Carolyn Wargula, Ph.D. ‘13C

Carolyn Wargula

Historian of Japanese Art Developed Passion for Research and Teaching at St. John’s

Carolyn Wargula, Ph.D. ‘13C has pursued her interest in art history to a successful academic career. In fall 2020, she will take a position as Visiting Assistant Professor at Williams College, teaching classes on Buddhist art and women in East Asia. 

Dr. Wargula recently earned her Ph.D. in History and Architecture from the University of Pittsburgh. Her dissertation focuses on pre-modern Japanese textiles that incorporate women’s hair. According to Dr. Wargula, women used these textiles to inhabit Buddhist spaces that otherwise considered women’s bodies to be polluted.  

During her dissertation research, Dr. Wargula received a Japan Foundation Doctoral Fellowship and spent nine months in Kyoto during the 2018-2019 academic year. She was based at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies and used that time to examine Buddhist hair embroideries in person and conduct research at archives. She also received a Mitsubishi Graduate Fellowship in Japanese Studies for the 2019-2020 academic year to focus on editing and completing her dissertation. 

As an undergraduate at St. John’s University, Dr. Wargula majored in English with minors in Art History and French. She credits St. John’s faculty, including English Professor Kathleen Lubey, Ph.D. and Professor of Art History Susan Rosenberg, Ph.D., with encouraging her interest in research and an academic career path. A student in the University Honors Program, Dr. Wargula wrote a thesis on The Tale of Genji under the guidance of Professor Robert Forman, Ph.D. She also developed a love for teaching and writing as a consultant in the University Writing Center.  

“The Writing Center offers hands-on opportunities for students to talk about their writing and work with their peers,” she said. “As a Writing Consultant and Writing Fellow, I developed a passion for helping students find their own voices.” 

Dr. Wargula – who grew up in both Japan and in rural Pennsylvania – always wanted to live in New York City and seized on St. John’s as an opportunity to do so. While a student, she took advantage of New York’s extensive art offerings, spending nearly every weekend going to museums. She was also attracted to the diversity of both St. John’s student body and the many options available for students to pursue.  

“I started as a Journalism major, but I liked my English classes better,” she said. “You don’t have to do what you set out to do at the beginning. You can take completely different classes outside of your major and school. Be willing to explore!”