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AVIXA POV: AV Scholars To AV Pros

AVIXA

Meet the AVIXA Foundation’s present and past scholarship winners.

Since 2010, the AVIXA Foundation has awarded the Michael Vergauwen Scholarship to 16 students from technical schools and universities across the United
States, as well as Canada and Germany, in programs that range from computer information systems, to interior design, to engineering. The scholarship honors the legacy of the late Michael Vergauwen, former COO of AVI Systems and a longtime AVIXA board member. He believed that growth in our industry comes from providing opportunities to anyone who has the passion and the desire to build a career as an AV professional.

This year, the AVIXA Foundation added two new scholarships: the elAVate Scholarship, meant to support the growth of women and gender equality in the industry, and the Mosaic Scholarship, meant to promote further inclusivity and diversity in the AV community.

Let’s meet the AVIXA Foundation’s 2020 scholarship winners.

Adam Waldmiller, who’s majoring in computer engineering technology, with a minor in audio engineering, at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), has been awarded the Michael Vergauwen Scholarship. His interest in a career as an AV professional grew quickly after he landed a job with the RIT Classroom Support Team, which maintains the many AV systems in learning spaces across campus. Then, he joined the school’s Production Services Team and began to pursue AV certifications. First, he earned the Dante audio-networking certification; next, he plans to obtain AVIXA’s Certified Technologist Specialist (CTS) accreditation.

The new Mosaic Scholarship has been awarded to Esmeralda Monroig, who earned her Electronic System Technician degree from Lincoln Technical Institute this past May. Her areas of study included computer programming, schematics and AV installation. While in school, she worked 12-hour night shifts at her job and maintained a 3.89 grade point average (GPA).

The winner of the new elAVate Scholarship is Iris Douka, a student at New York City College of Technology, majoring in entertainment technology and with study areas focused on lighting and show control. Recently, she began an internship at New York Live Arts under prominent lighting designer Lauren Libretti, house designer for the choreographic residence of Bill T. Jones. Douka’s internship is currently suspended due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), but she is excited to continue when the venue reopens.

As I came to know our 2020 scholars, their stories inspired me to check in on our winners from years past. Still early in their careers, they already had LinkedIn profiles that testified to their achievements, full of praise from colleagues. I was impressed, although not surprised. I reached out to a few of them to hear where their journeys have taken them.

Rishabh Waghela was awarded a Michael Vergauwen Scholarship in 2018, and he earned a master’s degree in engineering management from Northeastern University that same year. He currently works as an AV Technician for AVI-SPL in the Boston MA metro area. Recently, Waghela worked on an AV installation for Grubhub that included about 40 meeting rooms, large training rooms and common areas. He said it was a great learning experience for him because it required a lot of coordination between the general contractor, the project manager and the subcontractors.

Sarabeth Mullins, a 2016 Michael Vergauwen Scholarship recipient, graduated from Biola University in La Mirada CA with a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition. Then, she went into consulting with Stantec’s acoustics group, first as an intern and then as a Junior Acoustical Consultant. In September 2019, Mullins moved to Scotland to begin the acoustics and music technology master’s program at the University of Edinburgh. As part of the program, she had the opportunity to study
a historic building within the Edinburgh Old Town UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The building was originally a local church and, since, it has been converted into an active community performance venue. According to Mullins, the acoustic measurements provided an interesting glimpse into how historic spaces can be repurposed to fit the evolving needs of a community. So, what advice does Mullins have
for someone starting a career in the AV industry, such as our new scholarship winners? She strongly recommends pursuing mentoring relationships with established professionals.

“I’ve received some incredible opportunities as a developing professional, and many—if not most—of them have been because of my mentors,”
she said. “They have advocated for me, advised me [and] believed in me when I doubted my capabilities. Their support and encouragement has opened doors along the way.” She added, “In my experience, there are many experts in the field with an active desire to pass on decades worth of knowledge and experience to us. We just have to ask!”

For more information about the AVIXA Foundation, visit its website at www.avixa.org/foundation.

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