Art history PhD student named Boren Fellow

Leslie Wooden, a University of Illinois Chicago PhD student in art history, has been selected for a National Security Education Program David L. Boren Graduate Fellowship, which will allow her to study and research in Ghana during the 2022-23 academic year.

Leslie Wooden, UIC PhD candidate in art history
Leslie Wooden, UIC PhD candidate in art history.

The Boren Fellowships, which are an initiative of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office, fund research and language study proposals by U.S. graduate students in world regions critical to U.S. interests.

Wooden, who studies art history with concentrations in museum studies and gender and women’s studies, will receive more than $24,000 to study the Akan/Twi language and conduct research on contemporary photography for her dissertation project, titled “A Ghanaian Sensibility: Clothing, Photography, and the Politics of Memory.”

She will be affiliated with the University of Ghana’s department of linguistics, School of Languages and Institute of African Studies. She will also pursue two internships at art institutions in Ghana to support her research.

Being named a Boren Fellow provides Wooden with important support to broaden her research on underrepresented artists and aesthetics in West Africa.

“I will expand the research on Ghana’s creative arts industry and how contemporary art forms in the 21st century have become integrated into the quotidian dimensions of African life, functioning as a barometer of social and political impact,” Wooden said.

After earning her degree, she plans to seek a federal career in art curation.

In 2021, Wooden received UIC’s Award for Graduate Research to conduct research for her dissertation at the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, located in the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

In 2019, Wooden won the Provost’s Graduate Internship Award in conjunction with her National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded appointment at the Newberry Library.

During the previous year, the UIC department of art history named her the first recipient of the Ross Edman Fellowship, a merit-based award for graduate-level art history students established by Edman, a beloved UIC professor of art history who died in 2017.

Wooden, who is from Washington, D.C., has two master’s degrees from New York University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Denver.

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