November 30, 2017

SUNY's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards Scholarship to Brooklyn Alumna Margaret Blair for Research of Art in the Czech Republic and Cuba

Professor Jim Wunsch, at left, with Margaret Blair '17 at the college's Manhattan location.
Professor Jim Wunsch, at left, with Margaret Blair at the college's Manhattan location.

The SUNY Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has chosen Empire State College’s Margaret Blair ‘17 to receive a scholarship as part of its Diversity Abroad Honors Scholarship Program.

Blair, who graduated in October 2017 and completed a bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a concentration in arts, learning and communication, traveled to Cuba twice and once to the Czech Republic to conduct research on art in both countries. She was particularly focused on the communist cultures in both countries.

During the three-week stay in each country, she spent time in the capital cities of Prague and Havana.

“This experience abroad has inspired me not only to continue developing my artistic disciplines, but to pursue graduate studies in the arts and anthropology,” said Blair.

Blair’s primary mentor, Professor James Wunsch, explained her key research inquiry, “How do we handle artistic expression of past painful experience under totalitarian regimes? Do we obliterate the bad memories, or preserve [them] so that we can better understand our pain?”

“I was primarily interested in the culture of artists, the possibility of government suppression in Cuba and the elimination of public works of art in the Czech Republic,” said Blair. “(I learned the) benefit of discovering great communicators and how they use their medium to reveal their passion, pain and purpose for creating their art.”

She credits her success to the guidance and unwavering support of Wunsch and Elliott Dawes, SUNY Empire’s chief diversity officer for institutional equity and inclusion.

While in studying in the Czech Republic, Blair spent time at the college’s Prague location, situated at international partner institution the University of New York in Prague.

SUNY Empire’s Interim European Director of International Programs Sheila Aird said that Blair “… sat in on classes and engaged with faculty, students and staff at SUNY Empire State College’s Prague location.” Aird added that students at the location “… were excited about her visit and were asking for more U.S. students come to study in Prague.”

Blair had the opportunity to share her experiences studying abroad on a local radio show in Prague.

Most recently, Blair presented a PowerPoint of her research and took questions at a meeting of the college’s alumni/student club the Black Male Initiative, which took place on Nov. 18, at the college’s Manhattan location. Blair also is a member of the club.

“Experiences like these have helped my understanding of the layers of expression and complexity of thought that only those who are living in and out of communist cultures can accurately discuss,” said Blair.

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