After years of teaching and serving as chair of The University of Mississippi Department of Art, Nancy Wicker felt she was due for a sabbatical. Being chosen for an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship to go along with her well-earned leave is icing on the cake.
More than 1,000 scholars applied for the highly competitive fellowships. Normally, the organization chooses 65 recipients, but the economic crisis trimmed that number to 57 this year, which makes Wicker’s selection all the more impressive.
“I was thrilled,” said Wicker, who specializes in medieval art history and archaeology. “I had no idea how many people applied. The ACLS has representatives from all kinds of learned societies, encompassing all kinds of scholarly research. It is indeed quite an honor.”
Starting in October, Wicker plans to conduct research as a visiting professor at Uppsala University in Sweden. There she will continue her study of Scandinavian bracteates, a type of stamped gold pendant typically worn by elite women in fifth- and sixth-century Nordic cultures. Though bracteates are often ornate and beautiful, Wicker is not studying them for their looks.
“I’m concerned with the people,” said Wicker, who plans to write a book from her studies. “Who made them? Who wore them? What did they mean to the people who wore them, and why did women wear them to their graves? I’m interested in the social history of these objects and what they say about Scandinavian pre-Viking culture.”
While the professor of art was already slated for a one-semester sabbatical this fall, the ACLS fellowship gives Wicker the funding and flexibility needed to take a full year.
“This is such a high honor,” said Sheri Fleck Rieth, interim art department chair. “When you’ve worked as long and hard as she has, the time away is such a refresher. She can rejuvenate her research program. She’s bringing a lot of honor to our department and to the university, and we’re very proud of her.”
While in Europe, Wicker will present some of her work at seminars and conferences. She’s also expecting to add some of her research to “Death’s Snug Chamber,” a larger research project at Uppsala University on medieval chamber graves. When she returns, she expects the experience to enhance her instruction at UM; she plans to add to her class on the Vikings, their art and archaeology.
“I feel very, very strongly that professors need to stay active in their research and bring it back into their classrooms,” Wicker said. “This research will directly inform some classes I plan to teach. I believe in active learning. I don’t just stand there and lecture.”
For more information visit the Department of Art online .