Brian Frank ('01)

From art museums to tech startups, Bryan Frank, Trinity ’01, has been able to mold his Duke art history degree to every professional endeavor in his life.

Frank entered the job force after graduating from Duke, only to realize that he missed the academic study of art history. With the encouragement and support of Patricia Leighten, professor of art, art history and visual studies, Frank quit his job and pursued a MA in art history from Williams College in 2005.

Once he received his master’s degree, the director of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts recruited Frank to manage strategic initiatives. After two years, Frank left the art world to pursue a MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 2009, and now works at a tech startup in New York City.

“Even though I'm no longer an art historian, I take that experience with me,” Frank said. “The rigor of my Duke education sticks with me and conditioned me to think a little harder and a little more deeply.”

The intimate size of the art history program allowed Frank to refine his critical thinking skills. Because most courses he took in his later years at Duke had 10 or fewer students, Frank said there the opportunity to engage with professors allowed him to approach his studies with great rigor and support.

Frank noted that “the single most valuable academic endeavor” he had at Duke was writing his senior thesis on the work of Los Angeles-based artist Ed Ruscha.

“Ruscha’s work was becoming very popular when I wrote my thesis, but as my study was an exploration of 1950s America, it was also an effort to understand the environment in which I was raised—southern California,” Frank said. “Writing that thesis helped me re-examine my worldview.”

While Frank’s experience writing a senior thesis has influenced him throughout the years, he said the relationships he cultivated with faculty members at Duke sticks with him the most.

“There’s something really magical about Duke’s faculty-student relationship that is hard to match,” Frank said. “When I think back on my experience at Duke, I am still amazed at how the relationships I built and the things I learned have impacted my life. For that, I am grateful.”