Introducing Sepp Scanlin who will finish the Museum Studies online degree program at Johns Hopkins University in December 2016. He currently works as the Director and Curator at a history museum. Thank you to him for providing this additional information about his graduate school experience.
Why did you choose Johns Hopkins University?
Three Reasons – online program, no requirement to specialize within the field (education, curation, fundraising, etc) and school name recognition.
What was your favorite class and/or professor and why?
Museums, Law and Policy – Professor Melissa Levine
Although I have many favorites, this one particularly stood out. Melissa developed the class to be current, practical and challenging. She gave us problems that museums are facing today and supported it with great readings and challenging assignments requiring true development of knowledge to support our future profession. I also took this class during my first semester and have had to use the knowledge and skills I developed in every subsequent class – I have recommend it as a “foundation” class to fellow students, although the program does not formally require it as one.
What particular skills were taught in the program?
The program really emphasizes 21st Century Skills, such as digital, social media, etc. I also found the program provided indirect emphasis on partnership, collaboration, and evaluation. Obviously it also included all the standard skills such as education, community engagement, preservation, administration, fundraising and exhibit planning/design.
Did you complete a thesis or capstone project? If so, what was your topic?
I am completing a thesis for the Digital Curation Certificate program – “Information Dominance – Study on potential for U.S. Army to share historical information with online audiences.” I also completed an academic internship for the Certificate program.
Did the Digital Curation certificate add to the time it has taken to complete the overall program? If so, how much?
The digital certificate did add about a year to my program (formally an additional four classes) The certificate requires six classes to complete, but two of them can overlap with the masters.
Where were you and your classmates in your career? Just out of undergrad, or coming from an entry-level museum position, or coming from outside of the field, etc.?
I am a mid-career changer. I started the program once I decided to retire from the military and seek a museum career as a second profession. I knew I would need to have academic credentials to be competitive in the job market and provide some transition form my previous career.
Overall the classes had a diverse mix of students ranging from straight from undergraduate, to mid-museum career professional, to career changers. Since it is an online program, the student mix also covered a wide geographic area and sampling of the field. I had an assistant zoo keeper, Art curator for a for-profit business, directors of small/medium history museums, development professionals, and all the typical museum professions as classmates.
Related, who would you recommend your program for?
I think the program is best suited for mid-career professionals. They don’t need an understanding of the real-world dynamics of a museum as much as broadening of their professional skills and latest in professional thought. The program is still very good for entry-level and career changers, but by necessity it does lack the hands-on reality check. The professors and student are great about talking about real-world issues, but it is something that has to be acknowledged. The last recommendation I would share is the program allows you to keep a job, which based on the investment cost is a major factor.
Any other insider information you would like to provide about your program or university?
The online aspect of program is challenging to some, but my experience is that the program is very social. The technical challenges are few and you establish true professional connections and friendship that in many ways are more rewarding since they are so diverse. The cost is not cheap, but (at least when I looked) on par with other online programs. Finally, don’t assume education guarantees employment, but plan ahead and tailor your education to potential employers needs and your wants.
Any advice for those looking into graduate school and beginning a career in museums?
If possible seek an internship/volunteer position prior to get a feel for the field. Learn how challenging the field is for employment and if the investment in graduate school is both cost effective and advantageous for your personal professional goals. if possible find a professional mentor or attend a museum association meeting prior to spending the money for a Master’s Degree. Budget for, join and participate in the professional organizations as a student to support the academic aspects and learn what challenges the field is struggling with. Network, network, network!
Thank you again to Sepp for these answers! If you would like more information about the program at Johns Hopkins University, check out the blog post, their website, and some more interviews. Please contact me or comment below if you have any suggestions or questions.