This post is part of the Museology Faculty spotlight series, which consists of short interviews with our faculty to discuss and reflect on inclusive teaching, their learning outcomes, some of their course highlights, and what they’ve learned adjusting to teaching online through the pandemic. Our next spotlight is with Regan Pro, who teaches a course on models of museum interpretation. Her responses are below:
Our program is grounded in the belief that museums can make the world a better place and that we must center equity in all of our work. We are all committed to inclusive teaching. Can you give me an example of what that looks like in your class?
I really appreciate this value of the program as it is a central value of mine. For my work towards inclusive teaching, I always start the class with talking about my own identity as a cisgender, straight able-bodied white woman and how while I’m actively trying to dismantle my biases they will influence everything I teach. I then try to create space for students to give me feedback when they feel like that bias is showing up. I also commit that half of my readings for class have to be written by BIPOC or womxn authors and look carefully at the representation of my guest speakers and all other class content. These are some of the ways I try to hold myself accountable.
The makeup of the student cohort has changed over the past two years. How has your teaching changed in response to this shift? Can you give me an example of one thing you do differently?
I don’t have a long lens on the program, so I can’t really say how it’s changed but I really appreciate how much I learn from all the students. I have so much to learn from the next wave of emerging museum leaders- it’s really good and humbling to be in class with with the Museology cohorts. I see them as having such deep lived experience, knowledge, and understanding of equity to bring to the field.
What do you think is your most important learning outcome? What does that mean in practice?
One of my learning outcomes is how theory applies and aligns to contemporary practice. As a practitioner, I’m always really interested in looking at where you see the theory actually being able to manifest in real life, and where it falls apart, particularly when you’re thinking through an equity lens. I really love students being able to understand the foundational ideas around interpretation, see how it’s showing up in a space, and examine why it is getting translated that way.
Along those lines, can you describe your best assignment? And what makes it the best? How does it achieve your learning outcomes?
I think my favorite assignment is when I ask students to write a label. They have three objects to choose from. One is Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama, one is a protest poster from the Women’s March , and the last one is a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat. So, first as a class, based on the readings, we come up with what we call our ‘Ten Commandments’ of labels, which are our best practice rules for labels.The students write a label based on those commandments, bring it to class, and then we do a group critique of all the labels from each of the three objects. Then, the students take the feedback they got and they revise their label and submit their new version. I love seeing like ten different approaches to the same object and how radically diverse they are. I think it’s really inspiring for students to see how people perceive things in different ways. For example, last year, there was a label in Spanish, and no one had thought about using another language for their label and that really opened it up. This is probably my favorite assignment and is the one I think students think is the easiest, but it’s actually the hardest.
Our faculty are all committed to training museum professionals as well as contributing to the field. What do you see as the main way that you contribute to the field?
I had a Museology student ask me what I wanted my legacy to be, which first I really appreciated that they thought I would have a legacy, but my answer was that I want people to feel like when they worked with me, they were supported in doing work that is meaningful to them. I hope that’s my contribution to the field.
What do you think are some of the most important lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic as we’ve shifted to remote learning?
One of the things I love about remote work is you get to see more of people’s lives, it’s a reminder of all the different things people have going on. I’m situated within an art museum, so I’m always kind of biased towards artists, but there’s a lot that artists are teaching us about how to use Zoom in interesting ways. One thing I actually really like about using platforms like Zoom is the chat function because I think it allows people to participate in a lot of different ways. People who might not feel comfortable raising their hand may feel more comfortable putting something in the chat, and I love having both those modalities going at the same time.