MACOMB, IL/ Moline,IL – – Western Illinois University’s Museum Studies program sponsors the 2024 Career Conversations from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11. This virtual Zoom event is for emerging professionals, professionals in career transition and any individuals interested in connecting with these vibrant groups of professionals.

During the event, panelists will share their educational and career paths, talk about the road to their current positions, explore the highs and lows of working in cultural institutions and answer any questions of the audience. The goal of this event is to highlight the diversity of paths in the museum field and the choices some professionals have made for their education and careers.

“Career Conversations sheds light on the educational and career paths of professionals who share how they came to work in museums. WIU Museum Studies is especially excited this year because two of the five panelists are alumni of our very own program.” Heidi Lung, director of Museum Studies said. “Events like Career Conversations are essential for students to see the diversity within the museum field and all of the options available to them. WIU Museum Studies is proud to sponsor this Career Conversations and partner with the Iowa Museum Association to connect students with professional networks.”

Western Illinois Quad-Cities Museum Studies Sponsors the 2024 Career Conversations April 11

This year’s panel includes:

Nicholas Erickson has worked for the Grout Museum District in Waterloo for 10 years. Since 2017, he has served as the registrar. He holds a bachelor’s degree in History from Luther College in Decorah (2013) and a master’s in Public History from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls (2018).
Julia Jessen received her bachelor’s degree in Art from the University of Iowa in 2014 and a master’s degree in Art History and Museum Studies from Syracuse University in 2020. She previously served as the education coordinator at the University of Iowa Museum of Art (now the Stanley Museum of Art) and as the registrar at the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, IA. She joined the staff of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in July 2023 as curator of Collections and Exhibitions.
Kelly Lao is a non-profit professional focusing on museum leadership. Her expertise includes fundraising and development to reach budgetary goals, cultivating community exhibition and educational programming, and strategy for 21st-century museums. She studies museum representation through oral history collections and institutional relationships with underrepresented communities. Additionally, she advocates for artistic opportunities and collaboration between practicing artists and educational institutions and for funding these operations at the state and federal levels.
Jolie Pelds is the director of Innovative STEM Teaching at the Science Center of Iowa. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Science Education both from the University of Iowa. She has taught at both the secondary as well as collegiate levels. Her current work at SCI allows her to strengthen STEM education across the state through professional development and the creation of educational programming for early learners, homeschoolers, parents and teachers.
Hope Stropes is the associate curator at Ella Sharp Museum. Hope graduated from WIU in 2022 with her master’s degree in Museum Studies. While studying at WIU, Hope worked as a graduate assistant at the Putnam Museum & Science Center. She is currently the associate curator at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, MI. Hope’s experience is primarily in collections care and exhibits.
This event is open free, but registration is required. Once registered, participants will receive a link to the online event. Register HERE

For more information, contact the Museum Studies Director Heidi Lung at

Western Illinois Quad-Cities Museum Studies Sponsors the 2024 Career Conversations April 11
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.
Western Illinois Quad-Cities Museum Studies Sponsors the 2024 Career Conversations April 11

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