University of Florida officials are closely monitoring updates related to COVID-19. More Information

School of Art + Art History

Museum Studies


Class of 2017
Halee Sommer

My current position: I’ve been working at the Jewish Museum in New York City since January 2018. I started as Assistant to the Deputy Director of Development and have since transitioned into the position of Editorial Associate. In this role, I walk between the realms of Marketing and Digital, working with both teams to draft, edit, and implement all audience-facing content for the Museum’s print and digital platforms. I also work to develop digital strategy for the Museum, constantly brainstorming the best ways to engage our audiences. 

How the Museum Studies Program helped my career: Being a part of the Museum Studies Program is an experience I will forever be grateful for. I always felt I came into the program during an interesting time in its history. I benefited from having not one, but two directors to turn to for guidance. Learning under the leadership of Glenn Willumson and Briley Rasmussen opened my perspective about the field to view museums from a more holistic point of view. 

I also chose a difficult route for the time by pursuing a traditional research-based thesis, which was not the norm for the program. On top the already demanding reality of writing a thesis, I focused on a topic that had very little in the way of scholarly research within the museum field: audience development for the millennial generation. I felt like I had a rocky foundation to stand on but I stayed focused, spoke with every museum professional across the country who would answer my calls, and ended up with a document I am really proud of. I use my graduate research constantly. It acts as a springboard to new findings and is a big reason why I’m in the position I am today.  

What I love about my career:  My career is very much still in the making. Graduate studies were just one stop on (what I hope will be) a very long road full of learning and growth. With my current position, I build upon my research interests, fostering connections between visitors and the Museum. For me, there is no message as simple, effective, and honest as letting your audiences know “you belong here.” This is my main point of focus as I grow within my career.

Class of 2017
Katie Nickel

My current position: School and Teacher Program Coordinator. Here at The Ringling we love long titles that don’t give much insight to our roles. I manage all the school programming and tours and professional development for teachers. We have over 13,000 students visit a year and I oversee their tour content and training school tour docents.

How the Museum Studies Program helped my career: The Museum Studies Program at The University of Florida is the perfect blend of relevant theory and hands-on practice. Both the museum studies and area-focused courses and professors have prepared me to be an expert in my field. Gainesville is rich in museum, arts and cultural heritage resources which provided me the opportunity to apply what I learned in class to practical and valuable museum experience. The Museum Studies Program is a truly dynamic community of professors, colleagues, museum professionals and alumni who are supportive and encouraging of student work and career advancement. This program has fully prepared me for my current role in museum education and has laid a strong foundation and network that will support me through all stages of my career.

What I love about my career: Museums are places where curiosity comes to life. Working in museum education allows me to share my passion for learning and community engagement with thousands of visitors from around the world. I love invigorating new life into works of art and working to make museums an inclusive and supportive place for all visitors. My favorite thing about a career in museum is that there is always something new to learn, new program initiatives to try, and room to be creative.

Class of 2015
Jessie Ward

My current position: I'm the Collections Manager for the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, GA and SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta, GA. Both of these museums are under the umbrella of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and we maintain one collection for two museums. SCAD MoA is a contemporary art museum while SCAD FASH is for fashion and film.

I (and the museum's permanent collection) are based in Savannah, but I travel back and forth between here at Atlanta three to four months out of the year, as well as facilitate the travel of collection objects between the two museums. I'm also the primary liaison to SCAD FASH for all of their exhibition installations/deinstallations. 

How the Museum Studies Program helped my career: I came into the Museum Studies program from working as the director of a small natural history museum in Central Florida, and I was looking to leave the administrative side of the field and focus on collections care. I have a B.S. in Photography from the University of Central Florida and wanted to get back into the arts after years of working in natural history. The UF Museum Studies program was a perfect fit for me in that respect, and in a lot of other ways. The ability to take art history classes as well as the core museum classes were extremely beneficial. Plus, the mentorship I received from Dr. Glenn Willumson and Dixie Neilson was invaluable. 

One thing I would stress to current and future students is the professional value of this program. Having worked in the field for a few years before entering the program, I observed just how much of the core class content covered real, true-to-life challenges and rewards any professional will come across while on the job. I learned so much, especially in the Museum Ethics and Collections Management classes, that I have carried over into my position at SCAD and working with other museums in the U.S. and abroad. 

Surprisingly, the field is still full of "non-museum" people and having a basic understanding of museum ethics is crucial. I would recommend all students absorb as much you can: read and debate case studies and articles, stay current on what's happening in the field, attend conferences, join organizations and listservs, and visit other museums as much as possible. There are a lot of challenges and frustrations that can come out of this line of work, but there is also a lot of fun and reward with it, too. I think anyone already in or considering the program is most likely going to be a fellow "museum nerd" like myself and is in it for the love of it, so the good often outweighs the bad! My favorite little benefit is the travel. I love taking courier trips to other museums. My first courier trip in this position took me to Paris. Not too shabby! 

What I love about my career:  I am very passionate about the care of museum objects. When people ask me what I do (after telling them that I'm not a debt collector), I tell them I care for our collective cultural heritage. I also love that I get to work a lot with students. So many of them have very little understanding of what museums actually DO, so I love it when I have a chance to tell them about the value of collections and their care! I constantly hear, "That is SO COOL!" and "You really love what you do!" and it's true for both!

Class of 2014
Shelly Threadgill

My current position: Assistant Registrar at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX

How the Museum Studies program helped me: One of the main ways that the Museum Studies Program helped was through the hands-on experience I gained during internships and practicums. During my practicum at the Harn Museum of Art, I was trained in how to use TMS (The Museum System). During my first internship at the Kimbell Art Museum, I was able to use my knowledge of TMS to assist the registrars’ office as they transitioned to TMS, which lead to my securing a second internship. When I returned to the Kimbell the following summer, I created a user manual specific to the Kimbell’s use of TMS, which turned into my Thesis Project at UF. That time at the Kimbell and my experience in TMS, lead directly to the position that I now hold at the museum, and it all started with a practicum that I took at UF. In addition, the classes that I took in the Museum Studies program, and the training that they gave me, prepared me in so many ways for the challenges that I now encounter as a registrar. 

What I love about my career: I love the time that I spend traveling the world as a courier for the museum and all the wonderful people from other museums and institutions that I meet during my travels, or during their own travels as a courier to my museum. Being surrounded by art and people who are as passionate about art as I am on a daily basis, and being given the responsibility to care for and preserve these incredible pieces of history is such an amazing gift! 

Class of 2007
Leslie Ladendorf

My current position: Assistant Cultural Affairs Manager for the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, City of Gainesville

How the Museum Studies Program helped my career: When I started the program I was already working in the museum field. However, the program gave me a foundation of knowledge and practical experience to use in advancing my career. It has also provided me with a suite of resources of which I can call upon when needed, including (but not limited to): other museum professionals, intern pool, collaborations, other museum organizations, and resource materials (like books, articles, websites etc). 

What I love about my career: My career has been an awesome adventure. I started out in HR/payroll for a museum to get my foot in the door, then I started my professional development with the Museum Studies Program, And I was able to transition into higher roles in museums over the years. Currently, I am the Assistant Cultural Affairs Manager for the City of Gainesville, and I help oversee not only a Museum, but also other historical buildings, public art, and galleries. I love that I get to bring culture and arts to everyday citizens in our community, that I hope makes their lives a little more colorful and enjoyable. Sometimes we bring hard thinking topics like climate change, truth and reconciliation, and equity inequalities, but by educating the public on these topics, we can further our dialog and understanding of where others come from and who we all are as a community. 

Connect with the School of Art + Art History

Keep up with the latest news about faculty, alumni, friends and current students.