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Art professor speaks students’ language

Kelly Donahue-Wallace

(Editor's Note: This is one of several articles about faculty mentors and how they contribute to student success.)

Jairo Salazar felt nervous.

He was attending a lunch for prospective graduate art students, but the native Colombian was too shy to talk to anyone.

Then Kelly Donahue-Wallace, associate professor of art history, began speaking to him in fluent Spanish, calming those nerves and offering encouragement. He earned a master’s degree in art history in 2008 with Donahue-Wallace’s support.

In her 12 years at UNT, Donahue-Wallace has mentored graduate students and advised undergraduates and served for four-years as art department chair. Some of the advice she gives them: learn how to take criticism.

Amy Cathleen Hamman, who graduated in 2006 with a master’s in art history, said Donahue-Wallace was “amazingly supportive and positive” while going through her studies.

“I was sort of floundering around, wondering how I would ever write a thesis, says Hamman, now working on a doctorate at the University of Arizona. “She helped me formulate a game plan and made sure I stuck to it.”

When students are considering graduate study, Donahue-Wallace offers advice about what to look for in a program and how to apply, and she recommends internships and conferences to build a resume of academic achievements.

She tells students that most of their competition will have a 4.0 average and a Study Abroad experience, and asks,  “So, what else do you bring to the table?”

Julie Thompson, who received her bachelor’s degree in art history, said she presented research at Scholars Day and other symposiums, and had an article published in the Eagle Feather, the Honors College publication, thanks to Donahue-Wallace’s encouragement.

“With her support, the publication and presentations in which I participated have also established my scholarship - a goal I did not anticipate achieving at such an early stage in my education,” Thompson said.

Salazar said Donohue-Wallace also gave him invaluable advice as he began serving as a teaching assistant. She told him that students are full of questions and fears and need to be understood, not punished or pushed down.

“We need to be supportive, constructive, and be facilitators of their knowledge,” said Salazar, who currently teaches art history at a Bogota university. “I also inherited from her the idea that no matter what you do in life, if you do it with passion and dedication, things will work out for you in a great way.”

- Jessica DeLeón, University Relations, Communications and Marketing

Above, Kelly Donahue-Wallace, left, and former student Julie Thompson. 

(Photo by Gary Payne)

Posted on: Fri 15 June 2012

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