Like a mythical shapeshifter, undergraduate research at William & Mary takes multiple forms, often looking very different depending upon the field of study, setting and approach.

The Charles Center supports undergraduate research in all forms, whether in a science lab, a social science study or through creative inquiry in the arts, according to the center’s director, Floyd D. Gottwald Sr. Professor Elizabeth Harbron. 

“Research at W&M has many faces,” Harbron said.  “The breadth and depth of mentored research opportunities across programs and disciplines is a big reason why liberal arts and sciences are thriving at our university.” 

This summer, 10 undergraduates will scatter across the globe to develop their research and artistic acumen thanks to the Louis E. Catron Grant for Artistic Development, a fund honoring Catron, a beloved professor of theatre at W&M from 1966 to 2002.  

The Catron grant provides up to $5,000 to support students’ artistic development in the creative and performing arts through the pursuit of off-campus educational experiences, such as artist residencies, master classes or academic courses.

At 10 students, this summer’s cohort of Catron Scholars is the largest in the program’s history, an illustration of the growing passion for experiences that blend the artistic and the scholarly.  Students embody a mosaic of interdisciplinary interests, coming from unique artistic backgrounds and majors including studio art, film & media studies, psychology, physics and anthropology. 

Burgeoning filmmaker Tatiana Coleman ’25 will use her Catron Grant to travel to the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles for a four-week intensive filmmaking workshop. She will explore the inner workings of the film industry with top professionals to gain hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment and techniques. 

Coleman explained that she has long dreamed of an intensive experience like this one. “The Catron Grant has made this dream a reality by providing the financial support necessary to cover the tuition fees and other associated costs of attending the workshop,” she said.

Studio art and anthropology major Shannon Williams ’25 will attend a two-week wood-based art workshop at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. 

“The grant allowed me the freedom to look for any workshop I was interested in, rather than worry about the cost,” noted Williams. “Without the grant, I would not have chosen this workshop.” Their work this summer will combine contemporary and historical woodworking techniques, “the perfect combination of my two majors,” Williams said.

Williams’ historical and research-based approach to art-making reflects the perspectives of many of this year’s Catron recipients, who view rigorous research as integral to their artistic pursuits.

Art and English major Danielle Seay ’25 will study digital and traditional painting techniques at the Rhode Island School of Design. Art and research are inseparable, according to Seay.

“There is a fair amount of studying and technique that helps with artistic progression. I often read articles discussing composition, color theory and human anatomy,” Seay explained. “We also often focus on master painters and analyze as well as copy their artworks in order to understand how they created such a dynamic piece of artwork. I think art in general is a very revisionist and searching process.”

Magdalena Johnson ’25 is an art and art history major who will travel to Fresno, California, to participate in the two-week Comics and Graphic Storytelling Workshop at California State University. Johnson, too, sees art and research as stemming from the same desire to seek out new information. 

“I believe that if you want to make good art, it is extremely important to constantly keep an eye open for new information to inspire your work,” Johnson said. “I think of my entire life as a big research project, because, really, anything I see or do could probably end up in my art somehow.”

Recipients of the Catron Grant will present their work at the Catron Exhibition & Reception, tentatively scheduled for fall 2024. 

See below for a full list of recipients and their majors.

  • Declan Castonguay ‘24: film & media studies and history
  • Tatiana Coleman ‘25: film & media studies
  • Greta Frederick Harteis ‘25: art and psychology
  • Magdalena Johnson ‘25: art & art history
  • Emily Larsen ‘25:biology and art history
  • Maddie Meyers ‘25: art and environment & sustainability
  • Syeda Safdar ‘25:computer science and art
  • Emmanuel Sampson ‘26: physics and philosophy
  • Danielle Seay ‘25: art and English
  • Shannon Williams ‘25: art and anthropology