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Student Spotlight: Isaac Messina '14

Student Spotlight Series

May 27, 2014 | Article by: Sarah Scalese

Isaac Messina '14


Isaac Messina ’14 graduated from Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences with a B.A. in art history and a minor in Chemistry. But, he’s not done with SU just yet; Isaac will return to campus in the fall to begin the year and a half Graduate Art History Program, in which he’ll spend one semester at SU followed by a full year studying in Florence, Italy. Housed in the Department of Art and Music Histories, the Graduate Art History Program in Florence is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
A Coronat Scholar and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, Isaac says one of his greatest accomplishments during his time at SU was winning the Orlin Prize for the most outstanding Capstone Project this year. Eager to pursue a career in art restoration, Professor Gary Radke says Isaac has a bright future and is destined for greatness.

We are pleased to feature Isaac in our special “Student Spotlight” series.

1. Tell us a little bit about life before SU?

I grew up in Pittsford, a charming little suburb of Rochester only an hour or so west of Syracuse. Both of my parents teach ceramics for a living, so I have been immersed in the world of art from as early as I can remember. Through my parents, I developed a strong background in the arts, but in high school I also found myself gravitating towards the sciences. Coming into college, I was completely undecided. I could picture myself pursuing a career in art just as easily as I could have seen myself eventually attending medical school.

2. Why did you choose SU?

As a senior in high school, I competed for and received the Coronat scholarship. This package was truly a dream come true and served as my main motivation for attending Syracuse. However, beyond alleviating the financial burden of college, the Coronat program gave me so much more than that. While on campus for the few days of interviews for the scholarship, I immediately felt a connection to the university. I met amazing professors and friends that week, and they have stuck by my side and supported me over the past four years.   

3. What was your favorite thing about attending SU?

One of my favorite things about attending Syracuse was the broad range of classes offered across all of the colleges. The freedom to take advantage of different courses outside of the College of Arts and Sciences was invaluable to me as an undecided student. It was amazing to be able to take an oil painting course at the same time as organic chemistry.  

4. Now that you’ve graduated from SU, what do you plan to do next?

Next year, I will be retuning to SU to pursue a master’s degree in Italian Renaissance Art History. The program lasts a year and a half: one semester in Syracuse and then an entire year of study in Florence. I am so excited to return to the city that I fell in love with during my abroad experience in the spring of my sophomore year. While there, I hope to gain hands-on experience in an art conservation studio outside of class time. My long-term goal after the master’s program is to pursue a career in restoration, a field that combines my passion for the arts and the sciences.

5. How has SU helped you achieve your goals and aspirations?

The connections I made with the faculty in the Department of Art and Music Histories at SU directly led to my success both in, and now out of college. In working on my thesis this year, I developed close relationships with the professors in the department. They continually went above and beyond in their roles as educators and mentors to me. They always encouraged me to apply for different opportunities, and working with them has molded me into the student I am today.

6. You already have an impressive resume – what achievement are you most proud of thus far?

During Commencement weekend, I received the Orlin prize for the most outstanding Capstone of the year. Words cannot capture the feeling of being recognized in this way for a project that I dedicated so much time and energy to over the past year and half. My thesis analyzed the high-profile restoration of Cimabue’s Santa Croce Crucifix after the Florentine flood of 1966, in which nearly half of the original paint of the work was lost. I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around the award, especially given the pool of amazing Capstone projects that my peers created. It was the perfect cherry on top of my senior year.

7. What’s the best way to spend free time as a SU student?

Friends are always the nicest distraction from schoolwork. I met my closest friends freshman year, and we have stuck together throughout the entire college experience. We motivated each other to get our homework done, but even more importantly, we encouraged each other to get out and smell the roses (or the ice-covered streets of Syracuse). The best way to spend free time at Syracuse is with other SU students, whether it is grabbing a bite to eat on Erie or in Armory Square, hiking up to the water tower behind Manley Field House, or simply sitting around and laughing.    

8. In what extracurricular activities did you most enjoy participating?

One of the most significant extracurricular activities I participated in was working as a research intern and docent at the Syracuse University Art Gallery. It was a great way to gain relevant and meaningful experience in my major right on campus.

9. What are some of the activities you like around CNY that aren’t SU affiliated?

Every summer during college, I worked as a counselor and arts assistant at Camp Seneca Lake, a JCC-affiliated summer camp on one of the Finger Lakes. These two months away each year immersed in the enchanting landscape of upstate New York rejuvenated me for the coming semesters. While at SU, I would often escape to Green Lakes State Park because it reminded me of camp and the natural beauty of the region.     

10. What is your advice to those students that will begin their senior year in the fall? Any words of wisdom?

Senior year can be a tricky balancing act between trying to live in the present while also looking toward the future. My best advice would be to find a balance between the two, as both are critical components to one’s final year. Make time for schoolwork, make time for friends, and set yourself up as best as possible for the future, because graduation sneaks up all too quickly.   

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Contact Information

Sarah Scalese
315-443-8085
sescales@syr.edu