Posted May 1, 2008
Among the scores of people who pass through the doors of the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum each week are 11 regulars, all members of the class of 2008. But these students aren't stopping in to view the latest exhibition or study the permanent collection. Rather, this squad of seniors comes to the museum to work, and as director Marianne Doezema and her staff enthusiastically attest, each is an exceptional employee who helps bring the museum's mission to life. Some work behind the front desk as receptionists, one serves as the museum's education outreach fellow, and still others work behind the scenes as collection management assistants and curatorial assistants.
(L-R, Standing) Emily Renfrew, Liz Petcu, Grace Zeigler, Katie Omberg, Caroline Gillaspie, Kate Plass, Tanya Fonseca, Laila Buligina; (Seated) Kelly Ann Lum, Jackie Finnegan, Leora Morinis
"What is so remarkable is that every one of the 11 is outstanding," said Debbie Davis, business and events manager.
Doezema agrees, and with the academic year drawing to a close, she confesses that the staff "is in mourning about this group graduating."
While the 11 are connected by a love of art, their academic pursuits have been as varied as their personalities. In addition to art history and studio art majors, the class of 2008 contingent includes biology, French, history, international relations, religion, and sociology majors. Likewise, their extracurricular pursuits reflect a range of interests and talents: they are known on campus as cartoonists, sprinters, DJs, activists, and first responders--and the list goes on.
"They are universally bright, compassionate, responsible, fun, and interesting. Many have been with us for years, sharing their skills, ideas, and energy. They've been a huge asset to the museum," Davis said.
Wendy Watson, curator for the Art Museum and Skinner Museum, has worked especially closely with curatorial assistants Liz Petcu and Laila Buligina. "They've have gained experience doing work that is often handled only by professionals in other museums," Watson said. "They've conducted research, catalogued new acquisitions, assisted with exhibition installations, and worked on our digitization project, among many other things. Their resumés were impressive when they arrived, but now they are really impressive."
Like Watson, the other staff members encourage the students they supervise to take leadership roles within the daily operations of the museum. "Student work opportunities have the potential to be a learning experience, and we take that seriously," Doezema said. "We strive to offer solid experience, and some of our students go on to museum careers because of their work here."
As for what the future holds for the class of 2008 student workers, the museum staff expects that triumphs lie ahead. "We're going to make sure these students stay in touch," Davis said. "All of us are convinced that this bunch will have interesting lives."
Meet the 11 Art Museum seniors.