A degree in Museum Professions can guide a student in many directions. Ibrahim Shafau, a student pursuing his M.A. in Museum Professions, a graduate program within the College of Communication and the Arts, plans to use his degree with a concentration in Museum Management to hone his leadership skills within the museum field.
Shafau was first introduced to the museum setting while serving as a cyber operations manager for the U.S. Air Force. A scholarship from the Air Force gave him the opportunity to earn his B.A. in History from the University of Toledo. After graduation, he was assigned to the registration department at the Air Force History Museum in Dayton, Ohio. It was there that he discovered his passion for museum work. At the end of his contract with the military, he chose to focus his career around museums.
“Following the opportunity at the Air Force History Museum, I spent time at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History,” said Shafau. “This internship opened my eyes to the influence museums have in their communities.”
For Shafau, this realization has been the driving force behind his decision to pursue his graduate degree at the University. He believes that museum work is not only about creating exhibits or placing objects on display – it is about influencing young minds within a community. He explained that “museums have the potential to change lives, I recognize this, and I need to act upon it.”
Determined to influence young minds, Shafau explored the Museum Education and Museum Management tracks. “Being able to lead, inspire, and help others achieve their full potential is something I am passionate about,” he said. “Museum management allows me to have a hand in every facet of a museum. I need to be a leader at an institution if I am ever going to be able to enact change.”
Shafau explained that adjunct instructor Dr. Sally Yerkovich played a pivotal role in his education. “The Museums and Communities course is where I began to ponder the opportunities and resources a museum can offer marginalized communities. Dr. Yerkovich told us that ‘museums have the ability to provoke social change.’ That quote resonates with me.”
To complement his coursework, Shafau serves as an educator at a charter school in Newark. “I teach at a school with students who come from predominately marginalized backgrounds,” he said. “These students face generational socioeconomic and sociopolitical barriers, which negatively impact their maturation and educational experience. Nevertheless, these students are incredible and inspired my thesis topic.”
Shafau’s thesis research is tracking the progression of critical thinking skills and academic ability of students from marginalized communities. Through exposing these students to museum resources and teaching common core standards with museum pedagogy, he hopes to see elevated academic scores and enhanced critical thinking skills.
“My thesis research is vital,” Shafau explained. “The current status of education does not always meet the needs of each student, but there are still government mandated standards that must be met. Museum education uses unorthodox methods, which can reach any student. I believe my research will open the floor for conversations about involving underprivileged communities in museums to assist these students. Museums have the means to help and I think they should.”
Looking to the future, Shafau has no intention of stopping his educational pursuits after graduation. Ultimately, he wants to work as a tenured professor and a business owner, after pursuing and earning a Ph.D. in Sociology. He credits the Museum Professions program with setting him up for the next phase in his life – applying his leadership skills in the museum field to advance museums as vehicles for social change.
The M.A. in Museum Professions is designed for individuals interested in pursuing careers in museums or related cultural institutions. Students in the program select one of four professional tracks, including Museum Education, Museum Registration, Museum Management, or Exhibition Development.
The College currently offers three Master's-level programs, including Museum Professions, Strategic Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered. A Ph.D. program is currently under development.
This story is part of a series highlighting why students selected the M.A. in Museum Professions program.