MA in Art History Student Spotlight: Madison Pierson

February 19, 2020

If someone had told me two years ago that I would be studying for my Art History M.A. in Rome at John Cabot University, I would have never believed them. And yet, here I am! My name is Madison Pierson. I grew up in the small town of Lake Crystal, Minnesota and graduated spring 2019 with a History B.A. from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa.

By the beginning of Winter Break my senior year, I had decided that I was going to take a gap year before applying to graduate programs. At the time, I knew I wanted to study Art History or maybe even Public History, but I had yet to find a program that truly called to me. Then, one day during break, I received an information booklet in the mail about John Cabot University’s new Master of Arts in Art History, and I fell in love. The variety of courses offered intrigued me, and the opportunity to be fully immersed in the art I studied won me over. I quickly submitted an application with the help of my professors, and by March, I was officially a JCU Gladiator.

We are a few weeks into my second semester now, and I can honestly say that this program was the best choice for me. I cannot lie and say that everything has been sunshine and rainbows—any masters program requires a lot of self-discipline and a willingness to push yourself beyond what you may perceive as your academic capabilities. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

My cohort has about twenty members, so class sizes can range from thirteen students to as few as three. This has allowed me to develop deeper connections with both my professors and my classmates. Our professors try to take advantage of the rich cultural history available to study both in Rome and throughout Italy, so many classes integrate on-site visits and class trips. A few of my personal favorites have been a trip to Todi to see a collection of fragments from Medieval manuscripts, and a trip to Urbino to visit the birthplace of Raphael. Within Rome, I’ve had on-site visits to the Borghese Gallery, Villa Torlonia, the Capitoline, and S. Maria in Trastevere, just to name a few. All of these trips have truly enriched my experience while studying art history.

As John Cabot’s M.A. in Art History program is about 15 months long, it is already time for me to start thinking about what I would like to do after graduation. Currently, I would like to find a job working for an art museum, preferably in an archival role. Long term, I would eventually like to become an Art History Professor, and as a result, I do have plans to apply for Ph.D. programs after I have gained some experience in the field.

If you are reading this because you are considering applying to John Cabot’s M.A. in Art History, there are a few things I would like to share. First, as you are thinking about this decision, I would encourage you to be honest with yourself about the reality of getting an advanced degree away from your family. Studying for a Master's can sometimes feel daunting, especially when you are far from your normal support group. However, your cohort will quickly become a new support group, and video calls definitely help make the distance seem smaller.

On a more optimistic note, if Mediterranean art is something you really want to study, this program is going to give you so many opportunities to observe in person many artworks that you probably never dreamed of seeing outside your textbooks. From ancient statues to Raphael to Caravaggio, when Rome (and Italy) is your campus, the world becomes a living art textbook just waiting for you to explore.

Madison Pierson

M.A. Art History

Hometown: Lake Crystal, Minnesota

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