We proudly introduce the students who have teamed up as USF’s inaugural graduate museum studies cohort in August 2013 and completed their studies in December 2014. Their stories are interesting, varied and a tad surprising! For more information on University of San Francisco’s museum studies program, click here.
Elinoar Almagor was born in L.A and grew up in Israel. She studied architecture and majored in graphic design at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. As a designer and art director she worked in Israel and in the Silicon Valley, creating and developing brands and marketing communication tools for cultural, financial and technology companies. Elinoar is also the initiator, planner and executer of Art and Science Programs at the Wornick School in Foster City. She volunteers at Curiodyssey, a science and wildlife center, as a Wildlife Interpretive Guide. Currently a graduate student at USF Museum Studies Program, she wishes to integrate her design and marketing background into her studies and work, collaborate, and create exhibits with new meaningful experiences in today’s museums.
2017 update: Elinoar completed her summer internship in the curatorial and education departments at San Jose Museum of Art. In 2015, she accepted the position of museum educator at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. She also serves as a consulting designer for an art cart project at the Palo Alto Arts Center.
Merrill Amos is an advocate for Social Justice. Born in Syracuse, NY, she spent most of her childhood in Western Colorado. She received her Bachelor of Arts (Cum Laude) in Women’s Studies and Political Science from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY and is also an accomplished musician, having released an acoustic EP on iTunes. She has performed as an opening act for multiple internationally recognized artists. Merrill speaks Italian and studied art history in Rome. She is an inductee to the Lives and Legacies division of the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her role in a cohort working to make feminism a more accessible topic to the public, ultimately publishing her co-authored piece, “Feminism: Can I Get Mine To Go?” in On the Issues Magazine (2011). Merrill worked as a Business Researcher for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. She relocated to Berkeley in 2012 where she decided to bring her passion for social justice through the channels of the museum world. Merrill believes that in this age of hyper-connectivity there is great need for the advocacy of knowledge itself – for the experience of information that little else but a museum could provide. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Museum Studies at USF. She completed an internship in Winter 2014 at the International Museum of Women and also received a fellowship award to attend the annual American Alliance of Museums’ conference in Seattle in May 2014.
2017 update: Merrill completed a curatorial internship at the Mexican Museum in San Francisco helping to plan an exhibition of Folk Art that opened in Fall 2014. (For more on this exhibition, click here.) She co-curated an exhibition on the history of Lone Mountain College that opened in October 2014 and then consulted for the Wireless Museum, a San Francisco start-up. In January 2015, she accepted a position as Curator/Educator the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. You can read more about her work there by clicking here. In Spring 2017, she accepted a full time position as Program Manager, Office for Diversity, Inclusion and Community Partnership, Harvard University School of Medicine.
Alexa Beaman grew up in Palo Alto and received her BA in psychology from University of California, Santa Cruz. She studied in Lyon, France, taking classes exclusively taught in French. Through the Teaching Assistant Program, she returned to France to teach English to low-income elementary school children in a Parisian suburb. She was formally introduced to the museum field while hosting tours at the Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou Contemporary Art Museum in Paris. When she returned to the US, she joined the Board of Shipyard Trust for the Arts, an advocacy group supporting Hunters Point artists and the Bayview Community in San Francisco, and interned at Johansson Projects, an Oakland contemporary art gallery. She worked in Visitor Services, and recently completed an K-12 education internship at The Walt Disney Family Museum. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Museum Studies at USF, concentrating on education, engagement, and technology. During her first semester of graduate school, she conducted a significant research project focusing on the Common Core State Standards as applied to museum educational programming, and had the opportunity to present her research to undergraduate students. She was elected Founding President of USF’s Museum Studies Graduate Association by her classmates.
2017 Update: Alexa completed an Education Interning for School and Teacher Programs at the de Young Museum in 2014 and was hired to work in the museum’s marketing department. She then worked as a project coordinator with Museum Management Consultants. She recently presented at the Museums and the Web conference and the Western Museums Association in San Jose. In summer 2015, she accepted a fulltime position at the startup museum app tech firm Guidekick which just launched a comprehensive app for the de Young Museum.
Historian, artist, and graduate student, Leah Belcher is a lover of horror movies and an armature video editor. Leah grew up in Birmingham, Alabama before attending Flagler College to study graphic design.Leah’s adventures eventually took a historical twist. She worked in Florida at the Lightner Museum and the Shelby County Historical Society before joining a collaborative effort to build, “The Civil Rights Library of St. Augustine.” Leah was also an associate producer for a PBS documentary on the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. These opportunities introduced her to the power of teamwork and the importance of preserving the past. Now, Leah is earning her MA in the Museum Studies Program at the University of San Francisco and working at the Thacher Gallery.
2017 update: Leah completed a curatorial internship at the Mexican Museum in San Francisco helping to plan an exhibition of Folk Art that opened in Fall 2014. For more information, click here. She is currently co-curating an exhibition on the history of Lone Mountain College with Merrill Amos and completing a capstone on the LGBT Museum in San Francisco. In 2015, Leah relocated to Boston to test out how she feels about living with snow. She worked as a full-time educator at the Boston Historical Tea Party Ship. In Fall 2016, she accepted a coordinator position at the Harvard School of Education.
Kaitlin Buickel is from Orlando, Florida. She graduated from University of Florida, double-majoring in English and Anthropology. Kaitlin interned in the Florida Museum of Natural History‘s education department where she helped to redesign and promote a new permanent children’s exhibit. She also volunteered with the Orange County Regional History Center in the education department, helping with special events and giving tours to student groups. She has a specific interest in archaeology, and attended the St. Johns Archaeological Field School where she gained hands-on experience working with archeological tools and Native American artifacts. In 2013, Kaitlin relocated to San Francisco to pursue her MA in Museum Studies at USF. Kaitlin looks forward to gaining insight into various museum careers and accompanying skills, and would ultimately like to get a job in Collections Management.
2017 update: During her graduate studies, Kaitlin worked at the California Academy of Sciences where she also completed a summer internship in the collections department. She then worked full time in the installation and preparation department at SFMOMA. She is now the Community Engagement Coordinator at the David Brower Environment Center in Berkeley, California.
Cornelia (“Conny”) Bleul-Gohlke was born in Berlin, Germany and received her M.A. in education and Ph.D in Philosophy/Sport Science from the Freie University of Berlin. She worked as a teacher and teacher trainer in Berlin and taught P.E., German, Math, Science and Art at public schools, was research assistant at the FU Berlin and college lecturer for aquatics at the Landessportbund Berlin. In 2003 Conny moved with her family to Berkeley and fell in love with life in the Bay Area. Besides raising her three children she followed her calling as a Doula and provided midwifery services to women in and around Berkeley. Her two big passions are swimming and art. As a teenager, she was a member of the German National Swim Team and became a 5- times World Champion, holding 2 European records, and most recently 4 American National Championship titles as a Masters Swimmer. Conny has published many papers and books about swimming in German and English and loves to swim in the freezing waters of the San Francisco Bay. She also produces multi media art work. Her many outdoor murals can be seen at the Berkeley Marina. Other examples of her work reside in her home and private homes in Germany and the Bay Area. Conny is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Museum Studies. She is extremely proud to be one of the students selected for USF’s newly inaugurated program and very grateful to her family for their support as she pursues her dream career.
2017 update: Conny completed internships in the education department at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the National Japanese American Historical Society in San Francisco and the Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California Berkeley. She also worked as a guide for the Ai Wei Wei exhibition on Alcatraz Island. She is currently an on-call educator at SFMOMA, among many other projects.
Ray Bussolari was born in Brockton, MA. He received his BA in Communications and Film from Stonehill College in North Easton, MA. He is the sole proprietor of Ray Bussolari Photography, specializing in editorial and commercial work; however, his first love is classic black and white film portraiture. Ray’s experiences teaching photography and art, and working as a docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, have inspired him to pursue a career within a museum institution. He is currently working towards a Masters degree in Museum Studies at USF. Ray’s interests include mobile museums and the creation of the first punk rock museum.
2019 update: Ray is curator of the Foster Youth Museum, a project of the California Youth Connection. Following the successful debut of the Lost Childhoods Exhibition, Ray is currently working on more exhibitions that gives voice to homeless youth at venues including Grace Cathedral and Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz. You can learn more about Ray’s work by clicking here.
Janet Carmona was born in Bellflower, California and grew up in Los Angeles County’s city of Baldwin Park. She currently works at the San Francisco Public Library as well as the library at USF. She earned an AA in Fine Arts & Humanities from Mount San Antonio Community College and then transferred to San Francisco State University, where she excelled, making the Dean’s List and receiving a BA in history with an emphasis in the Middle East and minor in Religious Studies. In 2013, she was selected to join the inaugural Museum Studies graduate program at USF. Working in both public and academic libraries for almost a decade, she is eager to transition into the museum field, where she hopes to highlight issues of immigration in the US, particularly the Mexican experience.
2018 update: Janet completed an internship for the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago and then went back at work in USF’s Library. She also assisted USF Professor Sergio de la Torre with his exhibition of contemporary Mexican photography that opened at SOMARTS in Spring 2015. After graduating from USF Museum Studies, Janet accepted a part-time position at the Mexican Museum which she juggled with her full-time position in USF’s Gleeson Library. In April 2018, she accepted a promotion in the library world and now works at the library at City College of San Francisco.
Celia Castro grew up in Stockton, an all-American city in the heart of the Northern California Central Valley. She received her BA in English and Art History from the University of the Pacific and then completed a yearlong internship with the Haggin Museum where she helped with education programming, docent art training, and creating marketing materials to advertise the museum’s late night & weekend programs, and annual fundraising events. Celia developed gallery guides and print & web advertising. During this time, Celia found a particular affinity for new technological modes of communication and start “Confessions of a Museum Intern,” a contemporary art blog about urban, street, feminist, and Chicano art, artists, and exhibitions. Celia is currently an intern at the International Museum of Women. Previously, she was gallery assistant at the Manresa Gallery which shares a space with St. Ignatius Church. Celia is proud to be a candidate for a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies at USF.
2018 Update: Celia completed an internship in curating and public relations for the Mexican Heritage Center and Gallery in Stockton and now works full time as the Visitor Services/Membership Coordinator at the Haggin Museum in her hometown of Stockton.
Briana Commins grew up in The Woodlands, Texas. A graduate of University of Texas at Dallas with a B.A. in Historical Studies and a B.A. in Art & Performance, Briana performed with the UT Dance Company, and taught dance for children at local studios. During her internship at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, Briana helped to craft exhibits and instruct with the Art Ark, a mobile children’s art museum serving local schools. She acquired extensive museum education and operations management experience working with Premier Exhibition’s “BODIES…the Exhibition” and Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour in Seattle. Briana holds a certificate in Museum Studies from University of Washington and is excited to be pursuing her MA at USF.
2018 update: Brianna worked at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco during her graduate studies and was hired Development Coordinator at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, a position she began three days after graduation. In 2017, Brianna and her husband welcomed their first child, River, into their busy lives in Seattle. In 2018, she accepted a position on the donor relations team of Sound Generations, a not-for-profit that provides vital resources for older adults and adults with disabilities.
Nalini Elias was born in Westwood, California, grew up in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and then returned to California at age ten. She received her BA in History/ Arts Management and a minor in Public Relations from USF, where she is now pursuing her Masters in Museum Studies. Her internships have included Fraenkel Gallery, The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, and the de Young Museum. From her passion for art and culture emanates a desire to advocate for artists and their work and be part of a diverse museum staff that aims to cross cultural and social barriers. Look out for her contributions on Plinth, the official blog of MuseumForce.org.
2018 update: Nalini completed an internship in marketing and research at Contemporanea. In Spring 2015, she accepted the full time position of education coordinator at the Museum of Latin American Art in southern California. You can read more about her work by clicking here. In Spring 2018, she moved back to San Francisco and began a new position as Program Manager for The GLBT Historical Society and History Museum.
Jenny Fry is from Dallas, Texas. She moved to San Francisco from Tulsa, Oklahoma after living there for six years. She received her BA in Art History and Arts Management from the University of Tulsa and soon after she was hired as the Education Assistant at the Philbrook Museum of Art and worked there for three years. At the Philbrook, she coordinated, implemented, led, and organized programs such as Home School Art, a new initiative with the homeschool groups around Tulsa, and Art Focus, a partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association of Tulsa. She also worked extensively to improve and expand the educational program with Tulsa Public Schools. At USF she is enthusiastic to explore conservation techniques, curatorial practices, and how technological advances are implacting visitor experience. In 2013-14 she was an intern at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
2017 update: Jenny completed a summer internship at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Visit her blog by clicking here. After graduation, she accepted a position in the education department at the Disney Family Museum. In Summer 2015, she moved back to Kansas City where she worked as a teaching assistant at a preschool and an evaluation consultant for ArtsKC. In December 2015 she accepted the position of Educator at the Johnson County Museum.
Laura Harvey received her BA in Liberal Studies with a minor in Art History from California State University in her hometown of Chico, California. A Dean’s list student, she worked one-on-one with children with disabilities, and volunteered over 100 hours in an elementary school. After graduating, she embarked on an education internship at the Children’s Museum of Denver in Colorado which soon led to a full-time Educator position at the museum. As an Educator, she taught multiple school programs to 4-8 year olds and developed and taught her own daily program for toddlers. She also developed and facilitated numerous day camps, special events and accessibility mornings. Her travels include Africa, Europe and North America, where she volunteered for many projects and explored different cultures.
2016 update: Laura completed an internship at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in Spring 2014 and at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Summer/Fall 2014. Inspired by her coursework at USF in project management and museums & technology, she accepted a position in project management at a San Francisco tech startup right after graduation and began running half marathons.
Natalie Hollett (Norton) was born in Santa Cruz, CA and grew up in the small Gold Rush town of Murphys, CA. She graduated from California State University, Chico with her BA in History and a minor in Latin American Studies. While working on her undergraduate degree, she interned at a local historical society, where she completed historical and archival research pertaining to the Gold Rush. She published an article on Mexican democracy through the school’s history department and was invited to present her research at the Phi Alpha Theta National Conference. After graduation, she moved to San Francisco to intern in the De Young Museum’s Public Programs Department. She then relocated to Los Angeles to work in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County’s Guest Services Department. These positions solidified her desire to continue in the museum field and she plans to incorporate her love of California history while working towards her Masters degree in Museum Studies at USF.
2017 update: In 2014, Natalie accepted a full-time position at the Pasadena Museum of History where she coordinates all volunteer activities. She now works as Corporate Relations Coordinator at Stop Hunger Now.
Brianna Jilson received her BA with honors in anthropology with a minor in theater from the State University of New York (SUNY) Albany. Her primary focus was linguistics, especially the history of writing systems. Brianna worked as a technical assistant for the SUNY Albany Theater scene shop, specializing in lighting and electrics. In 2011, Brianna participated in an archaeological field school through the New York State Museum. She also interned for the NYSM archaeology lab. Brianna is pursuing her MA in Museum studies at USF. She would like to explore her interests in collections management, curatorship, and exhibition design with an eye toward a job at a natural history museum. She was born in Colorado and grew up in Waverly, New York. Moving to San Francisco from New York has been a delightful adventure and she looks forward to getting to know the city.
2019 update: Brianna was hired as office/collections manager at the Treasure Island Museum in the San Francisco Bay while she was completing her internship there and currently works there, supervising interns, developing the museum’s collection and supporting the Board’s strategic planning efforts. Brianna currently works full time managing the visitor experience guides at SFMOMA.
Marykaren Mrowka was born and raised in Saratoga Springs, New York. Before moving to California in 2006, she attended Alfred University and received her B.A. in Psychology with a focus on child psychology. While in Alfred, NY she enjoyed interning at an after school program designed to provide homeless and underserved elementary school youth access to community activities. Since moving to the Bay Area, she has studied Deaf culture and American Sign Language at Berkeley City College. Her current work as a preschool teacher is filled with the opportunity to educate using environmentally creative materials and practices. She is now in the M.A. in Museum Studies Program at USF, where she looks forward to working with others who share her passion for excellent community education.
2018 update: MaryKaren completed an internship in the education department at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden and has been hired as full-time visitor services coordinator at the Garden.
Max Nihei was born and raised in San Francisco, CA. Since earning his BA in history from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), he has been working at the National Japanese American Historical Society, performing both preservation and registrar duties for the organization’s collection of documents, photographs and objects pertaining to Japanese American history. He is currently enrolled in USF’s Museum Studies program.
Stephen Ryan Pinter was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ryan has worked for Artsource Consulting where he assisted the Principals with selecting artwork for private and corporate clients; he was also Assistant to the Director of the Thacher Gallery. He holds an AA in Visual Communications from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and BA in Art History/Arts Management from USF. Since 2011, Ryan has worked for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco supporting the Docent Council and developing educational programming for regional colleges and universities. Ryan is currently pursuing his M.A. in Museum Studies at USF.
2017 update: Ryan completed an internship in the collections and exhibitions departments at the Nevada Art Museum in Reno, working with contemporary environmental art. He was also an intern at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and worked at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco as an assistant in the Textiles Department. This fall, he accepted a position at the deYoung Museum in the Strategic Projects division where he helps to coordinate high-level donor events and fundraisers.
James Peth is from Wisconsin. He received his BS in Biology with minors in Captive Wildlife Management and Museum Studies from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. James has interned at both the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, AK and at Tiger World in Rockwell, NC. He spent a second summer in Anchorage as an official zookeeper and education aide. In Alaska, James helped with a new signage project for the education department and researched, designed, and built a new habitat for the resident muskrat. Tiger World provided James with the unique opportunity to raise tiger and lion cubs while learning about carnivore and primate captive management, offering suggestions on a Mandrill exhibit extension and partaking in the preparations for a facilities inspection. James originally wanted to be a zookeeper but discovered that he really enjoyed other aspects of the museum field. This led to his applying for the Museum Studies Master’s Degree Program at the University of San Francisco. James has a strong interest in how advancing technologies can be used in zoo and natural history exhibitions can provide a catalyst for learning about our natural world. He is planning on exploring this topic while studying at USF.
2017 update: James worked at the California Academy of Sciences during his graduate studies where he also completed a summer internship in the education department. He moved back to Wisconsin after graduation, working on creating a historic walking tour for the Tomah Wisconsin VA Medical Center. He recently accepted a full-time research position at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, WI. (yes, he is a Packers fan).
Cho Rao, a current Master’s candidate in Museum Studies at USF, is driven by her passion for the visual arts, its practice, presentation and interpretation across the globe. With fifteen plus years as an Arts Consultant she looks forward to shifting her focus from art sales to art appreciation in the international museum field. Implementing this transition by volunteering at the Asian Art Museum, the Contemporary Jewish Museum and interning at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 2011 Ms. Rao worked closely with the Visual Arts team at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to develop and produce the exhibition, The Matter Within, showcasing contemporary art of India. She has also served on the special events committee for ArtSpan, a Bay Area non-profit organization supporting local artists and has worked extensively with SFMOMA’s auxiliary group SECA (Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art). Born and raised in Bombay, India, Cho Rao has lived in San Francisco since late 2007. She attended Universities in the US and UK where she studied History, Art History and Decorative Arts. Her other interests include world news and events and international travel. As an avid reader she enjoys both classical and contemporary fiction and non-fiction. A fan of independent film she is a member of a local movie club. She also loves to cook and shares her home with her darling feline companions Mustafa and Leila.
2017 update: Cho was awarded a scholarship to attend the American Alliance of Museums conference in Seattle and the Western Museums Association Conference in Las Vegas and spent the summer researching trends in contemporary museum practice in India. She is living temporarily in Mumbai and in Summer 2015 gave a public talk titled When Attitude Becomes Form: Museums, Nations and Politics as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalya Museum (formerly Prince of Wales Museum) in Mumbai. She also conducted a workshop for KRVIA (Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture), taking 20 students to visit museums in the city, doing an object of the day project, and discussing museum architects and architecture. She serves on the multicultural scholarship committee of the American Alliance of Museums and recently presented her work at the College Art Association in New York City.
Mariah Shevchuk was born in Glendale, Arizona, which is where she spent her formative years before relocating to Italy with her family. After four months in Italy, she and her family spent three years in Germany, which is where Mariah’s love and respect for history, culture and museums started to develop. After their time spent in Germany, Mariah and her family moved to Tucson, where Mariah attended the University of Arizona, earning her degree in Anthropology (focused on Archaeology) with double minors in Classics and Religious Studies. During this time, she volunteered for the Arizona State Museum and served as a Holocaust Education intern at the Jewish Federation. She currently resides in San Francisco with nine great roommates and a healthy appreciation for the culture, food, architecture and great museums this city has to offer.
2019 update: Mariah completed an internship in the education department at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and another one in the development department at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. She relocated to Los Angeles in early 2015 worked on an exhibition re-design project for the Peterson Automotive Museum where she became a full time education coordinator. She is currently Associate Curator at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in Los Angeles, curating a forthcoming exhibition (February 2020) on the Afrolatinidad in Los Angeles.