From the time I started MJ Writes, I wanted to feature interviews with individuals I admire, who are working as emerging leaders in the arts and museum field and/or are currently enrolled in a related graduate program. Today, this goal has become a reality! Introducing the “Emerging Arts Leader Q & A” series, a monthly feature on MJ Writes. I align my understanding of what it means to be an emerging leader in the arts with Americans for the Arts definition: those who encompass the next generation of arts leaders in America, and professionals who are either new to the field, with up to five years of experience, or are 35 years of age or younger. The men and women are individuals I feel are directly impacting the current status and the future of the arts and museum sector. They are the next generation of arts leaders in the United States, and will be the familiar faces and voices of change and innovation for years to come.
Without further ado, please welcome Colleen Dilenschneider, an emerging leader in the nonprofit sector with an interest in marketing, education, and creative community engagement. She has experience working at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smart Museum of Art, After School Matters at Gallery 37, and Pacific Science Center in Seattle. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management. Colleen hosts the brilliant blog, Know Your Own Bone, which I follow religiously, and tweets about the nonprofit sector via @cdilly.
Q: What is your current job and how did you start working in the non-profit/museum field?
A: I am currently a graduate student at the University of Southern California pursuing a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management. My museum and nonprofit experience began as a sophomore in college when I served as a weekly volunteer in the Department of Integrative Exhibitions and Family Programs at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Q: What are some of the struggles and successes you have or currently face working in the non-profit/museum world?
A: I left a fun and creative position as the Special Events Coordinator at Pacific Science Center to pursue my master’s degree and the biggest struggle that I am currently facing is adjusting to that status switch. I went from being a full-time nonprofit/museum professional to a full-time graduate student—and it’s a big change! In my past work experiences, I was directly involved in the industry, and now I am studying the industry. It requires a change in perspective, to be sure, but it also requires a conscious effort to stay actively involved in the always-evolving museum and nonprofit communities.
Q: Tell us a bit about your educational background—what have you studied to get to where you are today?
A: I graduated from The University of Chicago in 2007 with a double major in English and visual arts. I received professional certification in public relations from the University of Washington in 2008. I’m pleased to be currently enrolled in The University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development as an MPA candidate for 2011.
Q: What circumstance, opportunity, or experience has influenced and shaped your career choice?
A: I gravitated toward the nonprofit sector when I realized that it was the environment in which my unique talents could produce the most “good.” To name an example, I get excited about social causes– specifically those involving education and community-building– and that enthusiasm serves as an incredible asset for me in marketing, fundraising, and creative community engagement efforts.
Q: Always a popular question—What books are you currently reading?
Q: Career-wise, where do you see yourself in five years?
A: In five years, I’ll be utilizing my creative thinking abilities and passion for social change by serving as a leader in a nonprofit organization that engages, educates, and generally strengthens the greater community.
Q: What advice can you share with emerging leaders in the non-profit/museum field?
A: Think big and always be growing. There’s something new to learn in every experience!
Q: If you could experience your own “Night at the Museum” adventure, which museum would you choose?
A: The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, for sure! I’d love to see JFK and Teddy Roosevelt step out of their presidential limousines and I’d like to sit on the bus next to Rosa Parks. I’d hope that the ghost of Abraham Lincoln would appear in his rocking chair and that I could have long conversations with Alice Paul, who is one of my favorite figures in American history. I might even get to meet my great, great grandfather who invented the New Idea two row corn picker that is currently on display on the museum floor!