In The Spotlight: Stephanie Brown
Meadows Alumnus Credits Connections at SMU for Helping Boost Her Career
Growing up in the small town of McAllen,
Texas, Stephanie Brown always dreamt about
life in a big city.
When she graduated from high school, she
traded the palm trees of McAllen for the River
Walk of San Antonio. But it didn’t take long
before Dallas’s art scene and SMU wooed her
away. By her sophomore year, she was enrolled
at Meadows School of the Arts.
“SMU has so many opportunities for people
interested in the arts,” says Brown. “Dallas has
incredible resources, and the professors at
Meadows are enthusiastic supporters of the
arts and of their students.”
Brown graduated in 2007 with a B.A. in art
history, and while at Meadows, she took advantage
of her proximity to expert faculty and
trips to world-class art institutions. “I enrolled
in the New York Colloquium with Professor
Philip Van Keuren,” says Brown, referring to the
annual two-week study program that immerses
students in the art world in New York with visits
to the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim,
the Metropolitan Museum and more. “I
had always imagined myself living in New York
some day, and opportunities like this gave me
the confidence to make that happen.”
She also went on three trips – once as a student
and twice as staff – to the Mugello Valley Archaeological
Project and Poggio Colla Field School, an
archaeological excavation in Italy led by former
Meadows Art History Professor Dr. Greg Warden.
“We excavated an Etruscan site,” says Brown.
“Poggio Colla meant working with experts in
the field. We learned about the area’s culture
and got a thorough introduction to archaeology
and Etruscan history.”
Meadows faculty served as guides all along
her collegiate and career path. Recognizing
Brown’s ambition, Warden helped her get into
a graduate-level art and law class while she
was still an undergrad.
Professor Lisa Pon launched her in New York by
helping her gain an internship with the College
Art Association. “I wouldn’t have had that opportunity
if it hadn’t been for Lisa,” says Brown.
In the spring of 2011, Brown joined the New York
Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), the largest
funder of culture and arts in the United States
(2013 annual budget: $155 million). Brown began
as a legal analyst, but her work soon shifted to
assisting DCLA Commissioner Kate Levin.
“I work closely with the commissioner on a
variety of projects around the city,” says Brown.
“Considering the depth and breadth of DCLAfunded
arts programs, a lot of what I do involves
staying informed on what is happening in the
Brown acknowledges that connections with
professors and students at Meadows have been
important to her career.
“When I was looking for a job, I spoke to Chair
of Art History Janis Bergman-Carton and she
introduced me to Meadows board member
Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo (pictured at left
with Stephanie), who is very involved in the
art world in New York. I contacted her and we
discussed my future and career in New York,
and we’ve been in touch ever since. She’s been
a great mentor. I admire her so greatly and am
so appreciative to Janis for introducing us.”
Cassullo, who has served on numerous boards
for such arts organizations as the Whitney
Museum and Creative Time, also had mentors
during her studies at SMU, including SMU’s Dr.
Eleanor Tufts and Dr. Alessandra Comini.
“It’s when Stephanie and I meet for drinks or
dinner that I step into the role of friend and
mentor,” says Cassullo. “Her life has many
parallels to mine, especially at her young age,
and in this city. We both assumed roles of great
responsibility early in our adult careers, and
have focused on giving them our all. Hopefully,
I am able to put things in perspective for her,
having lived through similar challenges myself. I
hope I encourage her.”
“The mentor relationship is very important,” says
Brown. “I’ve had many mentors, and I think it’s
been so easy for me because of the encouragement
I received at SMU. I found that when
I voiced passion or concern, the professors at
Meadows immediately supported me. I would be
in a very different place without those professors.
“To students today, I say seek out your mentors
and take advantage of the resources at SMU.
Meadows has a great deal to offer to the student
who reaches out for opportunity.”