Student Spotlight: Danielle Lussier ’14; Artist, Yoga enthusiast, traveller, and blogger


By Abigail

On campus, Lussier can be hard to find. Danielle is a double major in Studio Arts and

Psychology and is heavily involved.

She is constantly busy in the ceramics studio (her home away from home) or working on a new art project in Visual Arts. When she isn’t creating a new innovative art piece, she tries as many new things as possible.

She has taken advantage of Union to the fullest: from rugby to Bhangra dancing- she has tried it all. She likes to keep herself busy by challenging herself, meeting new people, or trying a new yoga pose.

Currently, Lussier is spending her senior spring term abroad in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

As a Studio Arts major, she has tried almost every type of medium. She appreciates the art department at Union because “it is so small and intimate, but nice enough to work closely with professors and get the attention you need.”

After taking several classes, she found her home with the ceramics courses. For her senior project she decided to solely create pieces with ceramics.

Due to the fact that she is currently abroad, Lussier had to work quickly at finishing her project by the end of winter term. She created a wall mural that spanned over 30 feet as well as several additional freestanding pieces. Her project, entitled “Plumcake,” was inspired by her grandmother, who worked as a professional potter for over fifty years.

Over winter break, she utilized her time in her grandmother’s studio to be able to finish in time. Having her grandmother come see her exhibit “was a major highlight

of my life as we could share the same passion together,” Lussier reflects.

Another favorite art project she had was working with Professor Benjamin in photography. She created an independent project by posing in different yoga positions in different places.

“It was a struggle at first, but I started to get really good at using self timer, which is a good skill to have,” said Lussier.

When she manages to find the time in her busy schedule, she adds posts to a collaborative travel and yoga blog:

The website focuses on giving readers inspiration for healthy living with yoga

and travel advice. Various contributors add backpacking advice and ways to get around new cities around the world.

She has been posting about her time in Siem Reap. Lussier enjoys working on the blog as she can share her own

inspiration with others and be exposed to different things from around the world.

She is a lover of all quotes and one of her favorites is from the Dalai Lama: “An open heart is an open mind.”She has embraced the Dalai Lama’s words through her time in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Lussier, along with four other students, are taking classes and working at two NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) during their time in South East Asia.

They work with both the Ponheary Ly Foundation (PLF) and The Global Child (TGC). PLF works with rural public schools and gives students uniforms and bicycles to prevent them from dropping out.

TGC gives former street working children an opportunity to attend school by giving their families a dollar a day that the students attend school. The abroad students take over the classes that the Minerva Fellows were teaching. Lussier took over Becca Duffy’s ’13 Grade 8 English class at TGC.

At the PLF she teaches an arts and crafts class at the Tchey School, which is 20 minutes outside Siem Reap.

Art is something that students in these rural public schools never have the opportunity to experience. The students never cease to surprise Lussier.

“We give them an idea or example of what we want to create for the day such as finger puppets or dream catchers but they always go a step further and create something completely new with the materials in ways I couldn’t expect. One day

students even began to use pipe cleaners to make glasses!”

exclaimed Lussier.

Ultimately, she thinks it’s important to introduce art into the curriculum. It makes her so happy to see huge smiles at the end of class and the fact that the kids can take something home with them each day.

In addition to creativity, Lussier believes that leadership and empowerment is critical for these kids.

She met an expatriate from the United Kingdom who teaches a leadership class and has witnessed her student’s confidence grow. Ultimately, she thinks that this is crucial for these kids as it is a rarity for them to get this type of

encouragement and believe it is possible to achieve their dreams.

The biggest lesson that she learned from her teaching experience in Cambodia has been about how devalued education is in other parts of the world.

Reflecting on this, she has come to the realization that education is so precious.

Cambodia, still recovering from genocide, has some work to do in regards to education.

Danielle recalls how the group went to a village a couple hours from Siem Reap that not until the 2000s did they have a functioning school.

One adult in the village was teaching kids underneath a tree. In Koh Ker, it is extremely rare for these students to make it past Grade 9. This surprised Danielle, and made her value her own education and opportunities that much more.

In addition to teaching at schools, experiencing the culture has been invaluable for her. One of her favorite memories was going to her friend Piseth’s

wedding and dressing in Khmer traditional clothing.

She said, “I had a wonderful time preparing for a Cambodian wedding. It was like prom all over again! I never could have imagined that I would be able to attend a wedding during my time here, but it is such an indication of Khmer culture because even though I only knew my friend for little over a month, he invited us… the people here are so welcoming and kindhearted.”

While there definitely have been some road bumps such as battling giant spiders in Ratanikiri Provence, riding in vans with over twenty passengers, and teaching in 110-degree heat, the experience is something she would never trade.

Her time here has fostered her desire for traveling for the rest of her life. Potentially, she would like to teach yoga in different countries. Luckily, she can fuel her wanderlust next August as she is headed to China for a Minerva Fellowship. In China, she will be working with autistic children and teaching them with creative forms such as music.

We can’t wait to hear more about her world travels when she returns to Union. Cambodia, China, the sky’s the limit for Danielle Lussier.

Keep exploring Danielle!


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