BA in Art History

Emily Oldham, 2015

Emily Oldham

So what are you up to now professionally?

Currently, I am in graduate school at The Catholic University of America, working on both a Master of Architecture and a Master of Science in Sustainable Design. Within the school of architecture, I am part of the Cultural Studies and Sacred Space concentration. I am particularly interested in the link between historic preservation and sustainability. Preservation is a sustainable practice on its own, as using what is there is inherently less wasteful than building something new. Still, as energy efficiency becomes necessarily more ubiquitous, historic buildings may be at risk. In my career I hope to explore ways to better integrate new sustainable technologies into existing buildings and urban fabrics.

In addition to my studies I am working as a research assistant on a project concerning the relationship between energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality. I find this work very meaningful as it gives me an opportunity to impact both the health of the earth and the health of building inhabitants. I have also become involved in several volunteer efforts in the Washington, DC area. Last Fall I spent time giving free energy-use assessments to small businesses in the Takoma Park neighborhood with the Green Impact Campaign. Currently I am working with a team of two other graduate students to design a greenhouse, with the support of the American Institute of Architecture Students, for DC Greens, a local non-profit which provides food education and access to local residents.

How do you think your Art History major at Mason prepared you for your career?

I feel the two most important skills I gained as an Art History major at Mason are the ability to look carefully and to articulate abstract ideas clearly. Not only are these skills indispensable for an architect, they are necessary for any modern career. All kinds of innovation require both creativity and lucidity. The support I received from the professors I studied with during my time at Mason is what made it possible for me to develop those skills. Personally, I feel that I highly benefited from the relative intimacy of the Art History program. I got a chance to work with my professors closely and I was always encouraged to take my research one step further. When I first arrived as Mason I was a bit timid. The supportive atmosphere within the Art History Department helped me to break out of my shell and realize my potential.

Why did you choose Art History as a major in the first place?

I chose to study Art History because I was fascinated by what drove people to create. The creative impulse has always been a key piece of my personality. For this reason, I always knew I wanted to work in a creative field myself. To achieve this goal, I thought that understanding the precedents in all genres of art was a crucial step.