Changes for the Class of 2011: Clarity, Growth, Co-Conspirators
One day during DHL@SHA, after I had listened to Indiana Historical Society‘s President/CEO John Herbst’s presentation, I asked him to lunch through his assistant. I even paid for it because I did the asking! John had information I knew I needed. He had already conquered some of the challenges I was facing at my own institution–and SHA gave me the confidence to go straight to the source and ask for help. After that lunch, he became what I consider an “unwitting mentor.” Once I returned to Arizona where I had worked for the last ten years or so–and had been Museum Director for one year, I emailed him and called him several times to run ideas past him, to ask for his advice–and he always answered. Between what I had gleaned from my overall SHA experience and through the specific interactions with John, my thought process changed. My confidence was bolstered to trust myself and move forward in the direction I believed to be true…I did not simply think about taking risks–I began proposing and taking those risks.
I gained clarity. I understood, more clearly than ever before, my personal thoughts, beliefs, and abilities. I honed in on my professional goals and objectives. Clarity was a result of my experience at SHA and from the people with whom I interacted.
Fast forward two years–I received a job offer that seemed as if I wrote if for myself. My husband quit his job, we packed up the cat and car, and moved cross country. I am now VP of Education and Exhibitions at IHS. Now, John and I have two separate stories about how this happened. I tell everyone that I bugged him until he hired me. He says that I made an impression on him at SHA was on his radar since. I am sure there is the real story somewhere in the middle.
My point is that you never know where SHA will lead you–or to whom SHA will lead you.
Kyle McKoy (SHA ’11), Vice President of Education and Exhibitions, Indiana Historical Society
In DHL@SHA, I kept hearing that we were to think of how to be leaders in the field. And, there I sat, thinking about how I still felt new in my museum career and unsure of where that would lead. See, when I participated in SHA I was trying to better understand the field, a field I entered through classroom teaching. My institution had just gone through our initial accreditation process — and in a classroom analogy, I felt one chapter ahead of the students. I was the primary author of our interpretive plan — and that was after learning just what that document was!
But the thing is, you hear something often enough and you start to believe it. After SHA I realized I didn’t want to just have knowledge about the field, I wanted to grow into a leader at my institution. And, for the small institution I came from, that meant leading from the middle. And yet, I was able to co-develop the bones of an institutional evaluation plan, be a voice for developing new revenue streams, and develop other projects within my primary duties as a museum educator. I grew a lot in those two years, both personally and professionally. And then…
My SHA classmate, Kyle, moved to the Indiana Historical Society in 2013. She and I had kept in touch since the program (most of my classmates have kept in touch over the past 2+ years). I always knew I could turn to Kyle as a sounding board and a cheerleader! We had discussed articles about leadership and management styles. She’d once recruited me for a position at her old site, which didn’t work out because of timing. But, when a position opened up at IHS, I applied on day one. Here was a chance to have an on-site mentor, rise to the next level of leadership and be a part of a team implementing new vision. I’m now the Director of Education and Community Engagement at IHS.
It’s been two amazing months since I’ve moved. I’ve found co-conspirators at my new place (you’ll understand the power of that term at SHA), and I’m over the moon about where I’ve landed. I could not have predicted how SHA would change me at the time, but I know that it shaped me into the leader I am today.
Cynthia Capers (SHA ’11), Director of Education and Community Engagement, Indiana Historical Society