April 22, 2020

Seniors tackle projects that push the boundaries of traditional research

This spring, the Mellon Initiative, through its student mini-grants, was again proud to support diverse Arts and Humanities projects as students developed their capstone, senior thesis, or Spring Art Show pieces.     


With an applicant pool larger than ever, the Steering Committee was able to award seven mini-grants for traditional research projects, such as archival research for an honors thesis in History -- Jordan Bruce researched aviation policy at the National Archives and Records Administration -- but also, for the first time, for innovative, “outside the box”  projects that push the boundaries of their respective discipline. Not surprisingly, an art project proposal was among those first-ever innovative grants awarded!  Layna Hayes (Jessica Halonen, instructor) won funds to support her “Painting with Found Materials” project, which explores the relationship between painting and textiles. As Layna points out, “This grant will allow me to further investigate working with textiles and discover new ways of incorporating different materials, while also developing a better understanding of the relationship between craft and art.”


Real Nonsense, 2020
Wool, cotton, polyester, and various fibers
50 x 29.5 inches










Layna’s work will be part of the 2020 Senior Art Major Virtual Exhibition on April 30, which will also include the work of these extremely talented and dedicated Art major Mellon grant recipients, who had to carry out their projects in their homes due to the Covid-19 outbreak and requisite distance learning:


Gage Brown, “Pecan with Gall / Dad”


Liz Ward, Instructor






Kristina Reinis, “Playing House”


Jessica Halonen, Instructor







Ariel Del Vecchio, “Labor of Love”

Craft Objects

Kate Ritson, Instructor






2020 Senior Art Major Exhibition Catalogue


Communications major Mary Margaret Herring (Aaron Delwiche, instructor) was awarded a mini-grant for her innovative project and honors thesis, “Curbing the Spread of Disinformation through User Interface Design,” which explores how users interact with technology, specifically social media platforms, which are a major source of news for most Americans. Not all news on social media is true, and why is this not-true information more likely to be spread than true information? Her research will contribute to developing scholarship on the link between interface design and user behavior on social media platforms. Ultimately, Mary Margaret hopes to help scholars recommend ways to curb disinformation.


Combining her love for classics and theatre, Sarah Bastos (Ben Stevens, instructor) was awarded a mini-grant for her innovative project and theatre capstone titled “Dionysus in Performance.” Sarah is creating a solo performance based on her arrangement of a translation and script revolving around the ancient cult of Dionysus.  “Using theatre as a medium for research will allow for innovative academic and dramaturgical discoveries to appear in a unique way. By performing my research, I’m opening up my insights to the general public, and inviting audience members to experience the material in a fully immersive, sensory manner,” Sarah explains. 


Please join us in congratulating these seniors on their achievements and be sure to stop by the Senior Show "Show & Tell" Virtual Opening on Thursday, April 30 from 5 to 7 pm, hosted by the Michael and Noémi Neidorff Art Gallery


Mini-grant applications for the fall semester will be available in August 2020.