May 31, 2019

Goucher creates partnership with Smithsonian

Goucher has partnered with the Smithsonian Institution to develop educational curricula for M.A. in Cultural Sustainability students.

  • Smithsonian Folklife Festival | Photo by Walter Larrimore, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

In an era where globalization prevails, how does one cultivate and preserve folklife and cultural heritage?

Goucher’s Master of Arts in Cultural Sustainability (M.A.C.S.) Program helps graduate students pursue answers to that question by focusing on studying, preserving, and supporting local histories, traditions, and ways of life across societies around the world.

Now, to bolster these efforts and the status of the program, Goucher has partnered with the Smithsonian Institution to develop educational curricula for M.A.C.S. students. While programmatic details are still being finalized, educational opportunities are likely to include internships, field schools, residencies, certificates, and courses developed in collaboration with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, DC.

“This partnership will give our students access to some of the most innovative and groundbreaking thinkers in the field of cultural sustainability,” says Amy Skillman, academic director for Goucher’s Cultural Sustainability Program. “It also provides a perfect bridge between theory and application as students will have the opportunity to work alongside Smithsonian staff to see how the principles of cultural sustainability are being applied.”

Goucher’s relationship with the Smithsonian has deep roots and continues building on a long-standing connection. Smithsonian staff members have previously consulted on M.A.C.S. program development, while Goucher students have participated in internships and training opportunities at the cultural institution.  

This formalized association will give the Smithsonian access to the top Goucher students studying to become professionals in the cultural sustainability field. “We hold Goucher’s program in the highest regard, and we are truly thrilled to be able to support the important work that [Goucher] is doing,” says Michael Atwood Mason, director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Skillman is currently collaborating with curators at the Smithsonian to develop the specific curriculum that will be offered to Goucher students. Through hands-on training opportunities that will explore multiple perspectives and approaches to the discipline, experiential learning is expected to be a key theme of the academic partnership.

The agreement will include activities for students throughout the year, including a residency at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival beginning in 2020. That prominent festival, which takes place on the National Mall and features hundreds of artisans from around the country and the world, drew a crowd of more than 10 million on-site and online visitors in 2018.

Skillman anticipates the partnership will lead to career opportunities for some of the program’s students. Laura Williams, M.A.C.S. ’18, and Daniela Panetta, M.A.C.S. ’20, have both interned at the Smithsonian and been hired back by the institution for additional projects. Williams worked as a volunteer coordinator for the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival in 2017, while Panetta served as an interpreter for the same festival in 2015 and was then hired to serve as a volunteer coordinator in 2018.

“These experiences are a part of our motivation for formalizing the relationship,” says Skillman. “One of the strengths of our program is the professional network we have that supports students in their career aspirations.”