This is the first interview discussing the program at Texas Tech University. Thank you, Betsy, for providing some insight into your graduate school experience. Betsy graduated in 2015 and currently works as the Volunteer and Group Coordinator at a science museum.
Why did you choose Texas Tech University?
Native Texan. Preferred to go to a Texas school. The only other option at the time was Baylor in Waco, a private school ($$$) vs public, and I didn’t want to attend Baylor.
Is there something about the program there that you weren’t a fan of or is it something more personal?
My dislike of Baylor has nothing to do with the quality of their program. I’m not interested in living in Waco and being a private school, Baylor is way over priced.
What was your favorite class and/or professor and why?
Dr. Cameron L. Saffell – quirky sense of humor and he is about my age.
What particular skills were taught in the program?
Very well-rounded program: museology; curatorial methodology; museum education; conservation; communication (which is actually more about creating museum labels, panels, and displays); a computer logistics and programming selection class; museum administration; conservation; museum law; collections management. A unique feature of this program: every museum student is offered a part-time job in the museum, and did not require an application or any qualifying exam other than being accepted to the program. They even worked very hard to get us into the departments we preferred, as much as possible. Having a job in the museum not only added to our resumes but gave us practical experience in the field.
Did you complete a thesis or capstone project? If so, what was your topic?
We had the option of either a thesis or a full-time, paid internship, which had to be approved by the department. Very few people take the thesis route, and most of those don’t finish for years, if ever. Interns are finished in six months – after passing comprehensive exams which are written and oral.
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.?
Most of my classmates were just out of undergrad, or only a few years out in the workforce. I am an exception. I was in a medical career for almost three decades, having earned my Bachelors in 1987. I had a medical crisis in 2009 and needed to find an alternative form of employment.
Related, who would you recommend your program for? Any particular focus or for those interested in theory vs. application?
Art, history, archaeology!! Museum of Texas Tech has five active archaeology sites that are constantly working and bringing in artifacts. Some years there are more sites. They have a summer field school that brings in international students.
Was housing provided for grad students or did you find your own housing and was it a challenge?
I lived on campus. I was the only one in campus housing. There are lots of housing options in Lubbock.
Did you or any of your peers work while pursuing their degree?
All of us!! See above under skills. Only two people (out of 16) did not take advantage of the jobs offered by the museum program.
Any other insider information you would like to provide about your program or university?
The Museum of Texas Tech is highly respected in the field. Texas Tech graduates are employed all over the nation; some internationally. One of our summer professors is the co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project.
Any advice for those looking into graduate school and beginning a career in museums?