Florida State University senior Victoria Sunnergren is dedicated to dismantling preconceptions. An art history and religion double major, Sunnergren participated in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program as a freshman in hopes to be taken seriously as a scholar.
“As an art history major, you hear a lot of jokes about how easy the classes are and how limited the job prospects are,” she said. “UROP let me take what I was learning as an art history major and apply it to research that is relevant to my career interests.”
Through this program, Sunnergren gained skills to pursue research projects on Native American artistic cultural expression. Soon, she would be traveling to work as an intern at the Museum of Northern Arizona with the help of a Mentored Research and Creative Endeavor Award and an undergraduate scholarship from the College of Fine Arts—both generously funded through private donations to the FSU Foundation.
“To me, private support is an affirmation that the work I am doing is important to people other than myself,” Sunnergren added. “The John W. Day III Undergraduate Research Award and the Helen J. Beard Undergraduate Scholarship in Art History not only gave me the finances to travel to the Southwest and study Native American art, but the confidence I needed to continue my work.”
Now a UROP leader herself, Sunnergren works to encourage freshman to follow their passions through research. However, Sunnergren’s desire to help others doesn’t end there. She also volunteers at Grace Mission Episcopal Church mentoring underprivileged students of Tallahassee—for which she was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year Award within the College of Fine Arts.
Also serving as chair of the College Leadership Council for the Department of Art History, one of Sunnergren’s favorite moments since arriving at FSU was their “Pizza with Professors” event. The purpose of the event? To encourage students to talk openly with their professors.
“We invited all the students and professors within the department to spend an evening together, eating and discussing their interests and ideas,” Sunnergren explained. “This informal setting encouraged students to talk to their professors—you can’t be intimidated by a professor who has pizza cheese dripping down his or her chin! Being able to have a conversation with professors is one of the most important parts of college since they are the ones who will give insight into your field, support your research and write you letters of recommendation.”
Currently, Sunnergren is working on graduate school and job applications after successfully defending her thesis on Native American art. She hopes to one day merge her interest of Native American art and culture with her passion for educating others.
“I know where I want my career to go in the long term, so right now I’m opening myself up to lots of different ways of getting there,” Sunnergren said.