UCI names three CTSA Newkirk Fellows for 2024

Images (left to right): Professors Simon Penny, S. Ama Wray, Annie Loui

CTSA scholars emerge as Newkirk Fellows, amplifying impact on science and society

The University of California, Irvine (UCI) named the Newkirk Fellows for the 2024 academic year. Three Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA) faculty members have been selected, including Annie Loui, professor of drama, Simon Penny, professor of art, and S. Ama Wray, professor of dance. Each will receive a $5,000 grant and participate in a program designed to promote cross-disciplinary interaction and community building.

The Newkirk Faculty Fellowship, administered by UCI's Newkirk Center for Science & Society, aims to boost the visibility of UCI scholars both within and beyond the university. Fellows, at any career stage, are expected to have a UCI faculty appointment, conduct a public lecture or workshop on a chosen topic, participate in monthly lunch discussions with other Fellows and center staff (with provided food), and engage with Newkirk Graduate and Postdoctoral Fellows.

The program, according to the center, is crafted to form a community aligned with the strategic mission of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society. Fellows are encouraged to be receptive to new collaborations and program development, with the objective of enhancing UCI's impact on society.

The fellowship term commenced on January 1, 2024, and will continue until December 31, 2024. As Newkirk Fellows, Loui, Penny, and Wray will join a distinguished group of UCI scholars acknowledged for their exceptional contributions to their respective fields and the UCI community.

Annie Loui works as a director/choreographer, and is the Artistic Director of Counter-Balance Theater. She trained with dancer Carolyn Carlson (at the Paris Opera), and studied in France with Etienne Decroux, Ella Jarosivitcz and Jerzy Grotowski. Original physical theater pieces have been seen in France, Monaco, West Germany, Italy, and in the United States at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, among other venues.

She was the resident choreographer at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), Boston and taught extensively for Brandeis and ART Harvard, before coming to the University of California, Irvine where she is Head of Movement for the MFA Actor Training Program. Her book The Physical Actor is published by Routledge Press.


Simon Penny is an artist and theorist with a longstanding focus on emerging technologies, embodied and situated aspects of artistic practices, and critical analysis of computer culture. Much of his career has been at the intersection of engineering and art – developing custom immersive, sensor-based systems for embodied interaction.

More recently his research foci are the climate crisis and embodied cognition. Originally from Australia, Penny was Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon (1993-2000). He founded the Arts Computation Engineering (ACE) graduate program at UCI 2003-2012. He published Making Sense: Cognition, Computing, Art and Embodiment in 2017 (MIT press). Penny is professor of Electronic Art and Design (Dept of Art) with appointments in the dept of Music and in Informatics. More at simonpenny.net


S. Ama Wray, Professor of Dance at UC Irvine is the custodian of Embodiology®, an award-winning neo-African improvisation practice. Redefining practices for human flourishing, she is a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute and 2023 California established Artists Awardee. Formerly a performer with London Contemporary Dance Theatre and Rambert Dance Company, for over 30 years she advanced the integration of music and dance through JazzXchange.

Her scholarly work, which is rooted in practice-based field research in Ghana’s Kopeyia Village, centers artists and community members of the Dagbe Center. Her monograph Embodiology: From Ancient Movement and Music Practices to Phenomenal Being is forthcoming on Routledge, and her teacher training program to develop Embodiology instructors is in its 3rd year. As a National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts Fellow her exploration have led her to create performances that are intertwined with technology, manifested as Texterritory – a cell phone based interactive storytelling. Her innovations continue through AI 4 Afrika, an initiative she co-founded with choreographers, data scientists, scholars, and entrepreneurs in 2020.