On May 10-11, UW–Madison and the School of Education will celebrate its latest cohort of talented graduates with 2024 Spring Commencement celebrations. Ahead of this big weekend, we reached out to a few of our graduating students to learn more about their accomplishments, time at UW–Madison, and future plans.

Abby Sunde is graduating with a BFA in studio art, focusing on glass and drawing. Drawn to UW–Madison’s renowned glass program, Sunde is a returning student and previously graduated with a BA in biology and environment sciences from the University of Minnesota, Morris. As she shifted her focus towards art, she then earned an associate of fine art degree from Normandale Community College before packing up and moving to Madison.

Sunde’s artwork draws on her previous scientific pursuits as well as her work with urban Native communities in Minnesota. As she approaches graduation and plans to start graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design, she speaks about the impact she hopes to have in the world:

“My biggest goal in life is to cultivate community through art, sharing knowledge, and fostering belonging,” she says. “Whether that’s through academia, community organizing, or entirely different, I’m excited to see how my path unfolds with these values centered in my life.”

Read on to learn more about Sunde:

Where are you from, and what brought you to UW–Madison? I grew up in north central Wisconsin (Merrill) and lived in Minnesota for quite a few years before returning to school for art. The glass program at UW–Madison is what caught my eye and convinced me to move here to continue my education. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, and I am so grateful for the opportunities that have happened while here!

UW–Madison’s Division of the Arts created a video about you, where you talk about merging your interests in science and art and how you became interested in working with glass. Can you share more about your artistic practice? Informed through my previous education and work in environmental science and remediation, and also through my previous work supporting food security in Native communities, my practice is an exploration of the complex societal challenges therein.

Primarily working in glass and drawing, I explore historical and contemporary relationships between humans and nature and how those relationships connect to community and individual sovereignty today. I’m interested in the complex interactions our bodies have with current plant/food systems and the overall compromises that feel expected of a person in order to operate within society. My work and research over the past year has investigated various dimensions of these compromises as they relate to individual and community health, identity, and ethics.