Reading the Walls: Susanna Prull ’03 on Her Lifelong Passion for Historic Preservation

Susanna Prull always felt at home entrenched in the world of art. Looking back, she recalls observing the beauty, history, and culture of every space she encountered. “I loved visiting a family friend’s early 19th century farmhouse that was surrounded by barns, outbuildings, fields, and stone walls,” Prull states, thinking back fondly on her childhood in Providence and Smithfield, RI. “When in an old building or walking in an old neighborhood, I was enchanted by the idea that I was walking where so many others had walked over hundreds of years, and I wondered who they were, what they wore, what they ate, what they felt.” Prull was drawn to the world of art by something almost preternatural in nature, a deep passion she held blazing inside her from a very young age.

When choosing an institution of higher education, however, Prull felt a growing sense of uncertainty. As she explains it, “I was unsure of what I wanted to concentrate on for my undergraduate degree, so I chose URI because of its great range of undergraduate options and affordable instate tuition. I knew that, once I had an excellent undergraduate foundation and manageable student loans, I could pursue a graduate degree in one of my fields of study.” In order to find her way in the whirlwind of the major decision-making process, Prull found solace in drawing on the affinities of her younger years. She took up dual majors in Art History and History, stating that her studies helped her feel closer to the past and those who call it home. During her time at URI, Prull found more and more of herself through her experiences with her majors and the people she met along the way. Nevertheless, while she was able to further understand her love of art and architecture while studying abroad for a semester in Florence, Italy, the path forward still remained unclear. It was only until she took Professor Ron Onorato’s Intro to Historic Preservation class her senior year that her future gained direction.

Prull went on to graduate from URI in 2003 with dual B.A.’s in Art History and History. Inspired by Professor Onorato’s course, Prull went on to take part in statewide volunteer work for non-profit organizations before attending the University of Vermont for graduate school, where she received her M.S. in Historic Preservation, the drive to do so she credits to her time spent as a student at URI. Now residing in Cranston, RI, Prull works for the statewide non-profit historic preservation organization Preserve Rhode Island, where she is currently employed as the Program Manager and Graphic Designer. With all her lifetime experiences under her belt, Prull leaves with a bit of advice for future students. “Gauge what your passions and inspirations are and let them guide your course selections,” she advises, “Get as much hands-on experience – whether as an intern or volunteer – to try out fields/professions. Ask questions of advisors, professors and the people/organizations you work with to help guide you towards your areas of study. Also, be practical and learn about where your interests can lead to a successful career, financially and personally!”

Written by Chase Hoffman ’20, Writing & Rhetoric and Anthropology Double Major