UA Junior Inspired to Take New Career Path
By David Miller
It was a typical day of high school for Camille Mancuso when she received a call from her father, Tony.
Tony never called her at school. She knew something was wrong.
Camille’s grandfather, a consistent source of motivation in her life, had died.
“My grandfather’s major thing was going outside, enjoying the flowers,” Camille said. “He always pushed me to do better in high school. It hit hard. I had to get that out of my system.”
Camille had taken art classes at James Clemens High School in Madison, Alabama, where painting became her coping mechanism.
“I did a lot of vanitas style, where the interest is in morality and appreciation of everything,” she said. “It was like creating a memorial.”
Camille, now a junior art major at The University of Alabama, continues to honor her grandfather through her works. She also paints to lessen her anxiety, which provides a sense of accomplishment she didn’t experience in traditional counseling sessions.
Now, Camille wants to achieve the same relief for children with communicative disorders. She plans to pursue a career in art therapy, which encompasses many artistic mediums that can be used to lessen stress, improve self-esteem and regulate feelings.
“Even when I’m given assignments for class, I think, ‘how will this make me feel in the end?’”Camille said. “’Relaxed? Do I need to do more? Does this medium feel calming or frustrating?’ For me, physically painting calms me down. But for children, it may be creating art digitally. I’m now beginning to think, ‘how will this make someone else feel?’
“It’s hard for [children with autism] to communicate when something’s wrong. My mom told me I have a gift of being able to understand children.”
A New Direction
Since enrolling at UA, Camille has broadened her interests from creating realistic art to embracing abstract art and 3-D design.
She’s also considered changing majors and minors to align with her new career goals.
She credits adviser and UA art professor Dr. Sky Shineman for encouraging her to grow creatively. Shineman helped Camille find a study abroad trip – “UA in Europe: Finding Meaning – Synergy of Psychology & Art through Mind & Soul” – where she’d meet Dr. Joy J. Burnham, professor of counselor education at UA, and Barbra Lee Black, who’d later help her develop a plan to combine art and child psychology into a career.
Camille’s path will include undergraduate psychology classes and potentially dropping her business minor. She’s also pursuing volunteer opportunities at the UA Rise Center, an early childhood education program for children with disabilities.
“So now that I’ve decided to do this, I’m ready to figure out how to do it,” Camille said. “One of my friends has a stepmom who does art therapy, and hopefully, I can intern with her and learn more.”
Camille has maintained a 3.999 GPA while at UA. To date, she’s earned nearly $20,000 in scholarship monies, including the Vernon Rutledge and Eugenia Otwell Rutledge Endowed Scholarship, given to art majors who demonstrate superior promise and/or achievement in the area of painting, and the Julie Peake Holaday Memorial Endowed Scholarship, given to high-performing undergraduate students in visual arts.
Camille said her academic support at UA mirrors her experiences at James Clemens High School, where art teacher Liz Vaughn helped her grow artistically and helped find scholarship opportunities for her to attend UA. Camille would earn more than $9,000 in departmental scholarships her freshman year.
“I reached out to her and said I was worried about tuition,” Camille said. “My dad really wanted me to search for scholarships, and Liz Vaughn, like she’s done for a lot of students, helped me find them. The art students became a tight-knit group in high school, and she was like a second mother to me.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.