Meet Master’s Program alumni in our series Life After Graduate School. In this month’s feature, get to know Poppy Di Candeloro, a graduate from our M.A. in Art History program, and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Why St. Thomas?
I chose St. Thomas for three reasons:
- I thrive in smaller university settings with smaller class sizes.
- I lived in Eau Claire, WI so it was important to find a relatively close university with an excellent M.A. program.
- My friend Amy suggested I apply to St. Thomas and so I did.
While these decisions sound rather frivolous and less academic, I could not have asked for a better Art History Department than the one at St. Thomas. The professors are all top scholars in their field, they are easy to talk to and learn from, opportunity is abundant, the sense of belonging to a place is undeniable, and the students become more than just classmates. They become friends and colleagues.
What was your favorite moment while a student at St. Thomas?
I have lots of favorite moments at St. Thomas. Tracking down missing artwork, going on field trips, being the graduate representative, working with Christy, Shelly, Marria, and the other graduate assistants, co-hosting two graduate student research symposia, and attending the receptions after every event. But perhaps the most memorable of all of my favorite events was the night that I presented M.A. thesis research. Not because I was happy to be getting that out of the way (although true—whew!), but because the people that I had spent my M.A. journey with were all in one room at the same time. I could see each of the professors who had encouraged me to be my best and the students who had become friends and occasional roommates: Carin, Lauren, Theresa, and Marria—THANK YOU! That was definitely one of my favorite moments at St. Thomas. More precise though, every moment at St. Thomas was a favorite moment.
What are you up to these days? How did you get to where you are?
These days, I am writing my dissertation on Nuclear Aesthetics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I also teach Art History 110 online, Anchor 399 online and I serve as undergraduate advisor to art history and studio art students at UMKC.
In addition to my roles at UMKC, I have been working on a collaborative project with the Todd Weiner Gallery and the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth as an independent curator and researcher. The ultimate goal of this project is to archive, catalog, and make the collection available to the public on a searchable database.
I got to where I am today by accepting opportunities as they present themselves to me and through the support of my husband, my dog, my family, and my friends.
How has the time you spent in our graduate program influenced your career and life?
Where shall I begin? Throughout my academic career I have attempted to stay consistent with building a skillset that would be as complete as possible in terms of knowledge and hands-on experience. It could be better research skills, time management, or learning a new standard of archiving. I enjoy the academic side of art history, so researching, writing, and archiving, but I also enjoy the creative side of designing and curating exhibitions—telling stories through visual art. While at St. Thomas, I was fortunate enough to have assistantships throughout my entire education. I learned to curate, design, and exhibit art, while simultaneously learning to catalog and archive art collections. My gratitude to Shelly and Christy. What I do today—advise, teach, and archive and curate art collections—was refined while I worked on my M.A. at St. Thomas. I can remember sitting in the basement of the Art History house as I entered descriptions of art, thinking “I could do this for a career.” And I am!
Advice for new and current graduate students?
- Say yes to opportunities. Even if they seem way outside of your skillset or range of interest. The more skills you have, the more valuable you are to those around you.
- Keep in contact with the people you meet in school, at events, or even on the airplane. They can be important! It is so easy to lose touch, but the people you meet may be the ones who get you the position you want at that museum, or might help get you into that PhD program.
- Have a sense of humor and laugh. A lot. A sense of humor is very helpful. Best wishes!