Like a lot of young professionals, Christina Martinez explored a few career options before finding a good professional fit. The Spanish and anthropology major from Wisconsin worked as a public school teacher, at a health insurance company, as a residential director at her alma mater, as a house director at A Better Chance, a crew member at Trader Joe’s, and as an events manager at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
The common thread in all of these positions, she found, was that she felt drawn to organizations that value education, where people “are not only pushing themselves but also lifting each other up.”
At the Science Museum, Christina strengthened her skills in the different aspects of managing a nonprofit and became more involved in networking with other museums. She found that others were eager to share their knowledge “because one of the cool things about museums, is that there is not a strong sense of competition with one another.”
The Science Museum, she says, “is kind of a big deal” in the museum world, because it provides a range of experiences, like teacher education, youth programming, and original exhibits.
Her peers began to recognize that Christina, too, could do a wide range of things. “So that's part of the reason why I felt that I would be a good person to start up this network.”
She started a global community of practice for museum personnel who run events or programming for adult audiences, which earned her a lot of experience and exposure. She is also currently a volunteer organizer for CreativeMornings, whose local chapters celebrate a city’s creative talent and promote an open space to connect with like-minded individuals. Most recently, Christina has joined the board of CaMinO, a local organization that fosters relationships between Minneapolis and sister city Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Even with all that experience with and exposure to nonprofits, Christina was eager to take the next step professionally. “The more you learn, the more you realize how much you don't know,” she says.
The Arts and Cultural Leadership (ACL) degree, like the Science Museum, offered a deeper dive into the arts, culture, and nonprofit spheres. She believes that the ACL program “positions you to learn more about something that you're passionate about or that maybe you didn't have the chance to ask about in your actual work setting.”
“This is a great program because you can reach across disciplines and you're encouraged to."
Christina now works for the University of Minnesota as an events planner for three different departments in the College of Liberal Arts: Chicano and Latino Studies, American Indian Studies, and American Studies.
She reduced her office hours and takes one or two classes a semester. “The entire program is designed to meet people mid-career. A lot of the classes are at night, and it's really accommodating to people who are working on other projects or have other interests.”
Christina is on track to graduate in May 2022, and later this summer, she will start her board practicum, an ACL requirement, with Springboard for the Arts.
“Our teachers are working with real people, real situations, real struggles, real conundrums where they've had to make a choice. Understanding that they've been in the room and that they're sharing their experience with us has been super valuable.”
“Your classmates are passionate about different things and they're coming with their own experience. It adds so much richness to the program to have students who have so much journey to unpack.”
“This has put me in contact with a lot of people who are doing great things within the Twin Cities, not only the teachers and the mentors and educators, but also the students. They're showing up because they want to do good.”
“I thought that the finance and ethics (courses) were going to be really scary, but they were so well designed and the teachers were so inspiring that I looked forward to my classes.”
“This class really helped round out the 'what ifs'—what would happen if we chose this over that, or what else could we try? That's the type of thinking that really makes this program valuable.”
Ethical Dilemmas and Legal Issues for Cultural Leaders
“The instructor had us debate ideas in class. She had us search for examples on our own and to lead those discussions. She also brought in a lot of guest speakers, people who are working on these murky questions.”
Advice for Future Students
“This is a great program because you can reach across disciplines and you're encouraged to. Think of the University as your toolkit, not just CCAPS or the ACL program, it's everything that the University has to offer. The model of the ACL program recognizes and appreciates how creative thinking can strengthen your practice. You can design your electives around topics that maybe you hadn't dabbled in before but want to try.”