Undergraduate Research and Global Learning

  • Monday, Apr 27, 2015

Group of five in an alleywall of Venice(At the Venice Bienale, 2014. l. to r.: Paul Baker Prindle, ‘06; Ben Karl; Nancy Marie Mithlo; Ruthie Rolfsmeyer, ‘12; Keely Elgin.)


Keely Elgin has had a busy junior and senior year.

An art major, it was a class in Native American Art that sparked an interest. That interest has transformed into a fully-developed passion.

 “I never thought I’d have an opportunity this amazing,” she says. “I knew I wanted to study art, and I knew I wanted to travel and learn about more perspectives around the world. I didn’t realize this opportunity would be available to me – until I got here.”

Her undergraduate research project – conducted and presented in 2014 – impressed several faculty members. Working with Professor of Art History Melanie Herzog (pictured with Keely on the homepage) and former Lecturer and Gallery Director Paul Baker Prindle ’06, Keely applied for and was awarded an Ebben Fund grant to support travel to Venice, Italy in the summer. There, she had the opportunity to assist with the exhibition Air, Land, Seed held in conjunction with the 2014 Venice Biennale. That exhibition featured the work of highly regarded contemporary Native American artists.

“Keely’s work is the result of much critical study, interviewing several Native artists before traveling to Venice, and furthered her research through attending a symposium at which the artists exhibiting in Air, Land, Seed discussed their work,” Professor Herzog said.  

“She also collected and studied responses by an international audience to this exhibition. This sort of multifaceted research, solidly grounded in the art historical and theoretical literature of the field, is highly unusual for an undergraduate student, and would be regarded as exemplary research in the humanities at the graduate level,” Herzog said.

In April 2015, Keely, Herzog, and Director of Student Research (and Art Department faculty member) Shad Wenzlaff traveled to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, held this year in Washington State. There, she presented her scholarly work ‘Native American Voices in Contemporary Art Spaces.’  It is a remarkable accomplishment by any measure; fewer than 20 percent of applications to present are accepted. 

She will graduate in May 2015, and a wide world awaits. But for now, faculty who fuel the passions of their students, and opportunities for engaged, global learning have made their mark on this LaCrosse, Wis. native.

“Having the resources available for me to research this made all the difference. It was really important for me to travel and see another view. I think it’s really important for all students to have that opportunity. It was great.”