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Top 50 recipient continues to explore countless ideas around every corner

By Blake Sebring

September 13, 2023

When Parker Tysinger arrived at Purdue University Fort Wayne as a freshman, she purposely left her major as undeclared.

Now entering her senior year, Top 50 designee Tysinger is on track to graduate in May with a history degree, but she’s found so many other things at PFW to explore, too. Her cornucopia of ideas isn’t empty, which is why she has minors in medieval studies, art history, religious studies, and women’s studies.

“I am distracted frequently, but I do things to 100 percent completion in the best possible way I can do it,” Tysinger said. “I focus on my passions and see where that takes me.”

At a time when most seniors are trying to game plan the rest of their lives in detail, Tysinger is looking to ravenously explore almost everything. Her recent interests include the Eastern European avant-garde movement, propaganda, Soviet art, and the combat art produced during the Vietnam War.

Tysinger is even researching an independent study on reclaiming Ukrainian artists.

“I’m always looking for new things to be interested in,” she said. “I love it.”

As examples, Tysinger works for Catholic Diocesan Museum in downtown Fort Wayne after serving an internship a year ago. She has an intense interest in religion and museums and loves the people and the job.

On campus, Tysinger works the desk and handles social media for the Honors Program, though she’s not a member. She just loves hearing what other students are researching, which is something she’s also able to do via a job with the Department of History.

“Working at all three of my employments has allowed me to not only experience new things, but [it] has given me a plethora of educational opportunities,” Tysinger said.

No one on campus tries to direct her, they just point in various directions and then get out of her way.

“I love being here because I really feel like everyone is trying to help get you to where you want to go,” Tysinger said. “I feel like everywhere I work everyone is pushing you to just be your best self.”

Her supervisors are not forcing her to fit a preconceived picture, but helping her color in the edges until her full potential finally appears.

“She’s a committed and vocal learner,” said Steven Cody, associate professor of art history. “She isn’t afraid to think aloud, venture opinions, or test ideas in group settings. Her comments tend to move beyond the specifics of one image or theme and touch on the big ideas that animate the course as a whole.

“And—I really cannot stress this enough—she has a wonderful sense of humor. Her wit, which is never impolite, helps bring complicated ideas down to earth and keeps the learning experience enjoyable for everyone involved—me most especially.”

Ann Livschiz, associate professor, lead advisor, and associate chair in the Department of History, said what stands out is Tysinger’s enthusiastic pursuit of knowledge.

“Parker's diverse interests in history, medieval studies, art history, and women's studies, come together in the way she approaches class material and the way she brings in relevant materials from other classes and from her independent research, enriching the class and class discussion,” Livschiz said. “Parker's enthusiasm, intelligence, inquisitiveness, excellent research and writing skills, all make her a lot of fun to work with, whether as a student worker for history or as a student.”  

After graduation, Tysinger plans to study for her master’s degree in museum studies. Her ultimate goal is to work in a museum—for now. She likes museums, partly because of their diversity of opportunities, but something else may eventually attract her interest, like being a professor or a lawyer. At least she’ll never be bored.

“I have friends who have no idea what they are going to do, and I have others who seem to know exactly what they want to do,” Tysinger said. “I personally feel like life is too short, but also so long that there is no `set in stone’ for anything. Do what you want, and do it to the best of your ability and figure it out.

“I’m not worried about the future. I’m ready for it.”