A Series of Fortunate Events: How I Got the Job

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Name: Beth Simmonds

Year: Class of 2011

Hometown: Arlington, VA

Area of Study: Sociology, minors in Museums & Society and Classics

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Over the course of my four years at Hopkins, I have had some tremendous opportunities.  Perhaps one of my most pivotal decisions has been to pursue a minor in JHU’s Program in Museums and Society.  This multidisciplinary department is, in my opinion, one of the gems of the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences because it provides innovative courses with incredible opportunities for undergraduates.  Many of my classes took advantage of the city’s amazing museum scene, with regular trips to

the Baltimore Museum of Art, JHU Evergreen Museum & Library, and Walters Art Museum, to name just a few.  The faculty encourages students to pursue internships within the museum field.  After a positive internship experience at the Baltimore Museum of Art before junior year, I decided that I wanted to reach for the stars (or should I say sunburst?) and apply for a position with the Smithsonian Institution for the summer of 2010.

It was about a year ago when I received a phone call from Katie, my future supervisor: after a tedious online application process and a telephone interview, I was offered an internship within the Office of External Affairs at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.  I was thrilled and happy to accept.  The internship was unpaid, which meant that I’d spend my evenings serving tables at a restaurant in my hometown, Arlington, VA (a DC suburb).  Yet I knew that the position would pay off in other ways.  Still, I never could have imagined that my internship at the Smithsonian would translate to a job upon graduating from college.

NPM’s Stampede with Smithsonian Undersecretary Kurin, Smithsonian Secretary Clough, Postmaster General Potter, Deputy PMG Donahoe, and NPM Director Allen Kane. I really wish that I could’ve worn a simple pencil skirt and blouse for meeting such important people!

The National Postal Museum is one of the smaller units of the Smithsonian Institutions, which is comprised of 19 museums and galleries, plus the National Zoo.  The intimate setting was perfect for me because I had the opportunity to meet almost all of the staff members over the course of the summer.  I was one of eight interns, and we were spread across the museum’s departments, from public programming to preservation, and postal history to web team.  We bonded over the course of the three months, from attending the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival to dressing up and running around DC as a “Stampede,” where we were dressed in suits completely covered in stamps (but that’s a whole other story… oh boy.)  As the External Affairs intern, I had the opportunity to help plan a black-tie gala, support a fundraising strategy for opening a new gallery within the Museum, and speak directly with members about their favorite aspects of NPM.  By the end of the summer, I had picked up an enormous skill set, and (bonus!) I was able to pronounce “philately” without hesitation.

My academic interests in the museum field have largely been cultivated through my coursework in the museums & society minor, but surprisingly, involvement in JHU Greek Life has played a tremendous role in shaping my career goals.  As the past President and former Recruitment Chair of Kappa Kappa Gamma, I learned invaluable organizational and communication skills for managing an organization comprised of 120+ members.  It was striking to me how similar Kappa’s weekly officer meetings resembled an all-staff meeting in the non-profit world.  From managing a large budget to collaborating with diverse personalities, I am still struck by how much Kappa has benefitted me as I prepare for my professional career.

One particularly unique experience as a Kappa was during the same summer that I was interning at the Postal Museum.  I represented my chapter at the KKG 68th Biennial National Convention in Phoenix, AZ, and it was there that I met Kylie Towers, the archivist/curator for Kappa’s two museums, and Edy Mayo, Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  Turns out, Kylie had also interned at the National Postal Museum!  I couldn’t believe such serendipity, and meeting these two women—fellow Kappas—was a highlight of my trip.

Now… fast forward to November, a time marked for many seniors as “OMG WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE.”  I was sitting in Gilman Atrium with a few friends when I received a phone call from the Director of Development at the Postal Museum; she asked if I might be interested in coming on board to manage the Museum’s membership program on a part-time basis while I finish up school.  Keeping in mind that I still needed to complete a full load of course credits during my last semester at Hopkins, I was able to shuffle my spring classes so that I could have Mondays and Fridays free to work in DC.  With the Postal Museum located right next to Union Station, the 45 minute MARC train makes for a manageable commute.  After I graduate in May, I will be able to commit to a full-time position at the Museum.

So far, the experience as part-time professional, full-time student (with full-time Senioritis) has been a balancing act, to say the least.  I have loved life since stepping onto Homewood campus in 2007, and I will sorely miss the friends and unforgettable experiences that I have had here.  Nevertheless, the anticipation of working for an institution for which I care strongly about has me enthusiastic for what lies ahead.  I’m living life to the fullest one day at a time, but I gotta be honest… I can’t wait for what happens next.

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