Professor LaPensée Wins Guggenheim Fellowship Award

Graphic image of LaPensee

Assistant Professor Elizabeth LaPensée is among the 25 winners in the Fine Art group to receive a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship Award. The winners are chosen through a highly competitive process that narrowed 3,000 applicants in Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Creative Arts down to 173 fellowships. 

“Guggenheim Fellowships are very prestigious recognitions of individuals who have demonstrated exceptional ability in scholarship and/or in the creative arts,” said Johannes Bauer, Chair of the Department of Media and Information. “LaPensée is at an early stage of her career so this is a particularly impressive distinction.”

picture of a woman with medium-length brown hair. she is wearing purple feather earrings and a black dress with a cloth tied at her waist
Dr. Elizabeth LaPensée

With the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation appointing fellowships based off of prior achievement and exceptional promise, LaPensée, who has a dual appointment in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures in the College of Arts & Letters and the Department of Media and Information in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, rose among the rest due to award-winning contributions to Indigenous-led media. As an artist, writer, and game designer, her work shares Indigenous stories and knowledge through interaction.

“I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to get work underway as a Guggenheim Fellow,” LaPensée said. “The fellowship has encouraged me to experiment with merging virtual reality and 360 film with hope for expressing Indigenous scientific teachings.”

The Guggenheim Fellowship led LaPensée to propose a virtual reality game called Along the River of Spacetime. This spacetime traveling journey to care for the rivers combines real-life 360-degree video and audio with interaction and art from an Indigenous design lens.

The fellowship has encouraged me to experiment with merging virtual reality and 360 film with hope for expressing Indigenous scientific teachings.


Since its establishment in 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has granted more than $360 million in fellowships to more than 18,000 individuals. This significant support will help LaPensée’s work reach new heights.

“It’s quite a dream,” LaPensée said. “Support from the fellowship allows me to focus on becoming established at MSU and living a balanced life in and around Nkwejong (Greater Lansing). I am excited to begin working on Along the River of Spacetime and immersing myself in researching, drawing, animating, and coding.”

Written by Sierra Richards, senior Advertising major, and originally published by the College of Communication Arts and Sciences