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Mentored Learning

Mentorship experiences provide in-depth learning in a museum context and, for many students, lead to a life-long professional and personal involvement with museums. The research they contribute, the services and programs they provide, and the inclusion of their vital perspectives contribute substantially to the quality of UMMA’s campus and community service as we mentor the professionals of tomorrow.

In Fiscal Year 2017, UMMA’s director and staff members provided mentored learning experiences for 69 University of Michigan students or recent graduates, and seven students from other institutions or early career professionals from other institutions, for a total of 76 people. 

Fourteen U-M graduate and eight undergraduate students from diverse schools and disciplines participated in extended mentored learning as fellows, research associates, interns, librarians, program assistants, and art-handlers in the Collections and Exhibitions, Communications, Curatorial and Education areas, including the fourth Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow.

Thirty two undergraduate students, who served on the UMMA Student Engagement Council, developing programs, outreach including social media and serving as UMMA Student Docents. All members received a strong introduction to museum work and careers through this service learning program in Education.

Two special projects funded by the U-M Third Century Fund and the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences allowed UMMA to engage and mentor a total of 21 graduate students or post-degree young professionals and one undergraduate; U-M graduate students (14), and post-doctoral, post-BA or MFA/MS early career young professionals (7). 

Together, these projects provided substantive professional and pre-professional training while improving information for and access to the UMMA collections, as well as creating teaching resources for the UMMA Exchange


The UMMA Exhange: Student Research Teams

The UMMA Exchange, launched in May 2017, is a new online teaching and learning platform that will transform the use of UMMA’s online collection database. It will allow any user to create virtual exhibitions, lesson plans, or other products as well as being designed to support and extend formal, classroom-based learning.  

In order to execute such a large project, however, U-M graduate and undergraduate students have worked hard alongside UMMA staff (team members pictured below) to document, research, and photograph more than 5,000 collections objects. 

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U-M Students: Become a member of the UMMA Student Engagement Council.


Andrew W. Gurstelle, a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at U-M, drew upon his expertise as an archaeologist of Western Africa’s Iron Age to provide new knowledge about one of UMMA’s most striking African objects, the Nkisi Nkondi.

Andrew also worked with Mellon Academic Coordinator David Choberka to integrate his findings into a film resource for U-M History 202–Doing History, ensuring this research reaches successive generations of students as well as UMMA visitors.

“My research on the (iron) nails of Nkisi Nkondi takes a basic principle of archaeological research—artifact typologies—and applies it to re-date this object as one of the colonial period rather than the pre-colonial past. Working with the objects at UMMA has shown me how valuable existing collections of African art are to historical understanding.”

– Andrew W. Gurstelle, U-M Anthropology Doctoral Candidate


Scholar, teacher, curator, and film star are some of the roles U-M graduate student Kristine Ronan has filled at UMMA over several years. Currently working at the National Museum of the American Indian and writing her dissertation on 19th- and 20th-century American and Native American art, Kristine continues to work for UMMA, researching and developing interpretive and teaching information relating to UMMA’s collection of Native arts with Curator for Museum Teaching and Learning, Pamela Reister.

“UMMA has been outstanding in offering me hands-on, professional museum experience. My UMMA work has proven to be the foundational credential and experience that I have needed for professional museum work—I really cannot say thank you enough!”

– Kristine Ronan, U-M History of Art Doctoral Candidate