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Art History alum Samantha Nelson in the Arts

The tassel on Samantha ‘Sam’ Nelson’s graduation cap this June had barely switched sides when she had to report to the Palo Alto Arts Center for her first day at work as the Exhibition Intern.  A double-major in History and Art History, Sam is another beneficiary of Santa Clara’s Community Initiative for the Visual Arts, or CIVA. Among other things, the initiative provides practical experience for students through paid internships at partnering organizations. These opportunities are funded by CIVA and administered by Santa Clara’s Department of Art and Art History.

Sam wanted to remain in the Bay Area after graduation, hoping to acquire professional experience before applying to graduate school in the same field. And while the internship will get her one step closer to that goal, her time at Santa Clara has already paved the way through other valuable learning opportunities such as her recent job as a Research Assistant t to art history associate professor Andrea Pappas. Under Pappas’ guidance, Sam contributed to groundbreaking research which examined, in depth and for the first time, the significance of the imagery in large, embroidered landscape pictures produced by elite women in colonial New England. “This was an eye-opening experience. I was able to see how a true professional goes about tackling a subject no one else had considered before,” says Samantha.  “It’s been daunting but energizing to follow a path that hasn’t been explored, and I admire and applaud Professor Pappas for instilling in me – in her students –the thought that there are always topics to explore outside the canon.”

Pappas sees the value of the Faculty-Student Research Assistant Program that allowed Sam and other students to make valuable contributions while being paid. “Sam has been amazing. She has made a huge difference in the amount of work I have been able to get done. I hope that the research skills she has gained – and the ability to think of and answer questions independently – will serve her well as she pursues her own career.”

Sam, who wants to pursue a graduate program in museum studies, is also familiar with this type of work thanks to her experience as the Education Coordinator at the de Saisset Museum, right on campus.  As a student, she was responsible for teaching other students the art of speaking about art to the many different audiences that visit the museum – something she enjoyed very much. “The museum and my department taught me to become the public speaker that I am.  And I would say that SCU’s art history program prepared me exceedingly well for the real world and for what’s to come in grad school.”

CIVA