Scholarly license

Sarah Estrela ’15 always imagined that she would go to graduate school after graduating from Wheaton. But until recently, she was unsure how to get there. Now, the path is clear

The Wheaton junior has been awarded a Beinecke Scholarship, which provides “substantial scholarships for the graduate education of young men and women of exceptional promise.” She is just one of 20 students nationwide to be selected for the award, which is offered by The Sperry Fund.

“To be honest, I haven’t quite fully processed the fact that I’ve won the Beinecke because of how big of a dream it was,” said Estrela, who plans to apply to programs at Oxford University, Harvard, Yale, Columbia and the Institute of Fine Arts in New York. “Now that I’ve won, however, it’s finally a concrete reality rather than a lofty dream; it’s a bit difficult to get used to this exciting change, but the change is certainly welcome nonetheless.”

Estrela’s current interests center on uncovering the cross-cultural connections between non-Western art and the Modernists. She discovered the topic while enrolled in the course “Matisse and Methods,” taught by Wheaton Professor Ellen McBreen. The class led to an invitation for Estrela to work as a research assistant on the professor’s work in curating a forthcoming show, Matisse and His Palette of Objects.

“I was really excited to work with Professor McBreen because she is largely the reason why I wanted to attend Wheaton in the first place,” said Estrela, who is pursuing a double major in art history and English. “Not only do her research interests align with my own, but she has a very contagious passion for the material she teaches.”

The Pawtucket, R.I., resident said the lessons she has learned while working with Professor McBreen go beyond the artworks and artists being studied. “She taught me that simply researching material is easy; learning how to fundamentally ground one’s arguments so that one’s findings form a message that matters is what’s difficult.”

Estrela also said she has learned a great deal through her part-time job as a visual resources assistant curator in the college’s slide library. “One would never guess how much you could learn from cataloging and image-correcting, but there’s actually an entire world at your fingertips ready to be explored.

“I have had the chance to learn a lot about artists and cultures that I would have otherwise never been exposed to because my class schedule doesn’t allow me to take every single course the art history department has to offer,” she said. “I have been been exposed to a vast amount of images, ranging from those of Kuba textiles to those of Le Corbusier’s architectural designs.”

The Beinecke represents the second prestigious scholarship award that Estrela has won. This winter, she received a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship that allowed her to extend her semester at the University of Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall into a yearlong opportunity.

“My year at Oxford has been extremely challenging in all the best ways,” she said. “Since so much of the work is done independently, and the work produced is a direct reflection of one’s own commitment and work ethic, I’ve become much more thoughtful and critical about how I process the information I take in and articulate the arguments I put forth. I’ve also met some really incredible people.”


Sarah Estrela ’15

Eleanor Whitney Collier ’35 Scholar and Charles A. Dana Scholar
Andrew W. Mellon Research Fellow
Hometown: Pawtucket, R.I.
Majors: Art history and English