Nerd Nite!

Hi all. I just want to say how proud I am of myself for having a super successful Nerd Nite talk on Tuesday. I am going to toot my own horn. It was great. People were engaged. People asked thoughtful questions. And, I got applause from answering those questions thoughtfully. I am so pleased.

As I wrote before, I really forced myself to go through a clear, detailed planning process. It paid off. I promise you that the work is worth it. Starting from scratch, even if you’ve done it before, is fully worth it.

I wanted to share my slide deck (pdf). It makes no sense without me talking over it, however, I would be happy to talk you through it. I’m also proud of how beautiful it is. Mega credits to my incomparable Beaty Museum team for the photos, which are available to all through a creative commons license.


If anyone knows how to embed a pdf or google slides directly in wordpress, it would be much appreciated.

Summer recap!

Well apparently I’ve taken nearly 3 months off of blog writing. I think it goes without saying that I had a busy summer. Very busy…

The biggest highlight was heading to the Visitor Studies Association Conference in Indianapolis in July. It was wonderful and inspiring, and I have so many ideas! I am really looking forward to applying some of these ideas in our new exhibits to study our visitor habits in-depth.

Some questions I hope to look at are:

  • Are self-led participatory elements worth it? Do people use the materials for ourĀ intended purpose?
  • When people look at exhibits, are they engaging with the material or just pointing their faces at content?
  • What type of exhibits help people journey from looking to learning the most effectively?

So interesting! Such a fun part of my job, along with all of the other fun things. I love understanding what makes people tick.

I self identify (very positively) as a nerd. I love learning, I wax passionately about science, and I meet many stereotypes.

Yesterday, on my way home from Nerd Nite, I realized that I had at least three separate allergic reactions happening simultaneously. I say at least, because I can only pay attentions to so many symptoms at once. I am lactose intolerant, allergic to fragrances, wear glasses, have a retainer, and had braces as a child. Did this predispose me to being a successful adult nerd? I am so curious!

Has anyone actually tested if there is a correlation between nerdyness (self-identified, externally identified) and of wearing glasses, braces, developing allergies, etc?

I’d like to see some research.

Unpaid positions, ethics, and you!

Hello! My name is... intern.

A large part of my role at work is to coordinate, train, and cheerlead for our volunteers.

I’ve been really thinking about motivations and ethics behind volunteering, unpaid internships, and “working for free.” It doesn’t seem like there are distinctions, but the three are amazingly different.

First of all, my working definitions:

  • Volunteer: most flexible option, lowest time commitment, highest expectation for “goodies” throughout the experience.
  • Intern: career-oriented, high workload, low/no payout, high expectation of career-ready skills and job offers.
  • Work-for-free: hazy grey area, often guilted into or an addition to a regular internship or job. Not okay in most people’s books.

Personally, I see a huge value in volunteering and interning. There is much debate on the subject. Some organizations have pulled their volunteer docent programs in favour of paid systems, or even eliminating interning alltogether. Other organizations have a large, flourishing and demanding intern program. I understand the confusion, as well as the benefits.

Paid staff have higher accountability, ability to process constructive critisism, and a larger drive (in general). There is the added benefit of a higher show-up rate and ability to get them to do the jobs no one wants to. Staff roles are often very different than volunteer roles. This distinction is essential in creating a fair environment for both volunteers and staff to flourish in.

Volunteers/interns are often driven to their fields of interest by their passions. It results in them being very self-motivated. But does an organization trusting them to “work for free” take advantage of the system? Maybe. Probably.

As someone who has been in all three positions (although, my internship was paid), I have had positive experiences throughout. Volunteering has allowed me to supplement my school/job experience to help grow my CV. Work-for-free has allowed me to develop good relationships with people. This has often resulted in me helping them out for a day or two in a field I have no interest in, for either a handshake or a barter item. Interning allowed me to gain work experience – though I bet that if I had an unpaid internship, it would be very stressful, especially a full time one.

It seems to be that internships are the sticky bit. Halfway between working-for-free and volunteering, it is a balance of useful work experience and networking, but also limiting potential to make any money to live.

I have a few questions:

  • In general, do you think it is fair to host unpaid volunteers and interns where other people get paid to work?
  • Do you think it is appropriate to expect students to complete unpaid internships as part of their education?
    • Does it make a difference if they pay student fees or if the position must be full time?

I am curious to see what your thoughts are. Please comment below!