Rebecca Purchase '17: a passion for art & science

A dual major in biology & illustration, Rebecca is adapting a scientific article into a graphic novel format.

  • Year: Class of 2017
  • Dual Major: Illustration, Biology
  • Hometown: Marblehead, MA
  • Leadership: Illustration Club president, Peer Mentor

My major in CVPA is illustration, but I am also a biology major. My passion is trying to figure out how to combine the two.          

After transferring from an art college in Chicago, I felt that CVPA's illustration program was going to suit my passion for the sciences as well as illustration.

To me, CVPA had a close community of professors and students who knew one another and were integrated to such a degree that you weren’t just "in a major"—you were a student of CVPA, and everyone was your classmate.

Student life: active & full of discovery

Student life at UMass Dartmouth is active, curious, and full of discovery.

Every night, there is usually an event occurring somewhere on campus—from the residence halls to club events to whole academic buildings. The student community is active in attending these events and making sure they happen.

This curiosity in events expands into academics as well; students are taking their biggest risks, and the UMass Dartmouth community encourages it. If you decide that something is not working out for you, you will find the push and the support you need to make a change and better your experience on campus and in regular life.

New ways of seeing the world

When I first chose my major within CVPA, I saw art as a tool for me to use to advance and set myself apart in a biological field. CVPA classes, professors, and peers have changed my opinion entirely on what art means to me and have helped develop my passion. In my major, I have four amazing professors who have become more like friends. We aren’t just building portfolios, we are building new ways of thinking and seeing the world, and I don’t know if I would be in the same place without the influence of my professors now, or even just having to have many different professors and only getting close to one, rather than all of them.

Involved in campus life

The best part of my CVPA experience is how involved I have become.

Within my first semester or so, I was already actively helping out at open houses and accepted student days, which quickly evolved into my becoming a Peer Mentor.

I joined the Figure Drawing club and the Illustration club, of which I am now president of, and forced myself to try all these new things just because I could. Being so involved gave me the greatest appreciation of this school because it not only let me see how the school operates, but also I have become a student working hard to get other students excited and involved. I know we can only get better with more students involved.

"The Bio-Art Book"

A large part of who I am is a scientist, and I pursued this aspect taking on the Biology major under the College of Arts and Sciences. However, as I progressed forward in the Illustration track, I knew that I needed to use both skills—these superpowers of mine—and combine them.

The result of that realization has manifested itself into a project I call "The Bio-Art Book." I am attempting to illustrate a complete—not just science concepts and facts, but an actual study, into a graphic novel format. My hopes are that this project will further my career as a graphic novelist—deciphering complex ideas and jargon into a media format that is easy to understand for children, young adults, and adults not familiar with science. This project is still ongoing and will be partially finished to completion by the Senior Show in early May.

Collaborative arts activities

An example of a collaborative experience I’ve had with peers is working with the resident halls in getting CVPA-hosted activities directly into the living spaces of students. Our goal was to get students—who may not normally have an interest in art—to indulge in an activity such as a student gallery, open-mic night, movie night, Christmas wreath making, prayer flags, paint night, and many others.

Supportive faculty

A shout-out to Bruce Maddocks who, as my advisor, worked with me and showed genuine interest in the combining of my majors and supporting me when I knew things were going to get tough. James Edwards, Jean Francois Allaux, and Zack Giallango also all deserve shout-outs for the support they've given, and the priceless skill sets I've developed from their masterful teaching. Also, I have to credit Megan Abajian for giving me all these opportunities to become involved with the CVPA community as much as I am now, and all the Resident Directors on campus who have guided me to become a better person and to learn how to adapt to working with a large team of students as well as to be a resource to students.

CVPA: a place to grow

As a CVPA student, you have the opportunity to explore different media you would never have thought you would touch, you interact with students of all classes who become your best friends, and you bond with faculty who are your first connections as a professional artist. There are a lot of great things about being a CVPA student, but if I had to choose, I would say the thing I enjoy most is being able to call CVPA a second home. I walk into this building and feel like it is "mine." This is a place where I will continuously grow in and is the base for whoever I become in the future.


College of Visual and Performing Arts