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Learning Outside the Classroom: A Direct Study in Vienna

December 15, 2017

Elle Anderson in the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge

Elle Anderson in the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge
Photo by Jacob Van Blarcom, CLAgency

Ellie Anderson has long had a passion for history, particularly that of royal power in eighteenth-century Europe. Taking a variety of courses in European history and involving herself in multiple history-related groups and organizations, Anderson wanted to take her learning experience one step further by applying for the Hedley Donovan Scholarship. The scholarship, which grants $8,000 annually to three exceptional history students, allows those students to pursue and conduct research in their respective areas of interest and passion. The scholarship is one of the department’s most prestigious awards.

“I didn't really know much about the award, but one of my professors, Howard Louthan, suggested I apply, knowing that I had a fascination with early modern European French royalty and nobility,” Anderson says. During her time in college, Anderson has taken a variety of courses involving early-modern Europe, has been an officer in the Family History Club, served as a History Day mentor, and has worked for the Center for Austrian Studies, helping the center administratively.

Anderson’s research involves women, royal power, and enlightenment in eighteenth-century Vienna. She seeks to understand how Maria Theresa, a prominent female Austrian monarch, successfully ruled in a traditionally male-dominated role. Anderson looks specifically at the role of ceremony and self-representation in art that led Maria Theresa to achieve her goals as an absolute monarch.

Because of the scholarship, Anderson was able to travel to Vienna for six weeks, exploring eighteenth-century noble and royal art, architecture, and living areas. “It was really fun and really cool to make those connections to my research actually being there in person. It was a unique experience to see where these people lived . . . you can’t get that in a library.” Seeing the actual artwork and architecture in Vienna provided Anderson with primary evidence of where nobility lived and how their living situations affected and emulated their experiences.

Anderson plans to explore graduate school in a history-related field. “The history department has given me the tools to succeed in research and writing, two critical pillars I will need in pursuing grad school,” she says.