Master's in Art History Student Spotlight: Michelle Savage, Class of 2021

February 5, 2021

I am a nontraditional student who grew up in sunny San Diego, California. I waited and raised my children before pursuing a degree, waitressing for many years before entering higher education. I went to a community college and transferred to the University of California San Diego (UCSD) where I was granted the Chancellor’s Scholarship. Today, I am living in Rome studying for my Master's in Art History degree at John Cabot University.

Since I am a first-generation university student, this was huge, as it paved the way for me to be able to further my studies and obtain a master’s degree. My undergraduate major was in Art History, with a minor in Film Production. Since I wanted to get a Master of Arts in Art History, I decided to take a leap of faith and study in Italy. I studied abroad during the summer of 2019 in Florence and fell in love with Italy’s culture and lifestyle. So, it was a no-brainer for me to apply to pursue my Master’s degree in Italy.

Michelle's Road to JCU in Rome

After doing some research about furthering my studies in Italy, I found JCU. I was surprised to find an American-accredited university located in Rome, which inspired me to look deeper into the school. Coming all the way from California was going to be a big commitment for me, and having to leave my family was going to be difficult. This school was also suggested by a professor from my alma mater at UCSD, Dr. William Tronzo. So, I chose to take that leap of faith to do something to better my chances of furthering my career, hopefully as a professor. I am so glad I did; this experience has taught me that I can handle more than I ever thought possible. I have been open-minded, and it has opened up very many doors. To “do as the Romans do” while you are here in Rome is key, not just a saying. To future MA students, I suggest buying a year’s bus pass and getting to know the city. Go shopping, eat Italian food, and make a local friend. And don’t forget to learn Italian!

JCU's Master program in Art History

Here at John Cabot University I have learned so many skills in such a short time – skills that one day I hope to put to work as a professor. In JCU’s  MA program, the classes are designed to help you start training to teach right away by giving presentations and thereby transferring this knowledge to your classmates. These enriching experiences, especially the hands-on elements, are preparing me to meet future challenges and to develop my professional capacities in the field.

At JCU, I have had a chance to grow and learn more about myself, as well as Rome. Rome is the campus that we get to explore – the nooks and crannies of the city that a book will never reveal. This is a lifetime’s experience to not only further my education but to also absorb the amazingly rich history of a city like no other. In the “Topography of Ancient Rome” course with Professor Crispin Corrado, we each took on an entire region of ancient Rome to learn and had to give a walking tour of that region. This experience built my confidence as a researcher and lecturer. Another amazing course was “Fabricating Rome” with Professor Cornelia Lauf, a hands-on course on contemporary art, where we learned about the art itself and forged professional relationships with practicing artists in Rome.

MA Representative in JCU's Student Government

Being a JCU Student Government MA Representative has given me the opportunity to be a leader and gain experience toward my goal of becoming a professor. I have planned field trips to see monuments and works of art that could only be studied in books if you were doing your degree in art history anywhere else in the world. I am also working to help the university showcase the MA program, which is not only a classroom experience but also an opportunity to study Rome itself, to research the city, its art and architecture, to present findings, and to share knowledge.

The tagline of the school, “Rome is your campus,” couldn’t be said better. I want to highlight that aspect to allow prospective students to get a better understanding of the complexity and richness of the MA in Art History here at John Cabot University.

JCU Coping with COVID-19

Being an MA student studying in Rome has been amazing even through a pandemic. JCU has strived to meet the demands of the Italian government and stayed open when it would have been easier to close. During this period in time, JCU took the correct measures to stop the spread of the virus by giving us access to rapid COVID-19 tests, making sure classrooms were well sanitized, and reassuring us while the world continues to change by sending regular email updates – a great aid to peace of mind. For me, it would have been a real shame to have wasted this time sitting on the couch waiting for some kind of normal. Instead, I was able to come to Rome and continue my education. The challenges I have faced here I would have had to face anywhere in the world, and so it was wonderful that it got to be in Rome.  Thank you, John Cabot University!


Michelle Savage

Class of 2021

MA in Art History

Hometown: San Diego, California

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