Profile of Sandra Schachat (BA 2013)

1.    Why did you decide to become an Art History major?

I decided to become an Art History major during my first year at Maryland, when I took two introductory Art History classes. My whole life, I had always loved making art and visiting galleries and museums, but until I started taking classes at Maryland I didn't know what "art history" meant in an academic context. Within my first year at Maryland I went from having no idea what my major would be, to knowing that I wanted to join the Art History department.


2.    What was the most, or one of the most, valuable thing(s) you learned as an Art History Major?

The two most valuable things that I learned as an Art History major were to truly appreciate art and to never stop asking questions. I had enjoyed art since I was a small child, but as an Art History major I learned how to appreciate art by considering it in historical and social context. And professors in the Art History department gave me truly unparalleled encouragement to go beyond the basic requirements of each assignment, to follow my interests and passions while learning as much as possible about how to ask (and maybe even answer) questions about art.


3.    What challenges did you face after graduation (and did the skills our major fostered help you negotiate those challenges)?

The biggest challenge I've faced after graduation is figuring out what to do with my life and how to turn my skills and interests into some sort of career. My experiences as an Art History major helped to develop my ability to critically analyze personal experiences within a broader social and political context, which has been essential in allowing me to understand my place in the world.


4.    What advice would you give to other Art History Majors/Minors?

The main piece of advice that I would give to Art History Majors and Minors would be to visit galleries and museums not only with fellow Art History students, but also with friends and family members who do not have a background in art. Conveying the knowledge that I had learned in class was both challenging and rewarding, and helped me to gauge how well I understood my coursework.


5. What has your career path been since graduating from UMD?

Since graduating from the University of Maryland, I have studied the evolution of wing patterns in moths - essentially, the art history of moth wings. I examine how simple wing patterns, consisting of spots and stripes, have given rise to far more complex patterns on time scales of tens or hundreds of millions of years. I am currently a Chair's Fellow in the Department of Geological Sciences at Stanford University. I began my Ph.D. here in 2016.