Saturday, June 22, 2024

Art history major wins Chancellor’s Award

Growing up in the North Country, near Plattsburgh, Samantha Johnson thought she knew Plattsburgh State’s campus well. If it wasn’t for her mom encouraging her to apply to PSUC, Samantha’s life would have gone down a different path.

“I came for a tour of the school [PSUC], even though I grew up here,” Johnson said. “It gave me a completely different perspective on the school.”

Johnson, a senior art history major with three minors in french, studio art and history, was amazed by the works of art located throughout campus. She realized after visiting other college campuses that Plattsburgh State was the right fit for her.

Another deciding factor for Johnson enrolling was when she received the Presidential Scholarship, which gives free tuition to recipients and invites them to join the Honors program.

Johnson’s decision to pursue art history as a major can be traced back to her love for history in high school. She decided that if she wanted to work in a museum as her occupation, art history seemed like a viable option.
“I really liked writing, so I wanted something where I could write a lot and tell stories,” Johnson said.

Johnson chose architecture as her focus within the art history major. She has from a young age been amazed by the appearance and structure of buildings. Her love and passion for art history and architecture has led to many internships and research opportunities.

Johnson traveled to the Republic of Georgia with her boyfriend in May 2017 to visit his family for two weeks, where she landed an unexpected internship excavating a fourth century palace complex.
“They already had excavated this sight once in the 80s, but they didn’t really have a way to preserve it yet, so they covered it back up to keep it protected,” Johnson said.

A few weeks later, Johnson interned at Eastern Townships Resource Center, a nonprofit historical society, located in Sherbrooke, Quebec, that preserves ancient documents that were found in the Eastern Townships of the province. Johnson organized documents and ran social media accounts at the archives.

Johnson’s success doesn’t go unnoticed by her peers. Skylar Hunyadi, a friend who met Johnson in an English class at PSUC, attributes her success to her work ethic.

“She is very organized and a timely person,” Hunyadi said. “She has the ability to foresee her semester and chunk it up to get her work done.”

Hunyadi and Johnson worked together in the PSUC Art Museum. Through this connection, Hunyadi has noticed how passionate Johnson is about learning and accepting she is of people from different backgrounds. Johnson’s ability to connect with others, Hunyadi said, will get her far in life.

Art department Chair and Professor Karen Blough had Johnson as a student, and agrees with Hunyadi about Johnson’s unique ability to learn.

“Samantha came in with immense academic and intellectual gifts and these have progressed very much,” Blough said. “The projects she has worked on have become increasingly sophisticated.”
Blough praised Johnson’s writing ability and believes she is prepared for graduate school through her extensive internships and academic rigor.

Because of her academic success and leadership experience, Johnson was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award. The award was created in 1997 to recognize students who combine academic success with campus involvement. Johnson was nominated for the award by one of her professors.

“I called my mom and she was surprised, but knew I could do it at the same time,” Johnson said with a smile.

When Johnson isn’t busy with schoolwork or internships, she spends her time reading, dancing and knitting.

Johnson is attending the University of Vermont as a graduate student next semester pursuing a master’s degree in historic preservation. She envisions herself restoring historic buildings once she receives her masters.
Amidst all her success, Johnson said completing her 30-page senior thesis has been her greatest academic achievement.

“That was a huge project,” Johnson said. “That was the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve done at Plattsburgh.”

Johnson wanted to focus on architecture, so she wrote about churches located in the Republic of Georgia. Learning about Georgian history and culture, Johnson said, was a driving factor behind her deciding her topic.
“To be successful and finish it made it really worth all the hard work,” Johnson said.

Email Nate Mundt at

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