeare in Love(Henslowe), Guys and Dolls(Nicely-Nicely Johnson), Amadeus(Van Swieten), Restoration Comedy(Various), and was cast this past year in Something Rotten(Nick Bottom), which was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19. This summer Ben will be performing in WMU’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as William Barfeé, as well as Farmers Alley Theater’s summer productions of Backyard Broadway.




Kimberly Barrett.Kimberly Barrett is from Kalamazoo, Michigan, a graduate of Schoolcraft High School, and also attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College. At WMU, she is majoring in art education with a concentration in ceramics and printmaking and expects to graduate summa cum laude in May. Kimberly has been award the Ruth G. Wintermyer Memorial Endowed Scholarship for Art Education, the Elizabeth M. Smutz Award for Art Education Excellence, the DeVries Professional Immersion Fund Scholarship, the Robert and Eleanor DeVries Annual Student Exhibition Award, the Haig and Janeete Tashjian Art Scholarship, the Foundation Art Star Award. She has exhibited her artwork at the Annual Student Exhibition, the Art in the Legislature, Western Michigan University’s Printmedia Steamroller Exhibition, the Kalamazoo Art Hop, and the Printmedia Spring Show. Kimberly is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, the National Art Education Association/Michigan Art Education Association, the Greater Arts Council of Kalamazoo, the Tau Sigma Honors Society, the WMU Ceramics Guild, the Association of Academic Museums & Galleries, and the SGC International Printmakers Association.

As an art educator Kimberly believes above all techniques, mediums, and talent the most important thing an artist can possess is a strong voice. Art students have a power, through their art they can connect with viewers across, cultures, languages and learning abilities.




Kyra LasterKyra Laster is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher based in Chicago, Illinois. She is currently in the senior year of her undergraduate studies at Western Michigan University where she is pursuing a BFA in Dance and a BBA in Marketing. 

During her time at WMU, Kyra has participated in numerous Department of Dance concerts where she has performed works choreographed by faculty, peers and by guest artist, BAIRA. She is also Artistic Director of Hip Hop ConnXion Michigan and is the marketing intern for Detroit Dance City Festival. She has been teaching at American Dance Center for the last three summers. Kyra has also served as a member of the WMU Academic Integrity Committee for the last two years and is a member of Alpha Lambda Delta honors society.




Lauren Hill.Lauren Hill is from South Lyon, Michigan, and a graduate of South Lyon East High School. She is majoring in music education and minoring in nonprofit leadership and expects to graduate in April 2022. Following graduation, Lauren plans to teach music in Michigan, work with local nonprofits to develop musical programs, and advocate for music education and research on a national level.  

At WMU, Lauren has performed with the University Wind Ensemble, the University Symphonic Band, the University Jazz Lab Band, the Skáfos Saxophone Quartet, and the WMU Marching Band. As a member of the WMU Bronco Marching Band, she held the position of Alto Saxophone Section Leader and is currently entering her second year serving as one of the Drum Majors. Lauren’s other accomplishments and endeavors include being a WMU Theodore Presser Scholar, WMU School of Music Scholarship recipient, WMU Leonard Meretta Scholarship recipient, Carol and Donald Coggan Music Education Scholarship recipient, Watson Music Education Scholarship recipient, Michigan Competitive Scholarship recipient, Women Band Directors International “Ladies of the Podium” scholarship recipient, and WMU Dean’s list recipient. 

She has recently been invited to be a member of the Beta Sigma chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, WMU’s music honors society. Lauren currently serves as the President of the Michigan Music Education Association’s Collegiate Executive Board, and she also serves as the President for WMU’s National Association for Music Education chapter. She was initiated into Sigma Alpha Iota and served as the Music Director for one year. Lauren served WMU as an Orientation Student Leader during the summer of 2018 and has worked in the WMU School of Music Concerts office since her freshman year. She has been a Concerts Office Assistant and Counselor for the WMU School of Music’s SEMINAR music camp from 2018-2020. As a member of the National Association for Music Education, she traveled to the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., in June 2019, to advocate for music education at the national level with her colleagues. Lauren has also been a participant and session planner at the Michigan Music Conference for multiple years. Lauren has enjoyed working with high school students at Gull Lake High School, Berrien Springs High School, and Novi High School over the past few summers as a woodwind and visual tech for their marching bands. She is currently interning with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, interacting with the performance operations and educational program teams.