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Big Idea Award

The Stamps School of Art & Design, with generous support from the Stamps Family, friends, and other supporters in the community, proudly offers the Big Idea Award in memory of alumna Penny W. Stamps (1944-2018).

The award provides one Stamps senior or eligible team $25,000 to help launch a major, ambitious project after graduation. The winner will be announced as part of the Stamps Commencement celebrations. A committee of external reviewers nominated by Stamps faculty and representing a wide range of expertise will determine the winner. To date, here is a list of the Big Idea Award recipients:

“What’s your big idea?” Penny Stamps asked graduates in her April 2018 commencement speech. “You have your artistic skills — now develop your ideas, your big idea,” she said. “Imagination has no limits.”

The Big Idea Award aims to motivate students to develop ambitious aspirations that reflect the values of a Stamps education; accelerate progress toward achieving those aspirations; and encourage students to rise to the challenge put forth by Penny W. Stamps.

Start Your Application

Application and reference submission* deadline: February 25, 2024 at 11:59 pm

*As part of the application process, all applicants will request up to two references - one reference from a Stamps faculty member is required. SlideRoom will email the referrers/faculty member(s) with a form to complete; they must submit their references by the application deadline of Sunday, February 25, 2024 at 11:59 pm.


  • Individual applicants: Any Stamps undergraduate major in good academic standing and graduating in December 2023, May 2024, or August 2024 as established by an academic audit by the SWAPC staff.

  • Team applicants: Stamps senior(s) who meet the academic audit criteria stated above may submit a project undertaken by a team of students. All team members must be Stamps students. Teams can include Stamps students who are not yet seniors. While the team will be acknowledged in storytelling about the award, the award itself - and the financial disbursement - will only be distributed to Stamps senior(s). If a Stamps senior(s) is considering a team submission, they should be the author of the idea, and be acknowledged amongst their team as the project “lead(s)”. If there is more than one Stamps senior on the team, only one should submit an application. The application will ask that student to specify how the funds should be distributed by percentage to all Stamps seniors on the team.

  • Applicants may be of any citizenship.

Project Considerations

Applicants will be evaluated on their ability to clearly and convincingly articulate the following via the application process:

  • A singular, focused, and ambitious Big Idea

  • A valued commitment to pursue the Big Idea whole-heartedly, passionately, and successfully

  • A commitment to pursue the Big Idea after graduation

Additionally, students will need to provide evidence of being able to successfully execute their Big Idea. Items to consider include:

  • Experience, skills, and preparation relevant to achieving the Big Idea

  • Ability to gather needed resources

  • Feasibility of the proposed activities


  • Feb 25, 2024: Application and reference submission deadline

  • March 18, 2024: Finalists are notified

  • April 4, 2024: Applicants notified of results

  • May 4, 2024: Award announced as part of the Stamps Commencement Celebrations.

Writing Guide and Consultations

Need help brainstorming, drafting and revising your Big Idea application? The Big Idea Student Writing Guide is a resource that brings together proposal guidelines, evaluative criteria, and comments from past evaluators as well as brainstorming prompts and tips for addressing all of the application questions.

Stamps Writing Consultants Ali Shapiro and Jennifer Metsker are also available for personal consultations at all stages of the application process. Learn more and book an appointment for a writing consultation here.


Adrienne Ayers was born, raised, and resides on occupied Waawiyaataanong land, also known as Detroit. They are a nonbinary, African student of ongoing revolution and political education. Adrienne is the Founder, Lead Reiki Teacher, and Wellness Practitioner at Heal in the Waters Wellness and organizer apart of Feedom Freedom Growers.

Katryna Carter is a Washington, DC-based designer, artisan, and writer with over 15 years experience in social impact design and formal training from Howard University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Her art and design practice supports mission-driven organizations and entrepreneurs in creating beautiful and inclusive spaces, goods, and services. Katryna has built joyful, healing spaces with Black and Brown communities, from small business headquarters for organizations such as Oyin Handmade to cutting-edge art exhibitions with the Studio Museum in Harlem. Her approach is influenced by my grandmothers’ impeccable style and celebration of Black joy and culture.

Stephanie Fleming is a business operations manager for Working Not Working, learning experience designer, and Interim Village Chief of the African Diaspora Art Museum of Atlanta (ADAMA). She is an exhibiting interdisciplinary artist under the name Stephanie Brown. Stephanie holds a BFA in Photography from SCAD, and an MFA and Museum Studies Certificate from the University of Michigan.

Fatema Haque is a Bangladeshi American writer, educator, and fiber artist.

Ryan Myers-Johnson leads the Sidewalk Detroit team in developing and executing public engagement curricula and public art frameworks for a diverse set of stakeholders including municipalities, architecture firms, community organizations and developers. She is an experienced facilitator, public speaker and curator of public art. Her passion for community led her to found Sidewalk Detroit in 2012 as a means to celebrate Detroit landscape and culture through the lens of creativity, while bringing resident perspectives to the forefront of design processes. As the Founder, Director and lead Curator at Sidewalk Detroit she oversees all programs and leads program advancement, vision, and strategy.

Ryan has extensive experience in event planning, arts administration, management and leadership, stemming from her many years working as production manager in the film industry, and arts administrator in philanthropy. She is a sought after facilitator, having led sessions for several planning and development projects in the midwest.

Ryan is particularly excited about advancing spatial equity in Detroit through facilitating transformative experiences for residents, artists and stakeholders in public spaces with an emphasis on green spaces and public parks.


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