I have to apologize for there being no Tuesday post this week! I had plans to discuss lessons I learned on a recent vacation to Kentucky, and will try to put it together for next week. In the meantime, here’s our next installment of our Graduate School series, with a post about Cooperstown. Cate Bayles, our author today, is currently completing her degree from Cooperstown and will be graduating in May 2013. A native of the Chicago-land area, she is spending the summer between her first and second year of school interning in exhibition development at the Field Museum of Natural History. She has a passion for educational programming and believes that through community outreach and creative partnerships, museums can become conversation generators and agents for social change. In her spare time, she has begun a blog about her experiences as an emerging museum professional.
Name of School: The Cooperstown Graduate Program (CGP)
Degree: Master of Arts in History Museum Studies from the State University of New York College at Oneonta
Location: Cooperstown, New York
Program Emphasis: Interdisciplinary – students take courses in administration, collections, exhibitions, programming, and a variety of other museum related topics
Premier. Unique. Dynamic. Interactive. The Cooperstown Graduate Program has been called a lot of things – but it has never been called ordinary. When you stop and think about it, a person has to be pretty exceptional to want to move to the middle of upstate New York and throw themselves full force into two years of intensive museum training. And yet, from day one, you know you’re not alone in your passion, your drive, and your thirst for knowledge. The Cooperstown Graduate Program (CGP) brings together a small class of innovator thinkers from all over the country. As a team, we embark on a project-based and community-centered program that is committed to training creative, entrepreneurial museum leaders devoted to services for the public good.
History Museum Studies, you say? Don’t worry – I wondered the same thing. What is history museum studies? The only program of its kind in the country, CGP students strive to study how art and history are agents for social reflection and public dialogue. I do not have a background in history and have enjoyed the challenge of my courses and the opportunity to learn from my classmates, who come from a diverse range of academic fields (everything from studio art to African American studies). CGP’s curriculum includes core classes in administration, collections, exhibitions, and education, and the program favors projects and participation over tests for evaluation. In addition to courses, each student completes a written thesis or thesis project based on original research their second year. Most important to know is that CGP values real world experience paired with traditional learning. Internships, volunteer placements, field trips around the Eastern seaboard, and projects all propel students to think outside the box (and outside the classroom).
Community is the cornerstone of the Cooperstown Graduate Program. We have all dedicated ourselves to the development of strong institutions that play a central role in the village of Cooperstown and in the communities we will journey to. CGP trains professionals who believe that museums are vehicles for conversation and creators of reciprocity. Projects we do in class are implemented in area museums and have a real impact on the people who visit them. For example, all first year students contribute to our collection of local oral histories, CGP Community Stories. Additionally, a summer internship between the first and second year allows students the opportunity to experience more of the country and explore a range of academic interests. Some of my current classmates are working in collections in Alaska, administration in DC, education in Nantucket, and oral histories on a de-commissioned missile site in North Dakota!
Located on scenic Lake Otsego, the CGP’s newly constructed building is the first structure in the country built solely for museum studies. The student friendly class room building includes exhibit space, a media lab equipped for oral histories and film editing, and a lounge overlooking the lake. Students get to know the campus extremely well, as the program requires two years of full time study. Approximately 15-17 students make up each class of CGPers – guaranteeing that the program will never have more than 35 students at one time. Students hail from all around the country and world – bringing valuable insight about the diversity of museum audiences. Every student receives partial funding for both years of study; with the possibility of a full stipend TA position their second year. Four main professors and a countless number of adjunct faculty from the New York State Historical Association act as teachers, mentors, student counselors, and thesis advisors.
One of only two programs in the country located on a museum campus rather than a university campus, students have the chance to regularly work with museum staff at the Fenimore Art Museum, Farmers’ Museum, and New York State Historical Association. The NYSHA Library, a short walk from the program building, serves both CGP and the public. We even get an individual carrel and have 24-hours a day access to the facility! In addition, the close proximity to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the Glimmerglass Opera Festival means added entertainment and internship possibilities during the year. What’s my favorite part of living in Cooperstown? Not only is there a year round farmer’s market with locally grown produce, but there is a parade on almost every national holiday (and some just because!). Harvest Festival, Pumpkin Festival, and Winter Carnival – I couldn’t even begin to list them all! CGP encourages us to get involved in Cooperstown and become a part of life there. Students are embraced as members of the community and immersed in local festivities, organizations and businesses.
The small number of the students and intensity of the Cooperstown Graduate Program mean that each class often becomes an extended family, growing from each other both inside and outside the classroom. The seventeen members of my class have worked together on countless projects and learned how to function as a unit, supporting each other in our individual endeavors and coming together to collaborate. Regional potlucks have become a staple, as we share our traditions from across the country. From field trips to Boston, New York City, and Montreal, to holiday parties and nights around the piano, we come together to bond in museums and outside of them.
This summer, the Class of 2013 is working on a blog all about our experiences interning. I asked my classmates what type of student they think will succeed at CGP. *In their own words, “CGP is for creative risk takers who are on the cutting edge of museum practices.” The program is a place for team-players who want to learn equally from professors, colleagues, and real world applications. This type of “varied experience is perfect for someone who wants to become a well rounded future museum professional, and more importantly, a well rounded person.” At CGP, I find myself working along side future curators, exhibition designers, educators, collections managers, and fundraising officers. In the process I am learning how to cooperate with a diverse group of individuals who have different strengths and a similar goal – to enter the museum field as learners and as leaders.
Every moment at the Cooperstown Graduate Program is an adventure – one that I hope you will consider during your graduate school search!
*A big thanks to CGPers Christina Parise (Intern, Newport Restoration Foundation) and Emily Lang (Intern, Museum at Bethel Woods) for contributing to this post.