FSU Art Education student battling terminal illness receives doctorate


A doctoral student with a terminal illness has graduated from Florida State University, acknowledging her years of scholarship.

Professors Ann Rowson Love and Pat Villeneuve of the Arts Education Department of the College of Fine Arts presented Susan Mann with a doctorate in museum education and visitor-centered exhibitions.

Susan Mann, Ph.D.
Susan Mann, Ph.D.

“Susan Mann’s presence in the Department of Art Education resonates in a deep and positive way for fellow students and faculty,” said James Frazier, Dean of the College of Fine Arts. “The awarding of the doctoral degree is truly an excellent example of our faculty’s care and concern for our students.

Mann had taken two years of classes and four years of hours of research and dissertation.

“My aunt is one of the most incredible and inspiring women I’ve known in my life,” said Alyce Greenwood, Mann’s niece. “She is someone who has always put the wants and needs of others above her own. She has always been driven to teach and learn from those around her.

Greenwood earned his bachelor’s degree in humanities from FSU in 2009 the same day Mann earned his master’s degree in arts administration.

Villeneuve remembers meeting Mann 15 years ago when she came to FSU to pursue a master’s degree in arts administration.

“I was most impressed by a student who came to talk about getting into a master’s program,” she said. “She was up to date in the literature of the field – it was as if she was already a scholar.”

Mann applied his theoretical research and study of constructivism to the world of arts administration, then later evolved his theoretical research into the application of museum curation and education.

Greenwood earned his bachelor’s degree in humanities from FSU in 2009 the same day Mann earned his master’s degree in arts administration.

Professor Jeff Broome, associate professor of arts education, served on Mann’s doctoral committee and also had Mann as a student.

“Susan’s intellectual curiosity, her good humor, her perseverance [and excellent taste in music] always brightened my day when she was in my Philosophical Structures class,” he said. “It was an honor to serve on his doctoral committee.”

Mann’s research has focused on how an individual’s knowledge relates directly to their own experiences, and how this could be applied to all facets of arts administration and education and preservation of museums. Mann also examined game theory and its application to museum education and curation, saying that these models could be used to build museum attendance, engagement, and funding.

Mann published some of his early findings in his chapter “Applying Systems Thinking to Museum Sustainability,” in “Systems Thinking in Museums: Theory and Practice,” published by Rowman & Littlefield.

“When Susan was taking one of my seminars, I really saw that she was clearly doing what I considered to be genius work,” Villeneuve said.

Mann had several accomplishments in her work outside of FSU, including serving as deputy director of the Mary Brogan Museum in Tallahassee. She has presented several conferences and seminars, including the annual conference of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries “Why Museums Matter: The Teaching Museum Today”, and the Social Theory, Politics and the Arts, École Nationale d’Administration Publique (ENAP ) where she presented her article “The Community Engagement Model: Building social capital through the arts”.

(Left to right) John Falk, Lynn Dierking, Jay Boda, Pat Villeneuve and Susan Mann attending the AAMG conference

“It was such an honor to work with Susan as her committee chair,” Rowson Love said. “Throughout her medical treatments over the past three years, she has developed a new theory.”

She said Mann was inspired to return to FSU to pursue her doctorate in museum education and visitor-centered curation, where she discovered her life’s passion during her coursework and research.

“This work was his inspiration, his joy,” Rowson Love said.

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