Catherine Kinsley will walk down Wheeler Mall to graduate Saturday. When she arrives at her first day of work a week later, she’ll walk down a different—and substantially more famous—mall.
Kinsley, a Cormier Honors College scholar, who has worked at the Longwood Center for Visual Arts for 3-1/2 years during her Longwood career, leveraged that experience into a position as a gallery attendant at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the collection of museums that is one of the nation’s most popular tourist destinations.
It’s the first step toward a longtime goal for the anthropology major from Fairfax, who grew up going to the Smithsonian with her family and on school trips.
"My dream job is to be a researcher for the Smithsonian," she said. "That’s clearly a position I have to work my way up to, but I’ve already been able to use the skills I learned both in my major and at the LCVA to start the position, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ll be working directly with groups of children coming for educational events, which is something I’m used to doing all the time."
Kinsley came to Longwood as a transfer student in the second semester of her freshman year and immediately applied for a job at the LCVA, where she worked as a gallery attendant the remainder of her college career. The job combined her love of museums and curating and gave her the opportunity to develop people skills, which would serve her well in the future.
"I have all of these opportunities at Longwood to thank for starting out my career at the Smithsonian."Catherine Kinsley
She kept her eye open for available positions at the Smithsonian, knowing that it was a long shot, but when a gallery attendant job came open, she rushed to apply.
"When I interviewed for the position, the staff was really impressed with my work at the LCVA and with my senior honors thesis, which was on the application of technology to the analysis of a soapstone quarry near my hometown," she said. "I presented that research at the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference in March and won the student competition. The paper will be published in the journal Journal of Mid-Atlantic Archaeology. I have all of these opportunities at Longwood to thank for starting out my career at the Smithsonian."
Kinsley credits her work at the LCVA with forcing her out of her comfort zone and pushing her to grow.
"One of the most important things I learned at the LCVA was how to communicate in a clear and professional manner," she said. "When I started as a freshman, I was terrified of talking on the phone, but by the end of my first semester, I could confidently hold conversations and work with large groups of people who are full of questions. It was a big leap for me."
At the Smithsonian, Kinsley will begin work at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, a space near the famous façade of the Smithsonian Castle, which serves as a discovery theater and houses traveling exhibitions. It’s a popular spot for groups of children visiting the mall on school field trips. Dealing with a crush of youngsters might be daunting for other gallery attendants—but not for Kinsley. "Working with school groups is one of the best things about the LCVA," she said with a laugh.