Leslie Wooden, a doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been selected for a National Security Education Program David L. Boren Graduate Fellowship, which will allow her to study and research in Ghana during the 2022-23 academic year.
The Boren Fellowships, which are an initiative of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office, fund language study and research proposals by American graduate students in areas of the world critical to American interests.
Wooden, who is studying art history with concentrations in museum studies and gender and women’s studies, will receive more than $24,000 to study the Akan/Twi language and conduct research in contemporary photography for her thesis project, titled “A Ghanaian Sensibility: Clothing, Photography, and the Politics of Memory.
It will be affiliated with the University of Ghana’s Department of Linguistics, School of Languages and Institute of African Studies. She will also pursue two internships in arts institutions in Ghana to support her research.
Being named a Boren Fellow provides Wooden with significant support to expand her research on underrepresented artists and aesthetics in West Africa.
“I will extend research into Ghana’s creative arts industry and how 21st century contemporary art forms have become integrated into everyday dimensions of African life, functioning as a barometer of social impact and politics,” Wooden said.
After graduating, she plans to pursue a federal career in art conservation.
In 2021, Wooden received the UIC Award for Academic Research for conducting research for his thesis at the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archive, located at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.
In 2019 Wooden won the Provost’s Graduate Internship Award in conjunction with his National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded nomination at the Newberry Library.
In the previous year, the UIC Art History Department named her the first recipient of the Ross Edman Fellowship, a merit-based award for high-level art history students. superior created by Edman, a beloved UIC art history professor who died in 2017.
Wooden, who is from Washington, DC, has two master’s degrees from New York University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Denver.