Luc White

Luc White watering plants in the greenhouse.

Student’s academic path brings arts and sciences together

There is a good chance you have seen Luc White on campus.

“Everywhere” is a good word to describe White’s impact here in the past three-plus years, and “almost everything,” while seemingly hyperbolic, is fairly accurate in describing the extent of White’s campus involvement.

White is double majoring in studio art, with a concentration in photography, and biology, concentrating in ecology. If that weren’t enough – and it’s not, for White, who uses the pronouns they, them and theirs — they have three minors: French, chemistry and women’s and gender studies.

“I’m a senior, but I’m going to be a senior for an extra two years,” White jokes, referring to the amount of time it will take to complete their studies.

Luc is in the Honors College and serves as Honors Student Council president. They hold that same position with the Selu Garden and Service Club. “I’m in the greenhouse a lot,” they said.

But that’s not all.

White is a student ambassador for the Harvey Knowledge Center and the College of Visual and Performing Arts – there, they apply their skills as a photographer – a Department of Art darkroom technician and a board operator for campus radio station WVRU.

White grew up raising crops on a farm in Bandy, Virginia, while living with and caring for their grandmother. Soon after graduating from Richlands High School, the first-generation college student made their way to Radford University, about two hours from home, because “I’ve always known I’m not really a person to go in just one direction, and Radford has been really accommodating to me in doing multiple things.”

White applied to only two colleges out of high school, but they had a difficult decision to make, particularly since their love of art and photography were tempting them to study at the Art Institute of Chicago, “which offered me a full ride,” White said.

The decision was excruciating, but “I turned them down,” White said of the prestigious Art Institute with a smile that spoke volumes about their ultimate choice of Radford and all they have learned and accomplished here in the past few years, as well as the generous scholarships they’ve received.

That decision is setting White on a path forward toward their ultimate career aspirations of traveling and photographing the world for National Geographic magazine. “I want to communicate their stories from an artistic perspective and allow people to see places and things that they didn’t know were out there,” Luc said.

It’s the combination of art and science that excites White, and it was a project – a series in combining botanical imagery with the enameling process in the Research Rookies program, mentored by Professor of Art Allison Pack – that showed White the value of effectively communicating science through art. The project resulted in an article in a Johns Hopkins University academic publication for undergraduate research.

“That sort of helped set me on the path of forging those two things together and breaking down boundaries, letting people see that art and science have historically been interwoven with one another and intertwined,” White explained. “So, I’m trying to help people see and realize art and science are not so far apart.”

White rightfully thinks of themself as a scientist when working on research with chemistry and biology faculty members, “but whenever I walk into those spaces [science labs] I’m also asking myself ‘how am I an artist here?’ Because you have to make science easy for someone to understand and what better way to do that than through an artistic approach?

“You have to ask yourself, ‘How can we illustrate a scientific idea to people? Art has the tools to do just that.”

Learning those tools for themselves is one reason Luc is “extremely happy here” on campus, they said, because “Radford has allowed me to find my place here and be part of so many valuable experiences, and it has given me the support system I need to be successful.

“I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”