Art Alumna Wins Prestigious Fulbright Fellowship

Mary Baldwin University art alumna, Giselle Hobbs ’18, has been awarded a 2023–24 Fulbright Fellowship, one of the world’s most prestigious academic scholarships. It will enable her to spend the next academic year studying and completing an artistic residency at the École des Beaux-Arts Paris under internationally acclaimed art curator Alexia Fabre. 

“I am honored and absolutely ecstatic to receive this wonderful news,” said Hobbs. Being chosen from a pool of about 40,000 applicants to participate in the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program “has left me awed and speechless.”  

Giselle Hobbs ’18 presenting her work at Mary Baldwin University’s 2018 Capstone Festival; Hobbs’s sculptures and painting exhibited at a Cornell University art show in 2022.

The Fulbright program offers grant awards to some of the world’s most talented students and young professionals to conduct research, study, and lecture in academic and professional fields in partnership with more than 140 countries. A presidentially appointed board of 12 administers around 8,000 scholarships annually. Recipients have gone on to become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists, and teachers. They include 62 Nobel laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 78 MacArthur fellows, and thousands of leaders across the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

MBU art and art history department chair, Dr. Jim Sconyers, served as Hobbs’ primary academic advisor and said the program would be hard-pressed to find a more deserving candidate.

“Giselle’s studies at Mary Baldwin consistently reflected a superior level of accomplishment — in the department, across the university, and even globally,” he said. “She is the most driven student I’ve worked with during my 17 years of teaching. Her vision and determination are remarkable; the complexity of her objectives are evidence of her tenacity and fearlessness.”

Hobbs left high school early and enrolled at MBU in 2013 through its Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, which enables girls as young as 13 to attend college full-time. She capitalized on its emphasis on creating personalized, hands-on learning tracks, and completed three thesis projects; the famed three-year fundamental course in painting and drawing at the Angel Academy of Arts in Florence, Italy; fluency certificates in French, German, and Italian from the University of Virginia; and spent an academic year studying and drawing medicinal plants at the American School of Asuncion in Paraguay. She won numerous awards and honors before graduating at age 19, including the art department’s distinction in major, first place at the annual senior Capstone Festival, and a Russell Scholar Award, one of the university’s top academic honors.  

A glass and moss sculpture from Hobbs’ 2022 exhibition, “Antibiome;” a painting Hobbs created during her time as a Virginia Museum of Fine Art graduate fellow.

Sconyers says Hobbs has continued to compile an impressive track record of success since leaving Mary Baldwin. 

She earned a master’s degree in art history from Syracuse University, as well as a Florence Fellowship Full Graduate Award, and Jack Kent Graduate Award. Next came an MFA in art from Cornell University, where Hobbs explored the “intersection between anatomy, botany, bioengineering, and bio-art,” and participated in multiple solo and group art exhibitions. She was awarded a 2022–23 graduate fellowship from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts — where she was the lone painter among 15 fellow recipients. 

Looking back at her many achievements, and forward to her upcoming Fulbright experience, Hobbs says her time at Mary Baldwin University laid the foundation for everything. She says the willingness of instructors — and Sconyers in particular — to listen to her ideas, offer advice, and stand by her side as she blazed a bold trail that was uniquely her own was incredible. 

“I am and always will be thankful for all of the support and encouragement Dr. Sconyers has given me over the years,” said Hobbs. He was “always there, and that really made all the difference in the world for me.”

“She is the most driven student I’ve worked with in my 17 years of teaching. Her vision and determination are remarkable.”

Jim Sconyers, MBU Art and Art History Department Chair