Are we the most devoted employees ever or just a bunch of history nerds? I’d say after taking part in SHA, we are truly both. I chose to attend SHA because I came into the museum field from teaching in a classroom and wanted a program that could help me round out didn’t know and get new ideas to take back to my site. I was not disappointed!
Going to SHA helped me grow immensely in my field and at my site. I’ve extended my duties and been asked to be a leader in areas outside of my department. I get asked lots of questions and my notes from the program are still consulted as a starting point for discussions. I’ve often said that SHA was like a summer camp—but for adults and in the fall. Taking the time away from my site—okay, taking about 90% of the time away from my site— really allowed me to focus on what I was learning and how it applied. My creativity inside the field really bloomed.
I returned to HMH and found co-conspirators who wanted to break through the silos. Sure the change has been incremental, but it’s starting. I’m not a department head, but I can still have an impact with ideas, suggestions, and a strong work ethic. I know now that I can be a leader.
Most of all, though, thanks to the program, I have a group of colleagues who act as my sounding board. See, the program is more than who the presenters are—although, you will have fantastic presenters who teach and push you. It’s also about the people in your class—the fact that people come from different sites and have different job duties. You learn as much from the questions they ask as the ones you do.
And, I’d talk about the late night hangouts, but those are sealed forever! I can go to my SHAmazing friends (←that’s my class right there!) and get ideas, sample policies, and even (did you read above that we’re nerds?) be a part of a PD book club that meets via video chats. That longtime connection just doesn’t happen through one week or one day programs. It’s been more than a year, and I’d say we connect every few weeks via Facebook or email or Twitter.
My path to SHA was paved because I paid the tuition, but my company had to be willing to give me the professional leave. We’ve both recouped the investment.
I strongly encourage every museum professional out there to apply for SHA and do what my class is often fond of stating: Be Bold!
Cynthia Capers (SHA ’11) was a professional social studies educator in a suburban high school in South Carolina, where she created the one-credit course Holocaust and Genocide Studies. An Alfred Lerner Fellow with the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, and a Museum Teacher Fellow with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, she is now the Associate Director of Education and Changing Exhibitions at Holocaust Museum Houston. In 2011 she completed the Seminar for Historical Administration/Developing History leaders program. Cynthia organizes education programming, conducts teacher trainings, creates curricula based on museum resources, and researches and drafts interpretive text for temporary exhibitions. Some of the most fascinating exhibition and curriculum work she has done includes how to talk about social cruelty, genocide, and the parallels between the Holocaust and Jim Crow America.