CUNY SPS Celebrates First Class of Museum Studies Graduates

Elizabeth Rubel cap and gown graduation photo

The CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) is proud to recognize the inaugural class of the MA in museum studies with a special celebration on June 1. Students, faculty, and staff from CUNY SPS and the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) attended the virtual event, offering congratulations and words of advice to the groundbreaking graduates.

“It is my great honor to commemorate the first class of museum studies graduates, and acknowledge their incredible hard work and achievements,” said Jenna Coplin, academic program manager for the program. “We could not have asked for a better group of students—they are intelligent, creative, and dedicated people. I have every confidence they will help shape museum work going forward.”

During the celebration, speakers from the program and beyond honored the students and this milestone for the CUNY SPS museum studies program, which was launched in Fall 2019 as part of a collaboration with the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS). 

Hosted by student scholarship recipients John Sapida, Jahaira Arias, and Rachel Pitkin, the event featured inspiring remarks from CUNY SPS Dean John Mogulescu; Dr. Paley, senior vice president and chief historian at N-YHS; CUNY SPS Senior Associate Dean George Otte; Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang, N-YHS trustee, Asia Society triennial executive chair, and chair of the exhibitions committee; and graduating student Jinelle Thompson, co-chair and founder of the graduate student engagement committee (GSEC), the program‘s first student-run organization.

In one highlight, Dr. Tang spoke to students as a proud trustee and fellow scholar of art, sharing the early history of the program as rooted in an exhibit that brought descendants of the first Chinese railroad workers to the museum. She concluded with the wise words: “It has been said that art is the highest form of hope. We are not just curating art; we are curating hope, and we have the power to give voices to our collective history.”  

In another highlight, student speaker Thompson shared the value of connecting outside the classroom and discussed some of the GSEC’s recent initiatives and activities, including a student-run panel about internships, and a visit to the Queens Museum to view an installation created by museum studies faculty member Chloë Bass.

Alongside the speeches, the museum studies program honored the students and the collective capstone project they produced titled The Hope of Public Education. This collaborative work reimagines exhibits, outreach, and programming tied to CUNY as part of a vast multi-year initiative for New York’s underserved communities.

As CUNY SPS salutes this inaugural class, we are pleased to honor the graduates with a look at their accomplishments and future plans.

Lisa Diaz Louis was motivated by her work in NYC’s foster care and shelter systems, and hopes to bring museums to underserved populations and help diversify staff.

With a background in the arts, and a varied career, Raissa Fitzgerald has worked at the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the New York Botanical Gardens. Fitzgerald now supports high school students as the college success advisor at Yonkers Partners in Education.

Megan Heatherly came to the museum studies program with a background in foreign languages and film and media studies. In addition to working as an admissions officer at Columbia Law School, she has worked at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum.

Cassandra Mulero has just completed an education department internship at The Jewish Museum, and has previously worked as a teaching assistant at the American Museum of Natural History with her psychology and biology background.

Sarah Rappo is a CUNY Hunter and Queens College graduate with a background in communication, media studies, and library and information science. She currently works as the assistant archivist at Baruch College.

During his studies, Zakery Risinger participated in a curatorial fellowship at the Kupferberg Holocaust Museum, working on the exhibit Survivance and Sovereignty on Turtle Island: Engaging with Contemporary Native American

Elizabeth Rubel has been very active at CUNY SPS, serving as the disabilities and access coalition co-chair, professional development grant committee chair, student association rep, Malave Leadership Academy mentor, and as a student member of CUNY SPS strategic planning committee.

Joshua Sosa joined the student body as a working museum educator with a background in classics and experience in development. He is seeking to continue his career within the museum field, and is eager to work in museology, museum pedagogy, and educator program development.

Kathryn Taylor Nash is a sommelier, originally from NY, who joined the program from North Carolina. She hopes that this degree can help her widen her professional opportunities moving forward.

In addition to co-founding the graduate student engagement committee, Jinelle Thompson also served as the VW fellow for public programs and community engagement at MoMA PS1.

About the CUNY SPS MA in Museum Studies

The MA in Museum Studies online degree program grounds students in the theory and practical applications of museum operations, including administration, finance, curation, technology, and education. Developed in collaboration with the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS), students gain the knowledge, skills, and preparation necessary to engage in professional museum practice.

About the CUNY School of Professional Studies

For over 15 years, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) has been leading online education in New York. Notable for offering the most online bachelor’s and master’s degree options at the City University of New York, and for serving transfer students as the University system’s only undergraduate all-transfer college, CUNY SPS meets the needs of adults who wish to finish a bachelor’s degree, progress from an associate’s degree, earn a master’s degree or certificate in a specialized field, and advance in the workplace or change careers.

The School’s growth has been remarkable, with twenty-four degrees launched since 2006. Enrollment has risen by more than 30% in the last four years to over 4,000 students in the credit-bearing programs.  Thousands more are enrolled in non-degree and grant-funded workplace learning programs. In addition, the School has an active alumni network and has established the CUNY SPS Foundation, which offers multiple scholarship opportunities to current students.

CUNY SPS has consistently been named by U.S. News & World Report as one of the country’s top online institutions. This year, the School was ranked in the top 2% in the nation on the publisher’s list of the 2021 Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs.

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