In an exciting move following her graduation from Queen's, Art History alumna Dayna Obbema (M.A. '22) has recently joined Rute Collaborative as an Associate, working with the Vancouver-based consultancy that helps museums and cultural institutions to achieve their goals in environmental sustainability. Dayna's professional path includes adventures in neuroscience and a true passion for museum work; in the latest of our Alumni Stories series, she talks about the diverse, transferable skills that come out of studying art history:
Why did you pursue an Art History degree?
"I've always been very arts-oriented, having been in theatre and art classes throughout my childhood. But it wasn't until I was in high school and ready to apply to neuroscience programs when I realized I was pursuing science for all the wrong reasons. I was taking a lot of science and math courses and feeling burnt out and lacked the passion to pull myself through. I discovered that I was enjoying my art and art history classes way more and genuinely felt passionate about it. So, I applied to a few art history programs across Ontario and have never looked back."
What career paths did you envision after graduation?
"Like many people in art history, I felt the most clear and stable path forward would be to find work in a museum either as a curator or collections manager. I had worked a few internships in these areas throughout my schooling and loved the idea of being able to work in a museum every day and get really familiar with a collection. The thought of working as a sustainability consultant never really crossed my mind until I was offered the position. On paper, it seems very far removed from art history and museums but ultimately, I will still be working in and with museums just in a different capacity."
What are some unexpected ways your Art History education has served you in your professional life?
"I think it has helped me to develop a highly transferable skill set. I worked a number of jobs and internships throughout my academic years, some of them not even remotely related to museum work. I generally have felt very prepared to cope with challenges which I attribute to critical thinking skills that I developed at university. I would also say that art history focuses on a lot political and social context, both historical and modern, which has guided my interactions with the world in a beneficial way."
What advice would you give to current students of Art History at Queen's?
"Be open minded and willing to take risks. It can be easy to picture a career exclusively in traditional museum work, but there are so many options out there. It can be intimidating when some of your peers seem to have things figured out with a clear idea of what they want to do for a career. But there's also a lot of freedom in not having that planned out. Find what excites you about art history, museums, galleries, etc., and determine what other skills you have to offer. The combination of the two can lead you to consider opportunities you might never have dreamt were possible!"