Getting to the Art of the Matter: Part 3

By: Peter Van Houten

Want to sell your car? Take a piano class. Interested in law school? Perhaps you should audition for “Guys and Dolls.” A fine arts degree can teach you so many useful skills.

We talked to eight successful former Casper College students who are now working in their respective fields. In discussing their careers, they offer numerous ways that music, dance, painting, and acting apply to other professions such as law, finance, sales, and politics.

If you haven’t yet, make sure you read part 1 and part 2 of this series.

Shaley George (AA, ’14)

Museum Studies

The woman entered the museum, immediately scanning the red walls running along the interior. She was looking for evidence of her father, and soon spotted his Bible in a display. She rushed to it, her husband in tow, tears running down her face. As the lone employee at the Orphan Train Museum in Concordia, Kansas, Shaley George approached the couple to offer assistance. “She told me the story of her father, who rode the orphan train to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where his life was hard,” George said. “But then, she thanked me and said she’d never felt closer to her father than at that moment. She said she had returned home.”

As a student two years earlier, George could not have envisioned this scene as she finished up her museum studies degree at Casper College. Yet, she says she has become comfortable in her world at the Orphan Train Museum, largely because of the coursework and training she received. George picked the Casper College program after earning her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Wyoming, trying to decide what to do next, and if a master’s degree was the best option. “I know it sounds odd for someone with a bachelor’s degree to go back to school to get an associate, but I really liked the hands-on emphasis of the museum studies classes and felt it would be a great match with anthropology.”

During her one year in Casper, George interacted with all of the museums in the community, while completing two internships at two different museums. “I learned so much from instructor Valerie Innella Maiers and Tate Museum Director Patti Finkle that I use in my job today. Most important, I interacted with the directors of all the museums in town and learned different approaches to how they are funded and run.”

She learned of the opening in Kansas late in her studies, and after tailoring her resume to the needs of the Orphan Train position, she received a phone call and was granted an interview. The ladies on the board of directors were impressed with George’s knowledge and confidence, though later told her that she got the job because of two clear advantages. First, George is an orphan herself, who was adopted in Douglas, Wyoming. The ladies felt she would better understand those children who had ridden the train. Second, George knows how to run power tools, something she learned while taking construction technology classes at Casper College.

George offers this information on her day off, knowing that when she returns to the museum the following day, she will put all of her Casper College training to the test. As the executive director of the museum, she is the curator, she does exhibits, she handles collections, she serves as the face of the organization, and on some days, she undertakes research for those who have orphan train riders in their families.

The train was established in response to the 35 million immigrants who came to America between 1850 and 1930. Places like New York City could not handle the influx, leading to the creation of 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children. In response, the Orphan Train Movement transported these children from the crowded Eastern cities of the United States to foster homes located largely in rural areas throughout the United States and Canada. George said that while the experience was difficult for some of the children, more than 80 percent later said that their lives turned out well. Two future governors rode that train. Today, more than 2 million people are descended from these children, with many relatives traveling to Kansas to better understand their uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, and grandparents. Some visitors even call this place home.

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Footprints.

Learn more about the museum/gallery studies program at Casper College.

Media contact: Lisa S. Icenogle

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