Today we’re back with a Graduate School profile, this time of George Washington University. The post was written by Amy Kuenzi, class of 2006 at GWU, and currently Associate Curator at the Harley Davidson Museum. Recently we had an e-mail here on the blog from a reader asking for more specifics about how the thesis works at each school, and Amy was kind enough to add a paragraph to her post. Thanks Amy!
School: George Washington University
Degree: Masters of Arts in Museum Studies
Location: Washington, D.C.
Program Emphasis: concentrations in Collections Management, Exhibition Development/Design, or Museum Management & Leadership
I started volunteering in museums when I was a junior in high school, and the career path seemed an obvious one for me. I was a lot better at history than I was at calculus, so I decided at a young age to figure out how to make that into a job.
With some volunteer experience and a BA in history from the University of Rochester, I sought out Museum Studies Master’s Degree programs. I decided on GWU for a few reasons: Museum Studies is its own department, the program combines practical experience with classroom and theory, and the location in DC is unparalleled for the experiences available.
The MA program combines half Museum Studies classes with half in another discipline. The concentrations within the Museum Studies offerings are: Administration, Collections Management, and Exhibit Design. I chose a traditional History track to combine with my Collections Management concentration. The work focused on critical thinking, group work and historical analysis, all of which are necessary in the field. I think the program is suited for students who do well with group work as well as individual assignments, and are able to balance a demanding load of coursework and internship requirements, as well as being comfortable navigating a new, large, often daunting city.
There are limitless opportunities for internships in DC, some paid and some unpaid. The program requirement is two internships at different kinds of museums, for 250 hours each. I, and many classmates, did it by working part time for one semester each. My advisor helped set me up with internships that fit my interests. The professors know almost everyone in town, so they can put students in touch with a wide variety of opportunities.
The MA Museum Studies program does not require a thesis. Instead, students must fulfill the “graduate writing requirement,” where you submit a written piece that could be suitable for publication. I submitted a research paper that I had written for a history class. The goal is to encourage skills in academic writing.
As I was attending GWU, it became the most expensive school in the country for undergraduates, in one of the nation’s most expensive cities. I took out loans to pay for my tuition and also my living expenses, and worked part-time jobs as my schedule allowed. It was a serious financial commitment, and also a very personal decision, but GWU is a prestigious school, in a city that is a historian’s dream come true.
My experience at GWU, both in the classroom and in the city, helped prepare me for a successful career in the museum field. I am currently the associate curator of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI. My team is responsible for exhibit development, research, web content writing and curation, and our social media program where we share company history, show archival documents, and interact with our customers.