Courtney Marx, 2020
Describe your dissertation or thesis (if you completed one).
My thesis explored the artistic representations of the daughters of the ancient Egyptian king, Akhenaten, who ruled from 1352 to 1336 BCE. The portrayals of these daughters, known as the Amarna princesses, were unique and represented artistic changes that occurred under the intense religious reforms of their father. The Amarna princesses played an important religious role during the reign of their father which is evident through their specific iconography, such as their hairstyles and the instruments they held.
How did you choose your specific area of study?
I wanted to be an Egyptologist when I was 10 years old. I fell in love with ancient Egypt when I watched the 1999 movie, The Mummy, when I was a child. Through the years my career plans changed, and I didn't find a good academic fit. I dropped out of my first bachelor’s program and took several years off to find out what I wanted to do. I eventually realized that I wanted to go back to school for art history, and Mason offered what I was looking for. While I was earning my degree, Dr. Jacquelyn Williamson was brought on by the department. Dr. Williamson is an Egyptologist who is passionate about her work, and she reminded me of my love for ancient Egypt. I then chose to focus on Egypt and began to make plans to further my education by pursuing my PhD. in Egyptology after my time at Mason.
How did your academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences impact you?
Before I entered into CHSS at Mason, I was working part-time at a local non-profit which wasn’t part of my long-term life goals. The Art History program offered me the chance to pursue my passion of studying history through art. During my time in the program, my interests were refined to specifically ancient Egypt. I was given the opportunity to study various aspects of ancient Egyptian history and art, and I was able to travel to Egypt with Dr. Williamson to participate in research. Through the faculty connections I made, the knowledge I gained, and the skills I developed, I have been able to secure a full-time job in a degree related field. This life-changing experience has launched my career as a professional scholar.
What accomplishment(s) during your time at Mason are you most proud of?
I have had such incredible experiences during my time at Mason from working at an archaeological dig in Spain, interning at the Smithsonian Freer|Sackler Galleries, winning several academic awards, and starting the Art History Graduate Association on campus, as well as being its first president. The best experience by far was traveling to Egypt with Dr. Williamson to participate in hands-on research for my thesis.
Are there faculty or staff members who made a difference during your Mason career? Please give an example of this impact if possible.
Without sounding cliché, all of my art history professors have made a positive impact on me. I have worked the closest with Dr. Williamson, whose guidance and support has been invaluable. Dr. Williamson rekindled my childhood love for Egypt and has fostered my post-graduate career path. She invited me to accompany her to Egypt to participate in hands-on research, which was the opportunity of a lifetime. My first art history class at Mason was with Dr. Ho, whose passion for art encouraged me in my decision to pursue art history. Dr. Ho’s innate teaching ability inspired me to always teach others with respect, clarity, and a strong grasp of your topic. Dr. DeCaroli’s professionalism provided me with an excellent example which I hope to emulate as I continue to pursue my career goals. Dr. DeCaroli’s academic expectations challenged me to be the best scholar that I can be. Dr. DeCaroli was also the reason I was able to work as an intern at the Smithsonian Freer|Sackler, an experience that I will always treasure and deeply appreciate. Drs. Butler, Collins, Greet, Gregg, Schulman, Otis, Platt, and Wolfe have also been so helpful, either by instructing me in class, or conversing with me outside of class, thank you all so much! Emily Gibson, Carrie De Grabo, and Sue Woods were all so supportive, kept me on track administratively, and answered an untold number of my questions. Stephanie Grimm, Art and Art History Librarian, and Steph Sheridan, Visual Resources Curator, were both fantastic resources for my projects and gave me helpful scholarly advice. Although I feel woefully unable to fully express my gratitude for all that these people have done for me, I do wish to thank all of them for everything that they have done. Thank you all so much!
What advice would you give to an incoming cohort of graduate students?
Get to know your professors, they have the connections and knowledge you need to succeed in your field! Be respectful to everyone, you never know who you will be working with, or for, in the future. Try and create a sense of community within your degree, the emotional support of a community who understands what you are going through is incredibly valuable and your community can help each other become better students. Professors understand that you are human and life happens, communicate with them about struggles you are facing. Alternatively, find another resource on campus that can assist with specific issues, don’t try and go it alone! Finally, be kind to yourself. Each year brings its own unique challenges, we are all doing the best we can.
What are your current career plans following graduation? What are your long-term career goals?
I am currently employed full-time at The American Research Center in Egypt, which has been a great way to utilize my academic skills and knowledge. I have been able to connect with many people in the field of Egyptology through my work. I plan on going on for my PhD in Egyptology after taking some time off to learn French and German.