Educational leadership alum wins grant from the Dominican Republic to analyze cultural identity in visual arts

Contact: Chris Hybels

Dr. Julia Virginia Pimentel Jiménez

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—For many visual artists, they are inspired by and reference international peers in their works. But can it be forgetful of their cultural identity? This is the question Dr. Julia Virginia Pimentel Jimenez, Ph.D.'20, is asking in her new research project, "The use of Arts-based Research methodology in exploring the symbolism of Dominican cultural identity in visual artists of the 20th century".   

A visual artist herself, Pimentel believes it is crucial for artists in the Dominican Republic to develop their own authentic proposal that reflects their country's cultural identity. While some Dominican artists have partially addressed the theme of cultural identity, there is still a need to convey a clear idea of the historical, social and cultural context in which it emerges. 

"The main objective of this research is to analyze and understand how Dominican visual artists have used symbolism to represent and convey the cultural identity of the Dominican Republic throughout the past century," says Pimentel. "I expect that this research will generate valuable and transformative knowledge that contributes to the appreciation and understanding of symbolism in the cultural identity of Dominican visual artists of the 20th century."

Pimentel's research is being funded by the Dominican Republic's Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology's Fund for the Incentive of Scientific and Technological Research (FONDOCyT). Her project was one of the winning research proposals selected by the FONDOCyT in 2023. The ministry funded projects that prioritized local, provincial and regional problem-solving and provided solutions to some of the Dominican Republic's national challenges.

Planning to use the methodological approach of Arts-based research, Pimentel will be collecting and analyzing visual data. Additionally, she will be conducting a critical review of literary and documentary sources related to the topic. The research will also be collaborative as she hopes to include art teachers and students to obtain an enriching perspective from diverse viewpoints.

"I am really glad to be part of this selected group of researchers," says Pimentel. "All those years of hard work in Western's Ph.D. program are finally paying off."

Graduating in 2020, Pimentel was part of Western Michigan University's educational leadership program through a unique collaboration with the D.R.'s Ministry of Higher Education and the Universidad Iberoamericana in Santo Domingo—UNIBE. The first doctoral program to be offered in the Dominican Republic, Dominican citizens are able to earn a Ph.D. at home. The four-year program prepares individuals to hold leadership and management roles in K-12 or higher education via a hybrid learning format and with teaching support from WMU faculty.

Two times during the fall and spring semesters, faculty from the Department of Educational Leadership, Research, and Technology will travel to the Dominican Republic for one week to teach and provide advising to the program's students at the host university, UNIBE. It also includes a study abroad component, in which students enrolled in the program will travel to WMU in July each year for three weeks of intensive study and exploration of U.S. educational systems.


Due to the increasingly complex tasks including research and data analysis within all types of educational institutions, there is a demand for strong, transformational leaders. Applying theory to practice is an overall theme for the Doctor of Philosophy in educational leadership, with the case-study approach to learning used extensively. In addition, a very integrated "professional inquiry, research, and dissertation core" has been developed to assist you in adding to your higher education knowledge base. Visit the program overview page to learn more.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.