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UST Experience Took Art Historian to Another Level

Melisa PalermoMelisa Ramos Palermo says it was getting her 2007 bachelor’s in liberal arts with a concentration in art history and theology at University of St. Thomas that gave her the confidence to pursue her doctorate at Rice University. There, she made headlines in her field after identifying a previously unattributed 16th century manuscript.

The assignment was to explain how the manuscript was a reflection of multiculturalism. But the observant Palermo also put together some clues, recognizing the style of Spanish painter Pedro de Palma. In doing so, she proved herself a natural detective.

“It was exciting,” Palermo said.

The granddaughter of migrant workers from Mexico, this shy young woman who describes herself as a perfectionist and an introvert is blazing a new path to the highest of educations within her family. She plans to complete her art history doctorate in the spring of 2014 and teach at the university level.

Palermo’s grandfather always encouraged her to keep going, and her UST experience convinced her that she could do it.

“The classes I took at UST were harder than what I had encountered before,” she said. “Expectations were higher, and that really helped me out because I had to go to another level. I struggled at first, but the challenge was exciting.”

Before UST, Palermo never thought about a master’s, much less a Ph.D.

“It gave me confidence and showed me what I was capable of doing,” she said.

It also was at UST that Palermo’s interest in art history grew—where she combined her heart for God with her fondness for drawing and painting.

“I really enjoyed my theology classes,” Palermo said. “It was awesome to learn history and art together. The art helps me in my prayer. That’s what it was created to do, to help us meditate on the mystery of the faith.”

Listening to the soft-spoken, baroque-loving art historian, one understands why she pursues her field with such enjoyment. 

“It’s because of a feeling that I get,” Palermo explained. “Some of the images, especially when the saints encounter God, stir my heart. They just capture my imagination.”

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