IESNYC Announces Mara Barenbaum as Recipient of the 2022 Merit Scholarship

by | Jun 27, 2022 | News

New York, NY (June 27, 2022) – The New York City Section of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IESNYC) announces Mara Barenbaum as the recipient of the 2022 Merit Scholarship. Barenbaum is currently a candidate in the New York School of Interior Design’s (NYSID) Master of Professional Studies in Lighting Design. The scholarship recognizes and financially supports a full-time, graduate degree candidate in architectural lighting enrolled in an accredited college or university in New York State, acknowledging them as a potential future leader in the field with the $25,000 Merit Scholarship.

“I am deeply honored to be chosen as the recipient of this award,” says Barenbaum. “It is both affirming and motivating. It allows me to feel supported, and it is my sincere hope to contribute work to the lighting design field that is both well informed and thoughtful. Receiving the scholarship has charged my energy to take even greater initiative in my own continued learning opportunities and growth.”

As an undergrad at Bard College, Barenbaum was drawn to courses in acoustics, the physics of light, music, and the history of technology. What began as a passion for analog audio instruments expanded into lighting design, complementing a longstanding fascination with the electromagnetic spectrum and animism. Barenbaum’s professional involvement in lighting began by working at the SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco, CA. She worked in entertainment for more than a decade through IATSE Local 16, stepping into leadership roles as a master electrician.

“Mara Barenbaum stands out for me as a renaissance woman,” says Shaun Fillion, Program Director at NYSID. “She came to architectural lighting with experience in the construction trades, electrical and stagehand work, combined with experience as a composer and songwriter. Mara approaches architectural lighting work with strong sketch skills fueled by historical research. She is a strong collaborator as well, observant and composed when providing critical feedback. I’m very excited to follow her architectural lighting career!” NYSID’s Master of Professional Studies in Lighting Design (MPSL) is a one-year, post-professional degree that provides rigorous education in the art and science of architectural lighting design.

Currently, Barenbaum is finishing her classes at NYSID and working part time in northern Washington State as an assistant lighting designer for Lightswitch, a collective of lighting, media, and visual designers. As she continues her studies and skills development, Barenbaum says, she looks forward to exploring daylighting, dark-sky preservation, and circadian entrainment. She hopes to promote ethical industry practices while creating quality experiences through lighting.

The IESNYC advocates strongly for lighting education, inspiring the next generation of lighting professionals and making annual investments in the future of the New York lighting community. In addition to the Merit Scholarship, the section sponsors an annual Student Lighting Competition, awards annual Thesis Prizes, and administers the Richard Kelly Grant.

Barenbaum joins six past Merit Scholarship awardees: IESNYC thanks Scholarship Committee Chair and Board Liaison Caleb McKenzie of US Lighting Consultants, and committee members Mike Barr of Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., Addison Kelly of US Lighting Consultants, and Stephen Bernstein of Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design Inc. McKenzie provided the original impetus behind the Merit Scholarship, with the objective to help relieve the economic burden of attending graduate school, even for only one deserving student annually.

About the IESNYC

Celebrating 116 years, the IESNYC ( is the New York City Section of the Illuminating Engineering Society and is the Society’s largest section. It is a volunteer professional membership organization whose members include lighting designers, researchers, architects, students, manufacturers, sales representatives, educators, and professionals from allied fields, who share an appreciation for and fascination with all things lighting. The IESNYC is dedicated to promoting the art and science of illumination engineering to its members, professionals in allied fields, and the public through events, programs, and educational series, plus social outreach and networking opportunities.