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Carrie LeBlanc *03

Founder and executive director of CompassionWorks International

Carrie LeBlanc is founder and executive director of CompassionWorks International, a nonprofit animal advocacy organization focused primarily on ending the use of animals in entertainment, and yes, is also a graduate of the UMass History of Art and Architecture Graduate Program.

Carrie sought her Masters degree after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree from UMass in Anthropology with a minor in Art History. She pursued interests primarily focused on modern and contemporary art continually geared toward examining the dynamic relationship between art and culture. This interest culminated in the pursuit of a Ph.D. at the University of Manchester, England in their department of Art History and Visual Studies in a dissertation focused on British artist Damien Hirst. During this period she spoke at numerous conferences, and published a paper in the peer-reviewed M/C Journal entitled “Stop Press: Sister Wendy Refers to the Work of Celebrity-Artist Damien Hirst as 'Gossip Shock-Horror Art'!”. Ironically, she never once considered Damien Hirst from an animal rights perspective.

Despite enjoying success in her career as an academic, Carrie chose to leave her PhD program in favor of a path that held deeper meaning to her. With solid research and writing skills honed at UMass, she was quickly able to translate those skills into a new direction. She parlayed her time in academia into first an academic writing career and then one in grant writing, which ultimately led to a full understanding of nonprofit management and fundraising that enabled her to assist dozens of nonprofits improve their operations and performance. Finally, in 2013, after raising millions of dollars for other organizations, she founded CompassionWorks International, now an important force in the fight against animal cruelty.

During her MA, Carrie sought to improve and enhance the graduate student experience by founding the (now defunct) Organization of Graduate Students in Art History, which produced the first annual Mark Roskill Graduate Symposium in 2001. Carrie gave the introductory talk at the Symposium focused on Mark Roskill, who she had taken courses in Impressionism with during her undergraduate degree. Experiences like this gave her the skills, expertise, and confidence to explore the possibilities of developing a truly personally meaningful life, and to ultimately pursue her current career in animal advocacy.

Carrie states, “I owe a debt of gratitude to UMass and the amazing professors in the Art History program for accepting me and allowing me to explore issues within art history that were meaningful to me, and ultimately of true importance to the development of my critical thinking skills, which serve me so well today. Leaving art history was an extremely difficult and painful decision to make; however, bolstered with a whole host of useful skills like persuasive writing, analytical research, public speaking, and the ability to navigate systems, my graduate degree from UMass served, and continues to serve me, and the animals, extremely well.”