Meet Master’s Program alumni in our biweekly series Life After Graduate School. In this month’s feature, get to know Gretchen Burau, a 2016 graduate from the M.A. in Art History program. Gretchen is currently an Adjunct Art History Instructor in the Department of Art History.
Why St. Thomas?
I was looking into art history graduate programs and wanted to stay in Minnesota. Two options were available and the University of Minnesota required the GRE, which I hadn’t taken. I decided to visit St. Thomas and was given a tour by Dr. Victoria Young. She set up a meeting with graduate student Natalie McMonagle and I previewed a class. My experience so enjoyable that I decided to enroll at St. Thomas.
What was your favorite moment while a student at St. Thomas?
My favorite moment came after working at the American Museum of Asmat Art (AMAA). I was previously awarded an assistantship at the museum and was given the opportunity to curate an exhibition on Tobias Schneebaum, an artist and anthropologist that collected and commissioned works in Asmat during the 1970s. Later that semester, I was given a fellowship to research Schneebaum’s private journals at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. While paging through his writings, I came across the Jamasj wuramon (soul ship), which is on permanent display at the AMAA Gallery in the Anderson Student Center. Here Schneebaum had not only drawn the soul ship, but also identified the figures by both their Asmat and supernatural names.
What are you up to these days? How did you get to where you are?
I feel fortunate to be teaching my third ARTH 110 class at the University of St. Thomas this spring, which encourages critical thinking and the examination of human diversity through visual art. I also teach Art Appreciation and PSEO courses for Crown College, which are delivered in a variety of formats: online, hybrid, and face-to-face.
In addition to teaching, I am a practicing artist and coordinator for the Flora and Fauna Illustrata (FFI) project. The mission of the University of Minnesota Landscape – Arboretum Andersen Horticultural Library FFI project is to document Arboretum plant and animal species through scientifically accurate fine art.
I got to this point in my life by working hard, taking advantage of opportunities, and connecting with other artists and art historians.
How has the time you spent in our graduate program influenced your career and life?
The graduate program made me a more confident researcher and presenter. During my time at St. Thomas, I stayed active outside the classroom by working at the AMAA, presenting papers, and traveling for research. These extra activities made it possible to develop relationships with scholars in the field — Asmat in this case — and discover original source material, which was used in my thesis as well as the construction of a journal article that will soon be submitted for publication.
Advice for new and current graduate students?
Take advantage of fellowships, assistantships and speaking opportunities. These will help you build a strong CV and give you real-world experience.