Will Neer, BA, 2016
Will Neer’s decision to double major in art history and history at VCU was guided by his fascination with other cultures. Through his coursework in museum studies and non-western art history as well as an internship at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, he discovered his love of curation.
After completing his degree, Will accepted a position at the VMFA as a Curatorial Assistant for the East Asian Art department. This role gave him the opportunity to assist with managing the permanent collection, planning traveling exhibitions, and coordinating new acquisitions. The skills he gained as an art history major were a natural fit with his VMFA position: “I regularly incorporated skills learned in my undergraduate education, from public speaking and object analysis to usage of research resources.” Will’s experience at the VMFA has inspired him to pursue further education in the field of museum studies, a goal that he plans to pursue as a graduate student in NYU’s Museum Studies program.
For Will, “An art history degree is an excellent precursor to a museum studies program, as it shows you are focused on a particular type of institution, in this case art museums and galleries.” Ultimately, Will chose museum studies due to the variety of interesting fields he was exposed to at VMFA, such as museum education, collections management, and public programming. “Each of these areas interest me, and through my background in art history, I can approach and understand them better.”
Maureen O’Connor, MA Museum Studies Concentration, 2018
Prior to applying to the VCU graduate program Maureen O’Connor discovered her passion for museum education as an undergraduate at another university. “I grew up in a military family that traveled frequently and visited a lot of museums. However, through much of my childhood and adolescence, I felt that museums were boring and only for academically-minded people.” This all changed for Maureen when she became a docent at a university art museum, where she was exposed to museum pedagogy and worked with museum professionals who taught her that museums can be places for everyone. From this formative experience, Maureen developed a strong desire to learn more about the field of museum studies: “I minored in art history, so when I realized that I wanted to work in museum education, I sought to combine my interest in that subject with my professional aspirations.”
In 2016, Maureen began her graduate studies at VCU, focusing on the history of museum education and how that history continues to influence current museum practices. Maureen’s graduate experience helped her to refine what she loved most about the discipline: “One of my favorite elements of art history and museum education is the role of visual description and analysis. I always found joy in writing visual analysis and exploring it as a pedagogical tool. I have been surprised by how big a role it has played in my current position. I frequently use visual analysis when designing and delivering programs for public and student programs.” After graduating from VCU in 2018, Maureen accepted a position at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, as an Education Specialist.
In reflecting on how her graduate experience at VCU provided a foundation for her professional success, she observes, “I can honestly say that I use my degree in my job every day. The research and writing skills that I enhanced during my graduate studies have proved helpful as I explore topics for public and student programs. The internships I had during graduate school at the National Gallery of Art and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, as well as my experience as President of the Art History Graduate Student Association, provided me with experiences that made me stand out as a competitive candidate for my current position. Art history teaches us the value of visual culture and the Capitol building is bursting with opportunities to explore the relationships between art, politics, identity, and more.”
Kathryn Carney, BA, 2017
Kathryn Carney decided to major in art history when she was still in high school. Even as a teenager, she was struck by the expansive nature of the discipline. For her, “Art history is an endless rabbit hole of sociopolitical nuance — the closer you look, the more emerges. It’s an endlessly unraveling knot, a social archaeology of sorts.” Reflecting on her time at VCU, Kathryn notes, “My degree gave me the foundational knowledge needed to pursue advanced study as well as the invaluable counsel (and candor) of career academics. The access to specialists and experts in their field really shouldn’t be taken for granted — especially as people who tread the path before you.” Among the most important courses she took while completing her major was ARTH 292: Writing for Art History, a required course for all art history majors. Kathryn says, “I still refer to Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and I only know what I know about commas thanks to that class. That experience has paid me (and my copyediting clients) dividends for years!”
After graduating from VCU in 2017, Kathryn decided to pursue graduate study to further her education in the history of art and visual culture. In Fall 2018, Kathryn enrolled in the graduate program at Western University’s Centre for the Study of Theory & Criticism in Ontario, Canada, where she completed her thesis on degeneration, distortion, and disability in interwar German visual culture. Kathryn plans to pursue doctoral study in art history as an Arts & Sciences Graduate Fellow in the History of Art & Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, where she will continue her research on German visual culture of the early twentieth century. Careers in academia are a popular choice among many art history majors at VCU.
In choosing this path, Kathryn says, “I knew that committing to an academic career path would be an uphill battle with lots of frustrations, rejections, and hardships, but that it would also be equally rewarding as it is challenging. Very few people can truly say they love what they do!”