Studio art professor William Bennett’s January Term course hosted nearly a dozen UVA students who brought their own ideas of adversity into the classroom and, for two weeks, battled to realize their visions in clay.

Using the Third Century, B.C., Chinese terra cotta soldier as guide and class symbol, Bennett’s students crafted clay warriors in small scale, then collaborated on a life-size figure. The full-grown warrior can wear a number of interchangeable heads, crafted by the students. Sculptors were encouraged to consider their own narratives of struggle when creating their warriors. One carved words into the body of his figure, to represent the fallacies of cultural stereotypes. Another crafted a book in the arm of his soldier, to symbolize advancement through education.

“It’s important for them to have their own stories and explain why they are doing this,” Bennett said.