University of Southern Indiana

Student Highlight - Stephanie Folz

About Stephanie Folz

Class of 2021

Major: History

Minors: Creative Writing, Professional Writing and Rhetoric

Involvement: USI History Society


Have you ever had your hands on a piece of ancient history? Literally? USI History major, Stephanie Folz has. She frequently works on researching the ancient artifacts and artwork within the USI Art Collection thanks to her position as Student Archivist in the John M. Lawrence ’73 Library

The Lawrence Library is one of USI’s (somewhat) hidden gems. Located in the lower level of the Liberal Arts Center, the Library is home to a rotation of curated exhibits featuring antiquated items donated by the Library’s namesake, John M. Lawrence ‘73, and others, such as former USI College of Liberal Arts Dean Michael Aahkus. Lawrence is an international expert and collector of medieval manuscripts. Lawrence donated many of his medieval manuscripts as well as other artifacts, for use as a study collection for students. Michael Aakhus’s wife Patricia (Patty) Aakhus was instrumental in the formation of the Library, which sprang from a friendship between her and John Lawrence. Patty Aakhus, who was an Associate Professor of English, served as the director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and also served as program director in Global Studies (formerly known as International Studies). She served as the first caretaker of the Lawrence Library. Since her death in 2012, the College of Liberal Arts oversaw the Library until 2018 when Susan Colaricci Sauls M’16, Director of University Art Collections, officially took over the management of the space and the collection.

Stephanie affixing a ribbon to religious artifactsStephanie affixes a ribbon to one of the religious artifacts on display in the Lawrence Library

Sauls now oversees not only the space but also the student workers for the Library. She tells us, “The Lawrence Library prides itself on the student leadership of the space. Each semester there is a Senior Student Archivist and one to two Student Archivists that curate exhibitions, research manuscripts and artifacts, and participate in collections management and care.” Stephanie Folz started her position at the Library about one year ago and immediately fell in love with the work. As a History major, she is no stranger to doing research and, coupled with her minors in Creative Writing and Professional Writing, she can craft a great story to go with each piece in the exhibits.

It may not surprise anyone that her first stops in researching any of the unknowns about pieces in the Library are Google and Wikipedia. Using key terms and comparing images of similar artworks helps her sleuth out the origins and subject matter for many of the works. “When you can’t read a language, you have to use context clues to figure out the meaning. I have even been able to use Pinterest to find little ‘breadcrumbs’ of information that lead me down a trail to learning more about a piece,” Stephanie says. This detective work was put to use when Stephanie curated her own exhibit, “A Global Phenomenon: Religion,” on display now. She chose a selection of Eastern Hemisphere religious artifacts and texts that range from the ancient thoughts of Buddhism, the branches of Christianity, and to the life way of Hinduism.

As someone who loves mythology, Stephanie reveled in the chance to work with the different gods, goddesses, and saints depicted in her exhibit. Her favorite eras to study include Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt and she has been able to handle pieces from those eras in her role at the Library. A couple of her favorite pieces are Vishnu Under the Sun, the Thai Buddha Folios, and the Hellenistic Greek Krater (which also has an exhibit running concurrently with her own). If you would like to see any of these pieces up close, visit the Lawrence Library where both exhibits will be on display through the end of the academic year (May 2021).

The John M. Lawrence '73 Library

The Library is open to the public and open to USI classrooms wanting to do their own research. To find out more about the library, its exhibits, and scheduling, please visit the website.

If you would like to learn more about the USI Art Collection, check out USI Foundation’s video featuring Susan Colaricci Sauls.

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