Megan May and Nicolay Duque-Robayo shine in the Undergraduate Spotlight

The Department is proud of the high achievements of students majoring in Art History and Archaeology, and this inaugural Undergraduate Spotlight focuses on two well-deserving seniors, Megan May and Nicolay Duque-Robayo.


Megan May

Megan May is a senior art history major and history minor, focusing on 18th- and 19th-century American Art. Under the direction of Dr. Alicia Volk, she is currently writing her honors thesis on images of black servants and slaves in 18th-century American portraits. Here is what she writes about her intership experiences this past summer:

Over the course of the summer I completed an internship at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. At my internship, I worked with the Teen Programs coordinator and helped run the teen programs offered during the summer. The two programs I worked with were IMAGINE=IMAGE, a week long photography workshop for 13-15 year olds, and Portraits Alive!, a six week program through the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program for 16-17 year olds. The Portraits Alive! program allowed teens to research a sitter in the collection, write a monologue based on their sitter’s personality and values, and perform their monologues in costume in a series of theatrical tours.

My experiences and background in art history helped me immensely. Not only was I familiar with much of the Portrait Gallery’s collection and sitters as a result of my coursework, I was also able to help create teaching resources to help the participants in their research. In the program, we had discussions about the meaning of each sitter’s visual representation and how this was linked to each sitter’s personal story and political activism. The sitters that the participants chose all advocated for human rights and social justice in some capacity, underscoring art historical connections to these themes. I am incredibly grateful for my internship opportunity, which would not have been possible without the support of the UMD Art History Department!




Nicolay Duque-Robayo

Nicolay Duque-Robayo is a senior art history and philosophy double major, focusing on Modern and Contemporary art in Europe and America. Under the direction of Dr. Steven Mansbach, they are currently writing their honors thesis on the advent of photography between the wars in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Here is what they write about their internship experience this summer:

This past summer I participated in the Summer Research Institute conducted by the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. The institute’s mission is to help its scholars develop the research and writing skills they need for graduate school. Under the guidance of Dr. Joshua Shannon and Cecilia Wichmann, my research was directed towards the work of the German photographer Andreas Gursky. Through his photography, Gursky illustrates how a late capitalist society constructs fictional environments that are indistinguishable from reality. His work Singapore II (1997), a photograph in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art, illustrates the inside of a building complex in what is presumed to be Singapore. However, through a close analysis of the image, it becomes apparent that the artist has seamlessly, digitally manipulated the image to extend the building to the point of structural incongruity. Gursky prompts the audience of his works to examine the world around them, just as they are asked to examine his work.

Being one of the two humanities participants at the McNair Research Institute, the skills and knowledge that I’ve acquired as an Art History major allowed me to contribute greatly to the academic challenges that my cohort faced. By critically engaging with the texts presented to us, as well as considering the socio-political factors that undergirded these works, I contributed a different perspective that my peers had not been exposed to.