Valedictorian Goes to Columbia University

Kelly Olshan (BFA, with a concentration in painting, Class of 2015 Valedictorian, summa cum laude, Manly E. Wright Award, Distinction in Art, Distinction as a University Research Scholar, Distinction as a University Scholar, and Leadership Award recipient) was offered admission into Georgetown's MA program in Art and Museum Studies; Carnegie Mellon's Master of Arts Management; NYU's Master of Arts in Visual Arts Administration; Boston University's Master of Science in Arts Administration; and Columbia University's Master of Arts in Arts Administration program—she accepted Columbia’s offer of fully funded graduate studies.

The most academically rigorous of its kind, Columbia's program offers an interdisciplinary approach to Arts Administration, allowing its graduate students to take classes at Columbia School of Business,  Columbia Law School, School of Fine Arts, and more. Each cohort consists of a few less than 30 national and international individuals. Students are required to complete a master’s thesis as well as internship program; additionally, she will be able to utilize Columbia’s location in New York City as an extended classroom. For more information about Columbia's program, visit their web site.

kelly-olshan-2015-valedictorianOlshan, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, credits the BFA faculty in preparing her for graduate school. She says the faculty are “always pushing you to the next step. There is no end in sight. They are always challenging you.” At the same time, faculty mentors, particularly department chair and art history professor Leisa Rundquist and painting professor Virginia Derryberry “make it truly about students’ visual interests, rather than the professor’s.” (She notes that Professor Derryberry is “the best teacher I’ve ever had.”)

Olshan’s motivation in choosing an arts administration program for graduate school is to help emerging artists like herself maintain control over their art while succeeding as professionals. “In order to succeed as an artist, you also have to have an entrepreneurial spirit and business skills,” says Olshan. “You have to market yourself and be your own advocate. Your career is essentially a start-up venture. And arts administrators who aren’t practitioners can lose sight of the problems that face studio artists. I want to try to bridge that gap.” Her minor in management and administration will be an asset in this endeavor.

Olshan's student accomplishments are many, and include:

  • President of student organization Art Front (2011–2015). 
  • Local Arts Advancement Intern, Americans for the Arts, Washington, DC (Summer 2014).
  • Arts editor for UNC Asheville’s Metabolism (2012-2013).
  • Freelance writer Laurel Magazine (2013-present).
  • Tutor on campus at the University Writing Center (2012–2015) and tutor off campus at Urban Mentoring Academy (low income middle and high school students in math and reading as well as organizing art activities (2014–2015), and provides private English lessons (2012-2015).
  • A Laurels Scholar.
  • Received several departmental scholarships and Undergraduate Research grants including a summer research grant ($2,500).
  • Attended the 2015 National Undergraduate Conference at Eastern Washington University in April.
  • Was in Honors Program, on the Chancellor’s list, and a member of Phi Eta Sigma National Honors Society.
  • Work (visual and written) has been published in print and online (paintings in the Dean's and Chancellor's collections).
  • Paintings exhibited in several venues including four juried exhibitions (first place 2015 Juried Student Exhibition).

Olshan's work may be viewed in several locations online: