What Does It Mean to Be a Mellon Scholar? (Part 2)

In the first part of this series, I talked with Cherish Joe, a first-time Mellon Scholar, and Studio Art Major. She shared insight on the Arts aspect of the Mellon Scholars Program. In this installment, I went in search of more answers.

The Alumna

Madalyn Muncy-Piens, a 2013 graduate, graciously answered my questions about her time in the program. Through her answers, I learned about the evolution of the program, and her answers have given me a new perspective. This is what she said:

What was your Mellon experience like?

I had a wonderful experience in the Mellon program and think it was one of the highlights of my college career. Not many undergrads get to have a digital liberal arts experience and I got to spend three years dabbling in media, the archive, and my own desire to share stories with the world. I would probably never have had such an enriching experience elsewhere. The thing I find most compelling about the program is the emphasis on sharing research through digital means. I think this is an important distinction, as it’s one thing to have the skills to write a thesis. It’s another to share that thesis in a meaningful way. I think that’s probably the most important part of the program and though I have never attended graduate school, I use those skills I gained in the program all the time in my career.

Madalyn Muncy-Piens (’13)

What is your favorite/most memorable experience you had with Mellon?

I really enjoyed the summer research I did in the program. I participated both summers I could on two very different projects, both very media-heavy. Having someone pay me to research something I was really passionate about just didn’t feel like work. I often wish someone would do that again!

Do you have any advice for students currently in the program? Is there something that you wish you would have known?

Two things: one stick with the program and make it your own. Follow your passions and you will get a lot out of your three years. Secondly, do not at all feel pressured to attend graduate school by ANYONE. We all know the pressure is secretly there (you’re doing some pretty hefty research that some grad students are envious of), but do some hard thinking about how you can apply the skills you’re learning right now to a career. Every other member of my cohort has gone on to earn a graduate degree and if that’s your goal, go do it! But don’t feel like you’re a failure (like I felt) if you want to try your hand at something else in the industry. You can get a job as a humanities major and you can use all of these skills, just in a different way. 

Madalyn’s answers gave me a chance reflect on why I wanted to be a part of the Mellon Scholars Program. This program offers so many opportunities to students who are passionate about the arts and humanities. I look forward to making this program my own, as Madalyn said. While I do not know where my research will take me over the next couple of years, the endless possibilities,  I think,  are what make the program unique.

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