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Sarah Sosa-Acevedo

Summer Internship with the Milwaukee Public Museum

by Sarah Sosa-Acevedo Thursday, July 16, 2015

Milwaukee Public Museum - What will you find?

A day spent at Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) is guaranteed fun. Adventures await you at every corner whether you’re on the exhibit floors or behind the scenes. What other MBA intern can say he or she works among dinosaurs, mummies, dioramas, meteorites, and a giant squid? Working in such a creative environment cultivates curiosity. Thus, I decided to accept the MPM challenge of exploration and discovery this summer. I will ask questions and let myself wonder in the answers. Every day I ask myself what will I find and every day I am surprised with a small artifact or huge specimen I had not seen before. However, the real fun begins when I arrive at my desk and I get to dive in to the exciting work of strategic planning for this distinguished institution.

I have the privilege to work alongside my supervisor, Kelly Gauthier, a graduate of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration, and Dennis Kois, President and CEO of MPM. The goal of the strategic plan is to unite MPM’s diverse stakeholders around a visionary, actionable, and achievable five-year strategic plan, with core projects carrying out five to ten years or longer. Coming into the project Kelly and Dennis requested I remain adaptive, flexible, and responsive to the needs of the planning process. Keeping an open mind and an attitude of discovery has made my experience thus far more interesting; it keeps me thinking fast and adapting even faster to changes.

To assist with this process, they have contracted Gallagher & Associates, an internationally recognized museum planning and design firm. G&A are providing highly creative and visionary leadership and input in this process and are helping MPM develop a Visitor Experience Plan that builds on its proud history and strengths. Utilizing directed inputs such as current research, museum industry best practices, benchmarking, focus groups, surveys, interviews, town hall meetings, planning workshops, and other mechanisms as appropriate. Observing the work of the consultants has also sparked my curiosity to other possibilities in the museum field.

It has been interesting to observe how the museum and the consultants manage the process by balancing where is the process taking us and where do we interject.

Given the complexity of the project and stakeholder involvement, benchmarking, metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs), and dashboard design for project management are the focus of my work. The first half of my internship has consisted on conducting museum field research, data sharing, and benchmarking. I have been analyzing and contextualizing MPM’s position relative to external environmental, political, cultural, societal, economic, and technological trends. The second half of the internship will focus on the selection of the metrics and KPIs that will be most helpful measuring the success of the strategic planning, and the design and implementation of dashboards. When analyzing the data, I find it fun to ask what are you trying to tell me and I always take pleasure when the answer is unexpected.

As side projects, I’ve had the chance to jump in and assist in various other capacities in addition to strategic planning. I have been able to attend board meetings, staff meetings, and committee meetings. I played a small, but essential role in the Moveable Feast event, the first new fund/friend-raising event MPM has launched in years. In a way, I’ve been an advisor to my supervisor in strategizing the strategic planning process itself, so that it can serve as a change process for every level at the institution. I am also directly involved with running, attending and organizing the Visitor Engagement Plan planning meetings. I have even been recruited to join the Diversity Working Group, a committee that will be making recommendations to the museum’s leadership regarding the role of diversity in the organization.

After a long day’s work, there is no shortage of activities to unwind with. Summer in Milwaukee is filled with more fun and adventure. Activities abound: Summerfest, State Fair, beer gardens, museums, delicious food and restaurants, street festivals, the Brewers at Miller Park, water sports, outdoor symphony concerts and movies, and more! I have explored enough I can now comfortably navigate the city without the use of a GPS. Every day at 5pm, I find myself asking: what new corner of the city will I explore today?

There are five more weeks left on my internship and I am already wishing I could stay to see the strategic plan to the end. I get to participate in just ten weeks of a process that will take years. We do not know where will the planning take us, but we are excited with all the possibilities the immediate future holds for the Milwaukee Public Museum.

We believe that within every person is a burning desire to more fully understand the marvels, the oddities and the secrets of their world. We believe it is our job to stoke that fire. For it inspires us to keep learning, to turn more stones, to look closer at life and to ask the never-ending question: What can we discover next?