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The University of Chicago Cultural Policy Center

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Alumni

Greg Surh, MAPH'13

Greg SurhArchitectural History Tour Guide, Chicago Detours

How were you involved in the Cultural Policy Center?

My involvement with CPC came through choosing the Cultural Policy Option for the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH) and working as a graduate research assistant for Dr. Betty Farrell during the school year. Wanting an academic program that would allow me to take the concept of "interdisciplinary study" beyond just simply doing cross-departmental work within the Division of the Humanities, my coursework also found me in the Harris School of Public Policy, the Law School, the Booth School of Business, the School of Social Service Administration, and the Division of the Social Sciences. What truly enticed me about the option was that it encourages, indeed requires, its students to operate both within and beyond the walls of the academy. I wasn't content with the idea of choosing a course of study where it would be possible for me earn my graduate degree simply through books and libraries, without ever leaving the university grounds, and the Cultural Policy Option provided me with the answer I was looking for. At CPC I was involved in the research and development of a web-based publication called The Digest, which bridges the gap between the academic and professional spheres through scholarly yet publicly accessible information about the cultural sector. I also assisted the CPC in its series of workshops and guest lectures, whose speakers during the course of the year would include a Smithsonian executive, the director of the National Endowment for the Arts, and other leaders and administrators within the cultural sector. In addition to being my supervisor, Betty Farrell was also my thesis advisor and a professional reference/guide, which meant I was constantly traversing back and forth "across the Midway" between the CPC and MAPH Central.

What have you been up to since graduation?

After graduation, I was fortunate to be offered a summer Curatorial Internship at the Chicago History Museum, which was an amazing experience and of which I describe in detail on the afterMAPH blog website. It was my first time working in a museum, during which I gained firsthand experience and knowledge about curatorial work and museum professionalism while interning directly for John Russick, the Director of Curatorial Affairs. While my status as a Cultural Policy student allowed me to conduct field research and interviews with different museum and cultural professionals throughout the Chicago area, the intensity of the Cultural Policy Option meant that it was difficult for me to learn about the history of Chicago during my MAPH year. In short, I lived in Chicago, but because I wasn't a native of the city, I knew very little about the city that has become my new home. I treated my summer at the Chicago History Museum as a figurative extension of my MAPH year to immerse myself in Chicago culture. This approach allowed me to successfully apply to Chicago Detours, one of Chicago's top-rated tourism companies with specializations in architectural history and cultural stories that most locals don't even know about. Following an extensive training period that rivals even graduate school at the University of Chicago, I expect to start giving my first professional tours in addition to other duties and responsibilities to the organization in early October.

How did your time at the CPC help you prepare for those endeavors?

Having enrolled in MAPH directly out of undergraduate studies meant that I had very little professional experience or skills beyond retail jobs and customer service. In the current cultural sector and job market, the master's degree is not only becoming the new standard, it is expected that such an education also includes relevant work experience and internships, along with practical and applied skills that can be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain within a university classroom. A fellow MAPH student worded my situation well: being one of the younger students meant that, for the vast majority of my life, there was only one thing that I knew how to do exceedingly well and that was to be a good student/academic, which doesn't always translate to being a professional in the cultural sector.

Although my undergraduate and graduate work had been in the humanities, I am equally comfortable and interested in mathematics and sciences; there were days when I felt like the "mad scientist" of my MAPH cohort due to my interest in digital technology, engineering applications, and computer science. I was starting to wonder if I was in the right program, but the guidance I received from Betty Farrell and the CPC allowed me to not only cultivate my academic curiosity but also prepared me to professionally apply these interests in meaningful and relevant ways. My thesis project involved researching digital and industrial technologies and applications such as laser and micro-CT scanning, 3D printing, and data-capturing techniques such as photogrammetry and precise geometric measuring; with this information, I focused on how these "hard sciences" are an essential component for the future of cultural heritage preservation, research, and display within museums.

My time at the CPC gave me powerful tools beyond academic aptitude; it literally allowed me to take every unusual skill or talent that I possess and channel it into a cohesive force. I used my natural enthusiasm for figuring out computer software and programs, real-time strategy and tactics, and social media into developing online content and projects, feel comfortable in professional decision-making, and apply myself beyond my preconceived notions of what I can and cannot do. During the Hot Button Topics in Cultural Policy course, I learned how to professionally conduct interviews and contribute survey data concerning cultural participation to a report published by the CPC designed to inform cultural decision-making for South Side Chicago organizations. With these skills I felt confident enough to interview Smithsonian Institution executives and staff members to help inform my research; it's pretty amazing to claim that leaders and administrators at what is the world's largest, most technologically advanced cultural organization granted me an audience, and I'd never have had such an opportunity if not for the support of the CPC.

Through the development of these skills and both the knowledge and the confidence to apply both my academic and practical talents, I'm just now making the transition into the cultural sector through Chicago Detours. This organization justifies my graduate training with its high expectations in the intellectual ability of its tour guides, but it also mandates that such academic training be utilized for the public good by cultivating the educational interests and enjoyment of others. For an academic and an educator that feels most comfortable out of the library and working "in the field," be it within a museum or the open-air museum that is Chicago and its architecture, this was definitely not where I envisioned myself prior to working with the CPC, but it's a perfect fit for my personality and I cannot wait to continue my personal and professional development with Chicago Detours. I am beyond grateful for "accidentally" discovering the Cultural Policy Option, the opportunities I had and have been given at the CPC, and most of all, achieving a greater understanding about the kind of professional and scholar I would like to be in the years to come!

 

Kate Grogan, MAPH'11

Kate GroganInstitutional Relations Associate, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

How were you involved in the Cultural Policy Center?

As a Master's in the Humanities student focusing on Cultural Policy, I took the majority of my classes "across the Midway" at the Harris School or at SSA and Betty Farrell served as my academic and later thesis advisor. I attended as many Cultural Policy Center lunchtime workshops as my schedule would allow, which I considered to be the best aspect of my program. For me, the workshops were so illuminating because they combined theory and practice. Speakers and attendees came from diverse backgrounds within the arts. There were academics, policy makers, arts advocates, philanthropists, and arts consultants on hand at each workshop, with different perspectives on issues affecting the arts and cultural policy. I am amazed now by the access I was given to prominent stakeholders in the arts. The same people whom I now address in grant proposals, I heard speak in Cultural Policy workshops. I still attend these workshops-now with my colleagues-because we think they can keep our organization tapped into what is happening in the field. It's so easy to develop tunnel vision and be wrapped up in your own programs, so it is great to have these opportunities to remind us of the greater civic and cultural context in which we're operating.

What do you do now?

I am the Institutional Relations Associate at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. I support the Senior Advancement Officer of Corporate, Government, and Foundation Relations in developing the Theater's voice as an institution and building awareness of and assistance for our many strands of programming.

How did your time at the CPC help you prepare for your current position?

Having lived in New York for several years as a modern/contemporary dancer before returning to Chicago for grad school, I felt that the CPC did a brilliant job of reintroducing me to the many players in the cultural scene here. It was amazing for example, to be reading a monograph on the NEA's Survey of Public Participation in the Arts for a class and then have its co-author, Nick Rabkin, speak specifically about his findings and answer questions at a CPC workshop. Another paper that the CPC discussed often was the Mapping Cultural Participation in Chicago study, which primarily examined participation by African-American and Latino communities in Chicago's bigger arts nonprofits. When I arrived at Chicago Shakespeare, I learned that the organization was already using the study as a template for expanding its community footprint beyond Navy Pier and ensuring better access-particularly to Team Shakespeare, the Theater's arts-in-education program-for residents in neighborhoods with low cultural participation. My studies and involvement with the CPC have informed my writing and the way that I think about my organization's potential in Chicago's Cultural Landscape.

Taking Betty Farrell's Hot Button Topics in Cultural Policy class in the winter quarter was another important step in my understanding of trends in the cultural sector and served as a jumping off point for my thesis. In that class, my classmates and I were given timely quandaries (mine was the debate surrounding NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman's controversial comments regarding supply vs. demand in the context of the arts) to examine before writing white papers that explained our findings. As part of the project, we were paired with consultants who knew these issues well and guided us through the process. The idea that there could be "too much [of a] supply" of nonprofit arts organizations interested me and made me wonder about the power the grantee selection or rejection process can give certain funders. In my thesis research, I was able to discuss this idea with foundation program officers and with the people in the arts organizations applying for funding. The entire process was a great opportunity for me and I was glad to have been led to that topic by the CPC.

 

Jane Hanna, MAPH'11

Jane HannaSocial Media Strategist, Field Museum of Natural History

How were you involved in the Cultural Policy Center?

I worked as a Graduate Research Assistant in CPC while I completed the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities in 2010-11. As a MAPH student, I chose the Cultural Policy option, and much of my coursework was taken at the Harris School and Law School. I was looking for an academic program which would allow me to have an interdisciplinary focus, combining my interest in the arts and humanities with my career experience in marketing, and assist me in my aspirations towards a
career in museum administration. I'm also a technologist and gamer and my research areas included mobile and social media and the ways in which these complicate traditional museum exhibition, education, and marketing strategies. At CPC, I helped with the preparations for the CultureLab Emerging Practice Seminar 2011, which was focused in part on engaging arts audiences through the use of technology. Additionally, I was involved with the lunchtime workshop series as both an employee of CPC and an enthusiastic attendee. After graduating, I also participated in the marvelous Future of the City: The Arts Symposium by virtue of my association with CPC. Betty Farrell served as my supervisor as well as my thesis advisor and professor. I spent a lot more time in the CPC office than I spend in my own MAPH program office!

What do you do now?

I am the Social Media Strategist for The Field Museum of Natural History here in Chicago. In this capacity, I am responsible for maintaining a broad and ever-growing portfolio of social media pages for the Museum, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Yelp, and many more. I work closely with the scientific staff to develop engaging content that educates and entertains our digital community of fans and supporters. I also deliver up-to-the-minute news about exhibitions, educational programs, special events, and promotions to the public several times per day, seven days per week. I monitor and evaluate the performance of these pages using Google Analytics and other tracking tools, and continually look for short- and long-term ways through which the Museum can leverage these properties for various strategic purposes. I think I have one of the best jobs at the Field not only because I am uniquely positioned to collaborate with staff working in all of the Museum's departments, but also because I spend a large portion of my time interacting with our enthusiastic public, answering their questions, inviting them to participate in dialogues and citizen scientist activities, and learning valuable insights from their feedback.

How did your time at the CPC help you prepare for your current position?

Working as a marketing manager I knew that business decisions must be backed in data. This can be tricky in the nonprofit sector, because customers aren't necessarily consuming products and it's impossible to act strategically when you don't know how to measure the value of what you do. I was starting to feel a little bit like an alien in both my professional and academic lives. My fellow humanists looked at me in horror whenever I wanted to talk about statistics, measurement, data — protesting that art cannot be quantified. And policy analysts had little time for conversations about the arts and humanities, the presupposition being these were matters of the soul and thus too slippery to accurately to view through an econometric lens and therefore not worth the time. CPC was an oasis of like-minded people from across disciplines. The consultants involved with CultureLab, including Alan Brown, Peter Linett, and Roger Tomlinson, along with the U of C faculty who teach in the MAPH Cultural Policy option — Betty Farrell, Don Coursey, and Lawrence Rothfield — gave me a powerful set of tools for answering the both the artists and analysts alike. Every single day, I am called upon to demonstrate the value of what I do to a wide range of audiences; from the Board of Directors to the media to the curatorial staff. I can speak to the PhDs in our scientific enterprise using an academic vocabulary to explain the power of social media to disseminate knowledge and encourage mindshare and collaboration within disciplines; I can speak to the marketing team about the ROI (return on investment) of various Facebook campaigns; I can speak to the education staff about content that connects scientific stories with the public in very powerful and personal ways — and I can do all of that because I have a firm understanding of the data: what to track, how to track it, how to interpret it, and how to make strategic decisions and adjust policies based on results. All of that is possible because of the robust education I received through CPC and associated coursework. Moreover, the connections I was able to make to various movers and shakers in the Chicago cultural field have been absolutely invaluable. Indeed my first job at The Field Museum was a very prestigious internship, working directly for President John McCarter — an opportunity which came to me directly as a result of having been a graduate student in Cultural Policy. From there I was able to move into my current position — truly my dream job at my dream institution — due in large part to my thesis work on social media, and the experience and skills I learned during my time at CPC. I am truly grateful to have found a group of fellow aliens, and am still overwhelmed by the marvelous opportunities that I've enjoyed through CPC. Thank you!

 

Jennifer Novak-Leonard, MPP'04

Jennifer Novak-LeonardSenior Consultant, WolfBrown

How were you involved in the Cultural Policy Center?

While earning my MPP at Harris, I was a research fellow at the Cultural Policy Center and a co-founder of the Emerging Scholars in Cultural Policy conference hosted at the CPC.

What do you do now?

I'm a Senior Consultant with WolfBrown (www.wolfbrown.com), a leading research and management consultancy for arts and culture. My work largely relates to evaluation and research - specifically developing measurement systems to understand cultural participation, and the personal and public value derived from of those experiences. My work often lies at the nexus between arts, culture and public policy.

How did your time at the CPC help you prepare for your current position?

The CPC brought in amazing speakers and guest instructors who were leaders in the cultural policy field then, and who have only deepened their impact on the field and become more prominent since, while I was at Harris. The opportunity to hear these individuals speak and to take their courses, as well as to engage with them in one-on-one conversations, was a phenomenal experience. These opportunities propelled my knowledge of the most cutting-edge thinking in the field and built the foundation of my professional network.

 

David Beeman, MPP'04

David BeemanCorporate Counsel, Intellectual Property, Groupon, Inc.

How were you involved in the Cultural Policy Center?

I worked as a research assistant at the CPC while pursing my MPP. The
CPC was one of only a few research institutions devoted to this type
of work in the U.S. and had a reputation, like Harris, for applying
rigorous empirical analysis to pressing policy questions. The CPC
gave students the opportunity to work side-by-side with faculty and
practitioners on large, sophisticated projects with substantial
research budgets. Young researchers like myself could take what we
learned in the classroom, whether it be multivariate regression
analysis, organizational behavior, or advanced micro-economic theory,
and immediately apply it to extract results from the data.

My early work at CPC included preparing a chapter for a book entitled
Mapping State Cultural Policy: The State of Washington, edited by J.
Mark Schuster, an academic whom I had enormous respect for since
reading his international comparative study of cultural policy across
several OECD countries. That early work taught me how researchers
relied on multidisciplinary research methods to analyze the
on-the-ground effects of policy choices.

The CPC often assembled a diverse group of scholars and policy
practitioners under its roof, such as the combination of lawyers,
humanists, architects, and policy makers involved in the historic
preservation battle over the $660 million renovation of Chicago's
Soldier Field in Chicago (which subsequently lost its national
historic landmark status) and a conference on the same topic. These
debates implicated larger public policy research happening around the
CPC, whether it was debunking (or reaffirming) the theory that the
provision of cultural amenities as an urban planning tool would lure
high-value human capital to cities, or the methodology of measuring
intangible objects in an economy where traditional market indicators
of valuation do not apply.

This work culminated with my own research project studying economic
impact analyses (EIAs - these are the studies typically that claim an
industry or sector creates X number of jobs and X dollars of economic
activity) under the direction of my economics professor, Dr. Don
Coursey, and Dr. Carroll Joynes, whom I had the great fortune of
meeting during an early exploratory visit to the U of C. The EIA
project explored their legitimacy and reliability in the arts and
culture sector. The results highlighted the difficultly of measuring
the value of intangible objects, and suggested that EIAs posed
significant problems as a measurement device and an urban planning
tool. These findings formed the basis for a conference I assisted in
organizing at the Pocantico Conference Center of the Rockefeller
Brothers Fund in New York. The global group of academics and
practitioners who attended explored a diverse array of topics relating
to the economic impact of cultural industries.

What do you do now, and how did your time at the CPC help you
prepare for your current position?

Upon receiving my MPP, I attended law school, and I now practice
intellectual property law with an emphasis on global branding,
Internet, and entertainment issues.

My research at the CPC helped place intellectual property in context,
how the law functions as both a form of culture itself and a mechanism
for owning and controlling cultural expression. I regularly work with
copyright law, which derives from a constitutional directive to spur
innovation by providing a limited monopoly to authors. Entertainment
law involves the creation, ownership, and distribution of content.
The education I received from my time at the CPC underpins my ability
to provide effective counsel to clients across these and other
intellectual property issues.

My CPC training is also helpful because trademark litigation often
relies on surveys to support claims. The CPC's and Harris' training
in survey technique and advanced statistical analysis helps me prepare
and evaluate surveys in anticipation of trial. In addition,
understanding the processes for determining the value of intangible
objects, like a famous brand or a celebrity's identity, is relevant to
damages calculations and transactional work.

I greatly appreciate the numerous opportunities the CPC provided me.
Above all, I am thankful for the good group of former classmates,
professors, and colleagues whom I enjoy staying in touch with to this
day.

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