Tina Thompson’s visit to the Prado in Madrid several summers ago was her first time inside an art museum. “I looked around and got goose bumps. I was really overwhelmed,” says Thompson, who was chaperoning her son’s high school Spanish class on their trip to Spain. “I don’t know anything about this, I thought, but I’ve got to find out more.” Thompson had discovered her passion for art.
On returning home to the Midwest, she began taking every art history class her community college offered and earned her associate's degree with honors. After one semester at a state school, she realized she needed more challenges, more opportunities, and a more fully engaged student body. She set her sights on The New School for Public Engagement. “I was attracted to the activist nature of the student body and the way the school encouraged student activism for social change,” she says. “The New School prepares you not only to be a thinker but to be an effective member of society in whatever way is right for you. I wanted to see how that would play out for me in a place where anything can happen—right in the middle of New York.”As a student in NSPE’s School of Undergraduate Studies, Thompson has focused on art history and gender studies. In her last year, she opted to do a senior thesis that combined her areas of interest, and considered women’s use of self-mutilation through history, from early monastic ascetics to contemporary “cutters,” through the lens of its visual representation in art.Thompson, now 40, will attend graduate school studying gender studies and the humanities. She intends to pursue an academic career, in which she would “be an activist in the classroom and lead students to the kind of epiphany” she experienced that day in Madrid.