Sophomore Riley Hancock — Fighting the Stigma one Brushstroke at a Time

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Riley Hancock is a sophomore double majoring in visual arts with a dual discipline in pre-art therapy and visual arts with a concentration in studio art at Olivet College. Her unique path of study combines her passions of art, psychology and helping others. “Charlotte is a quiet, little town, and while I felt like I need a change of pace, I love being so close to my mom. I was seeking out a college I felt like I could connect with my teachers instead of just being a body in a big lecture hall. I also was seeking a college that offered art therapy, so Olivet really just fit the bill perfectly,” she said.

Donald VanAuken, adjunct instructor of art, also helped her decide to attend Olivet. “I met Professor VanAuken as a junior in high school when a painting of mine was placed in an art show Olivet hosts for local high schools. I showed up just as it was ending since my mom had gotten out of work a half-hour before, so I happened to get Professor VanAuken’s attention pretty easily, and he really sold the place for me,” she said. “Plus, the financial help I have received from Olivet has really taken a load off my shoulders.”

Riley has already engaged in many opportunities within the art program, one of which is the Art Alliance student club. Last year, Riley was featured in an art exhibition at a gallery in Charlotte organized by the Art Alliance. “In the art program, we go on a field trip to an art museum or something similar every semester. Last semester, we went to the Flint Institute of Art and got to watch another group of students blow glass — it looked like blowing honey,” she said. “I think the field trips are incredibly beneficial as we learn about art pieces, but they seem almost out of reach — kind of an abstract idea of creation — so it’s very real and solidifying to see the pieces in person.”

Since Olivet is a small college, students and teachers alike can get to know each other. Riley said, “I have a connection with all of my art teachers in one way or another. They all genuinely care about who you are and how you’re feeling. They all just show it in different ways. I have so much love for Professors Cynthia Eller and Don VanAuken. They’re both wonderfully funny and caring people!”

“I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is that it is absolutely ok to take some time for yourself — a mental health day if you will. Trying your hardest and pushing yourself to learn and be better is the goal, but the train can’t keep rolling without fuel,” Riley said. “I would encourage students to join Olivet if they’re the type of person that likes having a tight-knit community but still are seeking to be pushed. If something isn’t working out for a particular student, the faculty tries to flex with that. You just gotta’ speak up.”

Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

This feature was written by senior Leah Miller, marketing and communications student intern. She is a writing and history double major and a music minor, a field commander of the Marching Comets and a member Alpha Lambda Epsilon Literary Society. After college, she aspires to use her writing to educate people about different cultures and work to normalize embracing differences, potentially in a field related to intercultural relations.


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