A group of Virginia Tech graduate students received hands-on experience at the Smithsonian — from crafting descriptions for exhibition artifacts to learning about broad strategic educational initiatives — as part of a new partnership between the university and the museum and research complex.

The students completed two-week intensive internships in various units of the Smithsonian, where they received insight into the day-to-day activities at the National Museum of the American Indian, Archives of American Art, National Museum of American History, National Air and Space Museum, and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

The students learned about the administrative and operational management of the museums, including programming and outreach planning and execution, and worked on projects, activities, and events to support these initiatives.

“These internships are an important step toward what we hope is a continuing and deepening relationship with the Smithsonian. Virginia Tech faculty from various fields have enjoyed individual research partnerships with the institute; engaging our students more deeply in focused internships provides unique learning opportunities for our students, and also furthers our goals for the Arts@VirginiaTech and integration of the arts and humanities across the university,” said Ruth Waalkes, associate provost for the arts and executive director of the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech.  

Learning outside of the classroom is a valuable part of the Virginia Tech student experience, as evidenced by recent surveys of students and alumni conducted in partnership with Gallup Inc. Virginia Tech President Tim Sands has stressed the importance of doing more to promote experiential learning for students.

From the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the students who participated in the internships included:

  • Lauren Henson of Clifton, Virginia, a master’s degree student in the material culture and public humanities program, is interested in youth education and outreach program development for public humanities institutions. Henson interned at the National Museum of American History, where she joined department of education and outreach staff for program planning sessions, providing a glimpse into the administration of the organization’s outreach efforts.
  • Carmen Bolt of Floyd, Virginia, a master’s degree student in the Department of History, interned at the National Air and Space Museum. She helped implement temporary discovery stations and observe audience interactions, conducted interactive learning experiences for family groups, and researched and developed activities for an open house event.
  • Bryanna Tramontana of St. Petersburg, Florida, a master’s degree student in the material culture and public humanities program, had the opportunity to participate in training and continuing education sessions with gallery volunteers and shadow employees involved with programming initiatives at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, including artist lecture series and public tours.
  • Jaclyn Sanders of Cockeysville, Maryland, and Katlin White of Virginia Beach, Virginia, two master’s degree students from the material culture and public humanities program, interned at the Archives of American Art. They helped staff members prepare for an upcoming source material exhibit opening at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in April.
  • Rebecca Williams of Radford, Virginia, a master’s degree student in the Department of History, interned at the National Museum of the American Indian She worked on a visitor comments project for the museum’s newest exhibition, “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.” Staff received hundreds of written comments about the exhibition, and Williams helped to categorize and analyze the comments to inform future exhibition planning and discussion.

The internship opportunities were organized through the Smithsonian’s Office of Fellowships and Internships.

By providing imaginative and innovative learning and discovery opportunities, along with deep and meaningful engagement experiences in the arts, the Arts@VirginiaTech fuels new ways to see and understand the world.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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