The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

SoVA Grad Student Felix Rodriguez Awarded Prestigious Mellon Fellowship

Felix Rodriguez and Penn State President Eric Barron

Felix Rodriguez, a fifth-year Art Education Ph.D. candidate in the Penn State School of Visual Arts, has been awarded the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR) Mellon Fellowship for 2018.

The highly competitive fellowship aims to diversify higher education faculty in the United States by supporting the transition into academia of Latino and Latina students with exemplary academic records. The fellowship provides support for dissertation writing and professional development, and increases the job-market readiness of students focusing on Latin American studies. 

Rodriguez is the first recipient of the fellowship who studies at an institution not affiliated with IUPLR. As part of the fellowship, he attended a dissertation writing and job training workshop at the University of Illinois in Chicago in June, where he was paired with a junior faculty member in Dominican studies from the University of Georgia, Sharina Maillo-Pozo. Her mentorship will provide additional support of Rodriguez’s writing and job application process for the fellowship year. The fellowship also includes health insurance and an annual stipend. As a supporting partner, SoVA will provide a tuition benefit and an office space at University Park. 

In 2017, Rodriguez was awarded the City University of New York (CUNY) Dominican Study Institute Archives and Library Research Award. The award allowed him to spend two weeks in New York City collecting data from primary sources for his dissertation project, “Mapping Art Education in the Dominican Republic: A Critical History.” There he met Ramona Hernandez, director of the Dominican Studies Institute at CUNY. After realizing the potential of Rodriguez’s research to contribute to the understanding of the Dominican people, she requested that the Mellon Fellowship jury present Rodriguez as the nominee for the Dominican Studies Institute at CUNY, which cleared the way for the fellowship. 

Rodriguez’s dissertation uses archival research to examine the development of art education in the Dominican Republic from 1884 to 1997 in relation to ideological constructs; social, political and economic contexts; and foreign influences. Within the research, which is the first comprehensive effort to analyze the development of art education in the Dominican Republic, Rodriguez examines how pervasive narratives of identity, such as the negation of its African heritage, were activated in art education practice. 

Pursuing additional work in Latin American studies alongside his doctoral program work in art education, Rodriguez has been able to draw upon the intersection between the two fields. By addressing issues of colonialism, globalization, race, nationalism and social relations as constitutive of discourses of identity that were activated in children’s art-making in school, his research brings a new perspective to matters of identity in Dominican studies. 

In addition to being awarded the Mellon Fellowship and receiving the CUNY Dominican Study Institute Archives and Library Research Award, Rodriguez has also received the Penn State Alumni Association Dissertation Award and the Dorothy Hughes Travel Grant from the School of Visual Arts, and was named to the Humanities Institute Summer Residency Program. Rodriguez draws inspiration from his experiences growing up in the Dominican Republic, where he received his undergraduate education and worked as a high school art teacher for seven years.  

“The strong scholarship encountered at the Penn State School of Visual Arts, the support of my academic advisor, Mary Ann Stankiewicz, and the various opportunities for interdisciplinary inquiry encountered at Penn State have pushed me to grow as a scholar and have been key to the success I’ve achieved thus far,” Rodriguez said.