GRADUCon 2019 - Careers in Museums and Cultural Institutions Panel


Are you interested in a career in museums or cultural institutions where you can bring your knowledge and expertise to a public audience? A wide range of career possibilities exist for graduate students in both the sciences and the humanities, including exhibition management, audience research and analysis, marketing and communications, and advancement and development. This interdisciplinary panel will feature four alumni currently working at museums and cultural institutions in Chicago, including the Lyric Opera, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Smart Museum of Art. The panelists will discuss the diverse roles that exist in museums and cultural institutions and provide practical advice for graduate students interested in pursuing a career in the field.


Crystal Coats, Director of Community Programs, Lyric Opera (MA Humanities 2007)

Crystal Coats is the Director of Community Programs for Lyric Unlimited a division of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Her role focuses on leveraging the opera as a resource for supporting Chicago’s communities. Crystal has a worked in community relations and community-based programs for the past 15 years. Prior to joining the Lyric Opera in November, Crystal was the Director of Civic & Campus Engagement at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. She has held previous roles at the Chicago Housing Authority, the University of Chicago and the Hyde Park Art Center. Much of Crystal’s work has focused on engaging young people through mentorship, professional development and education. Crystal received her BA in English from the University of Missouri – Columbia and her MA from the University of Chicago Master of Arts Program in the Humanities. She also holds a certificate in non-profit board leadership and is an alum of the University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy.

Katie Grogan, Assistant Director, Major and Principal Gifts, Shedd Aquarium (MA Humanities 2011)

Katie Grogan is Assistant Director, Major and Principal Gifts at John G. Shedd Aquarium. She has worked in the arts and culture sector for more than a decade in both Chicago and New York City. Her experience spans major and annual gift fundraising, special event production, and institutional grant writing at opera, theater, and dance companies, as well as a visual artist residency program. Katie holds an A.M. from University of Chicago with a focus on Cultural Policy, and a B.F.A. in Dance Performance and B.A. in English Literature from Butler University.

Jason Pallas, Manager of Community Engagement and Arts learning, Smart Museum of Art (MFA Visual Arts 2008)

Artist, educator, and curator Jason Pallas currently serves as the Manager of Community Engagement and Arts Learning at the Smart Museum of Art. In this role, he leads Education efforts across the museum, runs school-based partnerships, and manages teen programs. He has previously worked at the MCA Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Arts Houston, and School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has BA degrees from Rice University and a MFA from UChicago.

Patricia Ward, Director of Science Exhibitions and Partnerships, Museum of Science and Industry (PhD Immunology 1988)

Dr. Patricia Ward provides science leadership across the Museum’s exhibition work, leading creative teams of exhibit developers, designers, writers, and media producers. In her 19 years at the Museum, Dr. Ward has produced exhibitions on various science topics including genetics, health, energy and climate change and has been active in outreach efforts including public symposia and workshops for teachers and pre-college students. She develops partnerships with universities and other organizations that synergize with the Museum’s efforts to bring current, relevant science content to the general public and school audiences. Recent exhibition projects include the award-winning Future Energy Chicago, YOU! The Experience and Extreme Ice. Dr. Ward earned a Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Chicago and was a NIH post-doctoral fellow in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago before joining the Museum in 1999. She was a 2012 Noyce Leadership Institute Fellow and is a fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Christine Mehring, Professor and Chair, Department of Art History, The University of Chicago (PhD Art History, Harvard 2001)

Christine Mehring is the Chair of the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago and was recently appointed Adjunct Curator at the Smart Museum of Art. Mehring works on modern and contemporary art, with a focus on abstraction, postwar European art, and the cross-overs between art and design. In recent years, she has directed the project “Material Matters,” which included the research, material investigation, and conservation of Fluxus artist Wolf Vostell’s Concrete Traffic (1970), in collaboration with the conservator Christian Scheidemann. She has since spearheaded other public art projects, including the creation with students of the University’s public art website, the commission of “Nuclear Thresholds” by Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects (OPA) for the 75th anniversary of the Chicago Pile 1, and the public program “Dialogo: Virginio Ferrari and Chicago,” part of the Terra Foundation’s Art Design Chicago initiative.