Interview for the University of Missouri-St. Louis

This is the first interview for the M.A. in History, certificate in Musem Studies program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Thank you to this graduate for providing insight into her experience!


Why did you choose the University of Missouri-St. Louis?
I was already living in St. Louis and the tuition waiver through the assistantship was very appealing.

What was your favorite class and/or professor and why?
My favorite class was the Exhibition Practicum where the class worked together to mount an exhibit at a local museum. It was great practical experience in all aspects of researching/designing an exhibit.

Did you complete a thesis or capstone project? If so, what was your topic?

Yes. Students in the program have the option to do a traditional thesis or a capstone project and I opted for the latter. I wrote a Digital Preservation 101 manual for small museums.


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 was a year out of undergrad with a couple of internships under my belt. Other students in the program came from a variety of experiences: a few were fresh out of undergrad, some had worked in museums either full or part time and were returning to school, some continued to work full-time, and a couple were from outside the field. The vast majority began the program with experience in cultural institutions.


Related, who would you recommend your program for? Any particular focus or for those interested in theory vs. application?

I’d recommend it for anyone who’s looking for a good combination of practical and theory and for whom a History MA with a Museum Studies certificate would make sense. It’s also a good program for anyone who knows they are interested in museum work but maybe aren’t sure what area they’d like to focus on, as you’re allowed to take a wide range of classes.


Was housing provided for grad students or did you find your own housing and was it a challenge?

One person in my cohort lived on campus but otherwise it’s relatively easy to find affordable housing in St. Louis, either in the city or close to campus. As I said, I was already living in St. Louis so it was a non-issue for me. UMSL is a commuter school so living on campus isn’t quite the same as other university experiences – there is less of a “campus culture” and there are a lot of students who are working through school and have families and such. I’d describe it as the complete opposite of a “party school.”

Did you or any of your peers work while pursuing their degree?

At the time that I was in the program, everyone who was accepted was offered an assistantship which entailed working 20 hours a week at a local cultural institution that also provided a tuition waiver and a (very) modest stipend. The last I heard the assistantships were still being offered, but without the tuition waiver because of a lack of funding. Some of my classmates worked full-time at museums while pursuing their degree. Honestly, the stipend, while much appreciated, is not a living wage and I received financial help from my parents while in grad school.


Any advice for those looking into graduate school and beginning a career in museums?

I recommend having as much experience as possible before making the decision to pursue graduate school. But also be mindful when taking on unpaid internships. When you’re first starting out, it’s often your only viable option but don’t burn yourself out and sell yourself short by taking on a ton of unpaid work, especially if it’s not benefiting you in any meaningful way. Be critical and make sure that what you’re getting out of it is worth your time. And always take paid work over unpaid work – the less we settle for unpaid work the less it will be acceptable.

Thank you again to this graduate for these helpful responses! If you’re interested in learning more about this program, check out the blog post and the program’s website.  As always, feel free to contact me if you have any feedback. 

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