Experiential Learning in Action

Professional Practice Model

Students have practical experiences that help them develop their interests and prepare them for careers. These opportunities enable students to take their skills to the next level.

Students in the fall 2007 semester art history department Exhibition Seminar course had the privilege of designing and mounting an exhibit for the Handwerker Gallery with artwork generously loaned by alumna Mary Widding ’70, M.S. ’71, and her husband. The exhibit, Of the People: Inuit Sculpture from the Collection of Mary and Fred Widding, had its grand opening in February, when community members, alumni, and others filled the gallery as student curators facilitated discussion of the pieces, responded to questions, and generally conducted themselves as museum professionals. A perfect example of a “professional practice” experiential learning opportunity, the Exhibition Seminar course was designed and taught by Cheryl Kramer, assistant professor of art history and director of the Handwerker Gallery, who mentored students throughout the process. 

Students in the class were exposed to the professional environment and the demands of exhibit curation—from making arrangements for moving and displaying the collection to requesting assistance from existing Inuit art galleries, to researching the history and culture of the Inuit people, to writing the catalog copy. Students gained firsthand experience and the skills necessary for a wide variety of careers in art museums. 

“We had to approach it as professionals from the start, regardless of our experience,” said senior art history major Lily Shafer. “It was a very intense learning experience since we literally started from nothing and built the exhibit up.”