Interview with Kelsey Jistel for the University of Kansas

This is the first interview for the University of Kansas’ Museum Studies program. This alumnus graduated in 2014. She currently works as the Curator of Educational Programs at a Historical Society. Thank you, Kelsey, for answering these questions!

 

 

Why did you choose the University of Kansas?

When looking for Museum Studies programs, I was looking for a school in the Midwest or near my home state of Texas. I only applied to two schools, KU and Baylor, but chose KU because of the cost and program offered. KU was also close to my undergrad and to family, plus the campus is gorgeous and hilly!

 

What was your favorite class and/or professor and why?

When I first started the program I thought my path was collections (I think most of my peers did too), but after a summer internship and a course in museum public education, taught by Mary Madden, it really changed my perspective of museums. The education course was a nice balance of theory and application. We studied various learning theories, created museum-based lesson plans, and as a class, we planned a public program for a local museum that was a huge hit!

I also enjoyed the course of audience development, which was something my peers and I requested (i.e begged for). In this course, taught by Steve Nowak, we focused primarily on evaluation, and how to get the audience you want for your institution. We designed and implemented surveys, led focus groups, and studied visitors touring the museum, to learn more about how to reach our audience, undergraduates with an interest in history. I think this was a real eye-opening experience and something I’ve taken with me to my current position. Programs, exhibits, tours, etc. are not going to be successful unless you take the time to think about your audience, and their wants and needs.

 

Is that normal for course offerings to change based on the interests of the students?

The MUSE program has a Special Topics course offering, and our audience development course fell under that. Since many of us were interested in the course and we convinced one of our instructors to cover it. They offered it on a first-come, first-serve basis, but it did end up being a fairly big class (~11 students). KU also offers an Advanced Study course for students that want to explore a specialized topic more in-depth. There are several opportunities to tailor your coursework to fit your interests.

 

What were particular skills taught in the program?

The program offered a lot of hands-on experience. The instructors, many of whom are directors of museums in the area, utilized the nearby museums and their resources. Several of our classes were held off-campus at the museums. While we did focus on theory, we also applied what we learned to the “real world” by creating lesson plans, budget reports, conservation reports, exhibit designs, etc. for museums and institutions. It helped that our instructors were open and honest with us. They made it clear that while working in a museum can be fun and rewarding, it’s not always so glamorous, and you will most definitely “wear many hats” during your career.

 

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

While I was in the program at KU, our director changed the program from the old track system to a more individualized plan. This individualized plan allows students to take courses in different fields allowing more flexibility and opportunity to take courses in other disciplines. Each member of my class presented a thesis based on a topic of their choosing. I wrote about public programming for individuals with memory loss. I researched programs already offered by museums across the country and examined what other types of programs existed for this population and how museums can incorporate these methods into their programming.

 

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.?

While in the program at KU, a majority of us came straight from undergrad.

 

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

I recommend this program for those interested in application. The program offers many opportunities for hands-on learning.

 

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

Housing was not provided. Since Lawrence is a college town, there are affordable apartments and rental houses all over town. My mom and I visited Lawrence a month before school started to find a place, and I ended up loving the apartment I chose. It was not very close to campus but the Park and Ride was located down the street and I used that to get to campus during the day.

 

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

Many of the people in the program found opportunities to intern and/or work at various museums and libraries on campus and in the area, in addition to the coursework provided by the program. I worked in the museum studies department office, so I answered any questions for potential students and worked closely with the program director.

 

Any other insider information you would like to provide about your program or university?

The University of Kansas has a great campus and a lot of school spirit! Even as a grad student, I was able to invest in school spirit by watching KU basketball games at Allen Fieldhouse or at the bars on Mass Street. If you’re not a sports fan, don’t worry! Downtown Lawrence has a great selection of bars, restaurants and coffee shops, many frequented by graduate students. On and off campus there are opportunities to meet other graduate students in different fields through meet-up groups and mixers. Lawrence also has a nice selection of walking and hiking trails, including Clinton Lake. Also in the fall, I recommend going to the Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin City and taking frequent trips to Kansas City, MO to check out museums and shopping.

One thing I forgot to mention is the Museum Student Organization (MSO)!  MSO is a great opportunity to get involved with the program and discuss museum topics outside of class and go on field trips to awesome museums! One of the highlights for me was our trip to the Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson.

 

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

I highly recommend investing in a museum studies program that offers experience as well as theory. When museums are hiring, they look for experience. I think museum studies programs offer that extra step in preparing for a career in the field. As a museum studies student, you gain insight into the field through practice, research, and exposure to resources to expand your toolkit, as well as a team of mentors and peers to help guide you. I still keep in touch with most of my peers from the program and it’s been wonderful to have a group of people outside of my institution to share ideas with.

 

Thank you again to Kelsey, for these thoughtful answers! If you would like more information about the program in general, check out the blog post and head to the program’s website.

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Interview with Jesse Dutton-Kenny for the University of Colorado-Boulder

This is the first interview for the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Museum and Field Studies program. This alumnus graduated in May 2016. Her emphasis was in Collections Management as well as Anthropology and Indigenous Arts. She currently works as the Museum Preparator at the San Francisco Airport Museums. Thank you, Jesse, for answering these questions!

 

Why did you choose the University of Colorado-Boulder?

There were a number of factors, as there are for most people. I mostly applied to schools on the West Coast, where I’m from, so at first, Colorado seemed so far and like such a leap from my comfort zone. However, after I went to visit the school for an interview I realized it was the perfect fit for both my experience and my future goals as a museum professional. The top 3 reasons were: 1) They offered me a Graduate Assistantship position in their museum, so I graduated with two years of paid work experience for my resume in addition to the degree and got tons of hands on collections work. 2) The program is very interdisciplinary as the campus has a natural history museum (with anthropology, paleontology, botany, etc.) plus the library, archives, art museum, history museum, and local museums in Boulder… so there was lots of exposure to the museum field as a whole. Students come to the program focused in all different departments, and although I focused in anthropology, I got to learn from students and teachers who were studying dinosaurs, contemporary art, lichens, etc. And finally 3) The mentorship is INCREDIBLE. All the staff for the program, the advisors, the supervisors for your work positions, and the faculty are just beyond amazing. It is a super small program (usually no more than 10 students a year) so you get a ton of one on one attention and help with career development, and that was super important to me.

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Interview with Emily Anstey for Tufts University

This is the first interview for Tufts University’s Museum Education program. This alumnus graduated in August 2015 and currently works as a National Park Ranger. Thank you, Emily, for answering these questions!

 

Why did you choose Tufts University?

I chose Tufts because of how it blended both the theoretical and academic viewpoint of museums with the practical applications (internship and professionals as instructors). I also loved that it was located in the Greater Boston area, an area rich with so many museums of every type. Finally, I wanted something more general in terms of types of museums that the program focused on. I knew I wanted to work in museums, but I wasn’t sure if art, children’s, or history museums would be where I wanted to end up. This program looked at the museum field holistically and prepared me no matter what type of institution I wanted to work for.

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Interview for Wright State University

This is the first interview for Wright State University. This alumnus graduated in 2014 and currently works as an Archivist. Thank you for answering these questions!

 

Why did you choose Wright State University?

It was close to home and affordable for me.

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Interview with Gillian Suss for Seton Hall University

This is the first interview for Seton Hall University featuring Gillian Suss. She graduated in 2009 and currently works at an art museum as a Collection Management Assistant. Thank you, Gillian, for these answers!

 

Why did you choose Seton Hall University?

I chose Seton Hall because it felt like the best “fit” for me. I really wanted a program that would provide me with hands-on learning opportunities, and I believe that the registration and collections management courses at SHU did that. I was also able to save money while going to SHU by living at my parents’ house and through a part- and then full-time assistantship with the program.

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Interview with Betsy Deiterman for Texas Tech University

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.

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Interview with Kate Warfield for the University of Missouri-St. Louis

Kate graduated with an M.A. in History and a concentration in Museum Studies in 2013. Currently, she works as a Collection Specialist for a history museum. Thank you, Kate, for providing this look into your graduate school experience!

 

Why did you choose the University of Missouri-St. Louis?

I choose UMSL for a few reasons, but the most important reason to me was that they placed me into an assistantship with a museum partner in the community.  I was given the opportunity to work with one-on-one with a curator that has since become a professional role model at the Missouri History Museum on meaningful exhibit work.  It gave me years of experience and helped me make connections in the museum world that are still beneficial to me today – all with the added benefit and helping me pay for school.  It really was the best option for me.

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