Sierra Stella received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History in June 2020. She was the Division of Art History's undergraduate speaker for the School's virtual Graduation Celebration 2020. Below is the text of her speech.
I never meant to become an art history major. My freshman year, I took a survey of modern art with a friend to fulfill a VLPA credit. I really enjoyed it, so when I had an open spot the next year, I took Stuart Lingo’s class on Michelangelo. From then on, I was hooked. Looking back on my college experience, majoring in art history was one of the best choices I made.
The art history department provides students with the opportunity to contribute to developing conversations within the discipline and to work together in small seminars to discuss new ideas. I remember how exciting it was to take Estelle Lingo’s class on early modern women artists and truly feel as though I had a mastery of the literature and something new to contribute to the discussion. It made me feel smart, capable, and heard, and that has been my experience throughout my art history education. That feeling is invaluable.
We, the class of 2020, are graduating into unprecedented times. We are facing a global pandemic, an economic recession, high unemployment, and revolutionary protests in our streets. Those of us who received an arts education might be feeling nervous about our ability to get a job and provide for ourselves after graduation. I am too. But, I truly believe that my art history education has made me a better critical thinker, a better citizen of the world, and a better person. It has challenged me to question my assumptions and what I’ve been taught, to think more deeply about the world around me, and to seek out answers where none are readily available. It gave me the opportunity to travel to Italy and to learn from professors who are experts in their subject and excited about students’ ideas.
I am so grateful to my mentors, Estelle and Stuart Lingo, to the amazing graduate students, and to the friends I made in the department. And, while I’m not planning on going into an art historical field after graduation, what I’ve learned during my time here will always be with me. I will never forget it. Thank you.