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Art History Spotlight

Joseph Underwood: Living His Dream

Joseph Underwood“I’ve never seen such busy people who were so available to their students. The Transylvania faculty just care about their students, and that’s priceless.”

Before coming to Transylvania, Joseph Underwood ’12 had never been out of the country. By the time he graduated, he had spent six weeks in Dakar, Senegal, more than four months in Paris, France, and three weeks visiting major cities in eastern China.

His time in Dakar inspired both his senior capstone project at Transylvania and the application he submitted to Stony Brook University, where he is currently pursuing a doctorate in art history. He intends to study the role of modern architecture in shaping the region’s postcolonial identity manifest in West African architecture. While completing his studies, he also hopes to intern at some of the prestigious museums in the New York City area.

Underwood has known that he wanted to be an art historian and work in a museum since he saw a Rodin exhibit at the University of Kentucky Art Museum when he was in the 10th grade. When it was time to choose a college, he found the perfect situation just a few blocks away from the museum that first captured his imagination.

“I chose Transylvania because of how engaging art history professor Nancy Wolsk was during a visit. I was also impressed by art history professor Wei Lin's credentials and thought it would be great to study Eastern art with her.

“Also, I just felt like I was home. Whether it was in the classroom, in a professor's office, in downtown Lexington, or in my dorm, I felt like I fit in. There was support everywhere I turned, but the world was still big enough to challenge me to grow as a person.”

Underwood is confident his Transylvania education has prepared him to successfully pursue his dream. “A liberal arts education teaches you how to think critically. Knowledge isn't just about facts, but also about being able to determine why things are the way they are.

“All studies are interconnected, whether it's obvious at first glance or not.” Underwood quickly saw that having students in class whose areas of focus might be very different from his brought new perspectives to the discussions and enriched the classroom experience.

He also credits the art history faculty for strengthening his writing skills. Both Wolsk and Lin “gave very sharp, direct critiques on how to strengthen arguments and argue coherently.”

As Underwood was considering his college choices and comparing the costs of one institution to another, he listened carefully to his Transylvania admissions counselors. “They advised me to choose the institution that would be my home, my place of growth. That day, I knew I was going to Transylvania, and I have not had one moment of doubt or regret.”

Underwood can now offer his own advice to students searching for the right college. “Pick your home; let the details fall into place.”

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