NEW ORLEANS – Stephanie Akpapuna, a Theatre Arts major from Lagos, Nigeria, has been named valedictorian of the Dillard University Class of 2016. Arin Ryan, a Film major from LaPlace, Louisiana, has been selected as class salutatorian.
Akpapuna will deliver the valedictory address at Dillard’s Commencement exercise on Saturday, May 7.
Akpapuna is part of a very unique family tradition at Dillard University. Both of her older sisters, Jennifer, ’04, and Merrilyn, ’14 were valedictorians of their graduating classes.
“I’m proud and humbled by the fact that I could do my sisters proud and also keep the legacy they started going,” said Akpapuna. “Dillard has been a wonderful experience. I’ve enjoyed my stay here and I’ve learned so much. I would have been a number somewhere else, but at Dillard you are treated as an individual. Here we’re so family oriented and it’s great to have that.”
After graduation, she will attend Carnegie Mellon University where she will pursue her Master of Fine Arts in stage and production management.
Akpapuna has been named a Presidential Scholar and is a recipient of the Humanities Talent Scholarship, the Ray Charles Scholarship as well as the Denzel & Pauletta Washington Scholarship.
She is a member of the Dean’s list and has been inducted into Alpha Kappa Mu National Honor Society and Alpha Psi Omega National Theatre Honor Society. Akpapuna is also a participant in the Daniel C. Thompson/Samuel DuBois Cook Honors Program.
As a member of the Theatre Department she was worked on or appeared in 14 theatrical productions.
A graduate of Reagan Memorial Baptist Girls Secondary School in Lagos, Nigeria, she is the daughter of Dr. Emmanuel and Rita Akpapuna.
Arin Ryan has been named salutatorian of the Class of 2016. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film.
She is the fourth member of her family to graduate from Dillard, following her mother, aunt, and sister.
Ryan is a four-year Dean’s Scholar and a winner of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Torchbearer’s Award. She is a member of the Dillard University Producer’s Club.
She started her academic career at Dillard as a biology major, but found her calling in film.
“I thought that I would enjoy what I was doing, but I wasn’t really into it,” said Ryan. “I realized that I needed to do something that I loved. I’ve always made movies and did photography, so I went to film. I felt really welcome there and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
She has been recognized for her film work, as a crewmember of the film “The Cutoff” which was among the top twenty films at the Louisiana Film Prize contest, and she worked on the film “Cover Me,” which premiered at the 2015 International Film Festival. She was also behind the scenes on the Big Easy Award Nominated play “Shine On.”
Ryan was part of the ensemble in the production of “The Lion and the Jewel”, where she also performed production work. Additionally, she was a member of the cast of the independent films “There’s a New World” and “The Dunning Man.”
Ryan has several other credits to her resume in film, television, and stage production, including “Rodeo and Juliet” and “NCIS: New Orleans.”
After taking a year off, Ryan plans to attend graduate school and then open her own film production company.
She is a graduate of A Beka Academy, where she was valedictorian of her class. Arin Ryan is the daughter of Fontella Baker and Arnold Ryan.