Cultivating Holistic Achievement, Nourished Growth, and Empowerment

This program weaves together museum work experience with personal + professional development to empower diverse undergraduates to pursue life and career pathways that foster equitable and sustainable well-being within themselves, communities, and the natural world.

Program Overview

The CU Museum of Natural History will hire ~10 diverse undergraduate student employees to join The CHANGE Collective, which intertwines (a) paid student employment within a museum setting, (b) a personal and professional development program, and (c) the opportunity to earn a microcredential administered by the University of Colorado. To be considered for admission to this program, students must agree to be actively involved in: their museum jobs (5 hrs/wk), and the personal /professional development sessions (paid time, 1.5 hrs every other week). To earn the microcredential, students must complete a series of activities over the course of the year (approximately 40 total hours, unpaid time).

This program is designed to support CU students’ success, well-being, and abilities to pursue purposeful career pathways. The museum work experience, tools and activities presented in group sessions, and the sense of community fostered among and between student peers and Museum faculty/staff aim to help CU students navigate their college and professional pathways with more confidence, purpose, and awareness. Students can expect to:

  • Critically reflect on their museum jobs, coursework, life experiences, and desired trajectories
  • Cultivate awareness of selves, diverse others, and the roles museums can play in societies
  • Collaboratively solve problems using technological and human-centered approaches
  • Approach challenges with creativity and resiliency

Program Aspects

Museum Employment
These 10 students will fill various roles to support the Public Section and the scientific sections of the CU Museum. Roles may include supporting the management of scientific research collections; visitor evaluation; education programs for school groups, middle school students, families, and the community; marketing public programs; exhibit development research; and co-creating visitor experiences for CU students. Students will be hired to work 5 hours/week in these roles at $15/hr.

Personal and Professional Development
The group of 10 students will join together as a cohort every other week for 90 minutes to participate in professional and personal development activities designed to support them as individuals, as a team, as CU students, and as CU Museum employees. Sessions will address human-centered approaches for workplace settings, intentional reflection to cultivate a growth mindset, design thinking, emotional intelligence, mindfulness and well-being, public speaking, visioning and planning for personal and professional futures, and making connections between work, academics, and life. These team sessions will be paid work time and food will be provided (every other Wednesday from 5:00-6:30pm).

Students accepted to this program will also have the opportunity to earn a microcredential and associated digital badges administered by the University of Colorado. To gain the fullest offering of personal and professional development, we would love for all students in this program to participate in this opportunity. To earn this microcredential, students will participate in unpaid activities designed to help them cultivate critical reflection, community-building, career awareness, and public communication skills. Activities include: responding to bi-weekly reflection prompts (could be written, video, or audio response), gathering and sharing inspiring resources (2 times/semester), interviewing professionals about their career and life paths (1 time/semester), observing/supporting a peer’s work (2 hrs/semester), creating small tokens of appreciation or inspiration resources for their peers (2-3 times/semester), and presenting in an end-of-year public showcase. In total, the activities will take an estimated 40 hours to complete.

Job Position Descriptions

The Museum is looking to fill the following positions:

  • Audience Experience Design Assistants
    Work with the Exhibit and Program Developer to co-create exhibits and/or programs to engage CU students in topics relevant to the CU Museum and students’ lives. Utilize the design thinking process to conduct audience evaluation, ideate experiences, research content, design and create prototypes, test ideas with audiences, and finally present programs and/or showcase exhibits to CU students.  
  • Community Education Assistant
    Work with the Education Coordinator to support the GAMES Program (Girls at the Museum Exploring Science), as well as the creation of other education programs and resources (could include videos, workshops, family day programs, online education tutorials, etc.).
  • Diatom Lab and Collections Assistant
    Assist the Curator of Diatoms by supporting database entry of collection information of these single-celled algae. Learn to process diatom collections, from recently collected material to preparing permanent microscope slides.  There is a possibility to make light microscope observations and take digital images of specimens from these collections, too.
  • School Programs Assistant
    Work with the Senior Educator to actively engage and participate in all aspects of serving the museum’s school audiences, including program preparation and presentation, preparation of outreach materials, visitor studies, and other duties as assigned and as appropriate.
  • Visitor Studies Assistant
    Support the Visitor Services Coordinator to develop, implement, and analyze visitor evaluation instruments (surveys, questionnaires, comment stations, etc.), helping the museum to understand its visitors, particularly their motivations for returning to the museum post-pandemic.

Opportunity: Support Purposeful, Sustainable Changemakers

As inherent learning environments and places for young adults to embark on professional pathways, universities are well positioned to help today’s young adults pursue sustainable success in purposeful careers. In a world of increasing automation, our societies have greater needs for individuals to use the skills and abilities that are uniquely human to positively impact our world. Universities can help students cultivate this humanness among our young adults by supporting curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, community building, and wisdom about the interconnectedness of our world. Universities have the chance to offer holistic support to a generation who will likely be the people leading efforts to tackle complex social and environmental challenges including climate change, social injustice, and other issues of imbalance exacerbated by the global pandemic. If we want our young adults to be changemakers capable of creating innovative solutions for a sustainable future for generations to come, we need to help equip them with personal, professional, and technical resources and skills to pursue purposeful careers in sustainable ways.

Setting: Natural History Museums

University natural history museums are especially adapted to support students who wish to positively impact society, especially in relation to the ways people interact with each other and the natural world. As places of community gathering, free-choice learning, research, and stewardship of objects, museums offer many opportunities for students to gain meaningful professional experiences with: creating spaces for building community, designing audience experiences for learning and connection, supporting research using collections, caring for the stewardship of objects, and envisioning new ways for museums to support our societies and our planet. With collections, research, interpretive exhibits, and educational programs focused on nature and culture, natural history museums are uniquely adapted to support human understanding of the history of the earth and the life on this planet, including human cultures. By including students in creative, scientific, and strategic decision-making, university natural history museums can help students deepen their knowledge of nature and culture, learn ways to scientifically investigate questions, explore creative ways to communicate about the world, practice methods for engaging audiences in meaningful experiences, and discover the many ways that technology can be used to support these endeavors. As student employees are encouraged to reflect on their museum job experiences, they can gain insights into how they would like to utilize these skills and experiences in future endeavors to make positive changes for society, the environment, and their own lives.

Questions may be directed to Rebecca Coon at: