Classroom Learning + Workplace Application = Enhanced Education

By: Amy Beck, marketing and communications manager on January 19th, 2011

It’s a topsy-turvy world. A year ago, I was a student at Northcentral Technical College. This week, an NTC marketing instructor is job shadowing me at the Woodson Art Museum, to see how a non-profit art museum carries out its marketing efforts.

How quickly things can change. Doors can open, opportunities can arise that you never envisioned – as long as you prepare to pounce. Based on my observations, education combined with real-world experience is the key.

For me, the combination of education (bachelor’s degree in journalism and recent associate’s degree in web and digital media development) and work experience (seven years as a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor in Kansas and Florida) helped open the door to my job as marketing and communications manager at the Museum. College internships at a restaurant magazine in Kansas City, a small-town newspaper, and a summer at the Environmental Protection Agency helped solidify my conviction that I was pursuing the right path and enabled me to apply what I was learning in new ways.

That’s why I said “yes” when Janet Kilsdonk, NTC marketing instructor and marketing program faculty team leader, asked last fall if she could spend a week with me, as a job shadow, if she received an occupational development grant. Nothing beats that combination of education, plus on-the-job experience – for a student intern or an instructor taking “real world” experience back to her classroom. You make connections and think anew about how to apply what you learn.

To Janet’s credit, she’s done this before at other types of local businesses. She spent a week at WSAW-TV 7 and a week at Kinziegreen Marketing Group. She wanted to round out her experience at a non-profit art museum.

And the benefits flow along a two-way street. With just six months of museum experience under my belt, she knows that I plan to pick her brain, as well.

After a brief tour and round of staff introductions, we exchanged materials. She brought a marketing textbook, some relevant articles, and a copy of NTC’s marketing plan. I shared the Museum’s plan with her, some of our promotional materials, and roughly outlined the work flow that occurs before the opening of each of five major exhibitions annually:

  • creating the preview reception invitation
  • a 10-page events calendar, detailing more than thirty programs for all ages
  • “Vista,” our quarterly Museum members newsletter
  • press releases
  • a long-range exhibition schedule issued to local, regional, and national magazines
  • print, radio, online, (and occasionally video) advertisements for area media
  • “This Week at the Woodson” issued weekly to local media and hotels
  • Facebook and Twitter posts generated several times each day

Janet and I brainstormed about ways to make the Museum website more interactive, how we could conduct an “art sleuth” contest on our Facebook page or pose a “what’s next?” quiz in which participants would need to dig into the website to find the answers about upcoming exhibitions. We talked about marketing plans, trends in social media, and Groupon.

Then we popped downstairs to take photos of 115 adorable little ones and accompanying adults who converged on Art Park for Toddler Tuesday. Later, after sushi at Yao’s Dragon (thank you, Jan!), I posted a Facebook link to the Wausau Daily Herald’s online photo gallery of Toddler Tuesday pictures, answered some emails, edited a Museum summary document while Jan culled through the photos we’d taken.

We then joined and photographed “Art Beyond Sight,” a program for individuals with low vision and blindness that included a sensory tour of the I Want Candy exhibition. Educator Erin Narloch provided a lusciously descriptive verbal tour of the artwork on view, followed by coffee and chocolate.

We finished the day by attending “Family Memorial Art: Treasuring Memories,” which provided a therapeutic art-making session for those who’ve lost loved ones. Participants brought photos and mementos to incorporate into a papier-mâché project, led by Museum educator Jayna Hintz and Amy Kitsembel, from the Grief Center at Aspirus Comfort Care and Hospice Services. The program included parents and two young boys who wanted to commemorate their grandfather and a woman who’d lost a sister and brought a nephew who’d lost his mother. Another couple brought photos of their four-day-old son.
Janet said she was amazed by the range of programs presented, free of charge, at the Woodson Art Museum in just one day.

I had the same reaction when I began work here six months ago. My challenge is to spread the word, far and wide, about the depth of enriching programs, offered for all ages – a truly valuable community education resource.

What a privilege it is to champion the Woodson Art Museum and all it does for the Wausau area and north central Wisconsin. And what fun it is to brainstorm and interact with a marketing instructor about how to improve and expand our promotional efforts.

Education + real-world experience = great connections, inspiration, and – hopefully – tangible results!

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