Mia Rickenbach

Theatre Design & Production, minor in Entrepreneurship & Innovation
“Visual Storytelling Applied to Human Trafficking Awareness”


I attended the 2017 Summer Scene Painting session at Cobalt Studios in New York. I am applying the painting skills I built there to both my research in scenic designing the production of Far Away at UMBC in the spring, as well as creating a large-scale mural to visually tell stories of human trafficking.

Who is your mentor for your project? How did you find your mentor? Why did you choose them?
Professor Sinnott is my advisor and mentor in the UMBC Theatre Department who I work with frequently, in both design and painting for productions. Professor Sinnott has been my mentor from the beginning of this research, and is mentoring my theatrical research and production for Far Away in the spring.
I am currently taking Social Entrepreneurship in Place with Professor Bradley and, through that class, collaborating with him on arts-based community engagement projects in Curtis Bay. Professor Bradley is mentoring me in community-based research and artistic responses and solutions to social issues.

How did you become interested in this project? How has it evolved?
My mentor, Professor Nate Sinnott, first recommended I attend a session at Cobalt Studios; in addition, throughout the summer, I was reading the UMBC first-year experience book, Half the Sky, which was propelling my existing investment in the fight against human trafficking into greater action. As I began to take Social Entrepreneurship in Place in the fall with Professor Stephen Bradley, I realized that I wanted my research for the Undergraduate Research Award to evolve into a parallel project of creating a mural for URCAD. Now, I am exploring parallel themes of dehumanization in both Far Away by Caryl Churchill, and in our world today through human trafficking. In addition, I am partnering with nonprofit organizations in the Baltimore area whose missions are to end domestic child sex trafficking, provide care for survivors of women’s domestic sex trafficking, and empowerment of women.

What has been the hardest part about your research?
In dealing with heavy themes, it can be difficult to continue to stay engaged with the material. I have found it most difficult to stay continually engaged with the realities of human trafficking: to keep learning.

What has been the most rewarding part?
I have been astonished at how well my research is connecting. Once I allowed my ideas to change, and let my research become flexible, I was worried that my original studies through theatre might feel irrelevant, or even distracting, from this other goal. This has not been the case. In fact, I have felt a greater motivation through my theatrical research, as I am exploring themes in both a practical production and an artistic response to a social issue.

How will you disseminate your research?
I will be presenting at URCAD and the spring production of Caryl Churchill’s Far Away will be staged from March 9th through March 11th.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
I would like to say this a little bit poetically:

jump in
dive in
be unafraid of change
and see where it carries you
be ready for hard work
be ready for not-enough-time
get creative
be thrifty
be ready for excitement
be ready for some let-downs
but jump in

What are your career goals?
My career goals are:

  • To always give my utmost effort to any work I am doing.
  • To be a creative and innovative force.
  • To collaborate, communicate and engage with community.
  • My highest hopes are to continue using art as a tool for raising awareness about human trafficking; whether that be through theatre, visual art, socialpreneurship or nonprofit entrepreneurship. Ultimately, though, I care most that I am achieving these three goals, regardless of the work I am able to do.


Get back jack!