Meet the New ACL and HSEX Advisor
Margo Gray was the Director of Member Services at Donors Forum, where she led professional development programming and networking for grant makers. She is the founder of Playable Artworks, a sponsored project of Springboard for the Arts, and chaired the Gender Equity Committee at the Chicago Storefront Summit. She holds a BA from Grinnell College and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University and was a Fulbright Fellow at the Moscow Art Theatre School. She works with students in the Master of Professional Studies in Arts and Cultural Leadership and Human Sexuality Certificate programs.
College of Continuing and Professional Studies: Where did you grow up?
Margot Gray: I am from Minnesota's lake-lacking neighbor to the south, Iowa. One of my first visits to Minneapolis was as an undergraduate, to meet a playwright who had adapted and translated a piece I was directing for my thesis production. That was my first look at the welcoming arts community here!
CCAPS: What did you study in college?
MG: My degree is in Russian, which I started studying because I knew I wanted to travel abroad to Moscow for a semester abroad to take advantage of their amazing theatre tradition… The Russian major cohort was planning to spend two weeks in Moscow visiting the sets of television shows and examining the form and function of serial storytelling, so I just couldn't pass that up.
CCAPS: What drew you to the University of Minnesota?
MG: I wanted to get back into education. Of course the U has an excellent reputation, and CCAPS was especially attractive to me because it works with a diverse range of nontraditional students. It's a great mix of having all the wonderful resources of the University at your fingertips, and also working with a smaller, dedicated team with deep experience serving these populations.
CCAPS: As an artist, what do you like about working with students?
MG: In the theatre, part of my role as a director is to help everyone do their job better. Advising students shares a lot of commonalities with that work. You're working with a team to support student success, just like in theatre, where you have a whole array of people—stage managers and costume designers and sound technicians and so on—helping bring the performance to life. I always learn something (usually many things) every time I work on a show, and so the idea of continuing education is very close to my heart.
CCAPS: What makes the Twin Cities art scene unique?
MG: Minnesota's arts funding is the envy of other arts centers like Chicago and Austin. Organizations like the MRAC and the Minnesota State Arts Board fund not just large, established institutions, but small organizations that are up-and-coming and may be neighborhood-specific or run by folks without much professional experience. This leads to a more vibrant, diverse arts scene where the barriers to entry are lower, and it encourages work from folks who have out-there ideas, or who serve a small-but-dedicated audience no one else reaches.
CCAPS: Can you talk about your role as an advisor to students in the Human Sexuality Certificate?
MG: Yes! Since the HSEX Certificate is all online, advising will usually take place remotely. We're working on a live, online orientation for our students entering the certificate program in the fall. The certificate is offered in cooperation with the Program in Human Sexuality, which is housed in the Medical School. And although we also get a fair number of students in our courses who are pursuing medical professions (the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, pharmacy, etc.), we also have folks pursuing their master in social work, MPS in Integrated Behavioral Health, or degrees in anthropology or education. There is a wide range of interests represented.
CCAPS: What are you looking forward to in this position?
MG: This is a time of growth and change for CCAPS, which is always exciting. The Certificate in Human Sexuality is just getting off the ground, so I'm looking forward to building that program and helping it reach new audiences. In the ACL program, we're working on making the program an even more welcoming place for diverse cultural interests and career goals. I'm excited to hear from students and alumni of the program about how we can serve them better.
CCAPS: Do you have any advice for a prospective student?
MG: Before you apply, take the time to articulate for yourself what your professional goals are and why they're important to you. It's much easier to stay motivated through the application process, not to mention the challenges of the program, if you have a clear vision of what you will be able to do with the skills, knowledge, and connections that you gain in the program.