Student prusues art degree after taking two-year hiatus

Mellissa Cunningham

An unexpected journey led one senior to graduation.

Elizabeth Fiedler, senior art major, has been attending Missouri Southern Since 1995. Fielder had a two-year intermission after her son, Alex, was born. She explored several fields of study before deciding on her final major.

“I started out as an English major, because I loved to read,” Fielder said.

After traveling through the English department, she made stops in psychology, education and sociology before settling in the art department.

Fielder took her first art class when an interest in the basic form class arose.

She enjoyed the challenge even though her idea of what the class was and the actual curriculum was different.

“Professor [Dewane] Hughes encouraged me to continue to investigate art,” she said.

She said this encouragement put her on a road with many curves. Her support system is what kept her going.

“[The experience was] like when you’re spinning your wheels, because you can’t see the bigger picture for a minute,” Fiedler said.

Fielder said she was unprepared for college. She said being a troubled teen left her with an incomplete education. She had not taken all the same classes as the average high school student.

Those who she turned to for advice told her to go to a vocational or a trade school. Fiedler said she applied to Southern just to prove herself to those doubting her.

“I overcame obstacles because I’m stubborn,” she said. “I just kept pushing it. I wasn’t willing to accept that I couldn’t do it or I wasn’t smart enough.”

Fiedler admits she did not apply herself at first. She skipped her share of classes. When her son was born she found new incentive to do well in school.

“It became about both of us ,” she said.

Along the road of education, feminism has been a strong influence in Fiedler’s life.

She said most people have a stereotypical view of feminism.

“People see it as angry women hating men, or that it’s a bunch of women pissed off because women aren’t represented in history, or women have been left out of history – which is part of it,” Fielder said.

She said she did not really know what feminism was when she began.

“Why I started out interested in it and why I’m interested now is kind of evolving,” Fiedler said.

The last two years she has spent her time researching feminism, women’s studies and women’s history. She has come to believe that feminism is not sex based at all.

“My understanding of feminist theory, which is independent research, is under the present system everybody suffers,” she said. “It’s not just about women. It’s not about being against men. It’s about everyone suffering under a system that is built on oppression. So, they should rename it, because feminism today isn’t just about female rights.”

Her art has been a medium she used to express her growth. She creates sculptures using her interest in feminism as a tool.

With all this, she still makes sure Alex is with her on this journey.

“I love just hanging out with him,” Fiedler said. “We talk a lot. I like to read with him or color with him.”

She sees the bumps and hills she has encountered as necessities to reach to the final destination.

In December, she is graduating with a bachelor’s of art with an emphasis in studio art and a minor in psychology.

She is looking at graduate schools with the intention of getting a master’s degree in women’s studies.

Fiedler may continue to earn a Ph.D.

She is not limiting herself. Eventually she would like to end her journey by returning to Joplin.

Her goal is to teach at the college level.