Seth Kurtz and Jennifer Cutler (with Ros Remer, center)
researching Alexander Hamilton’s Bank in Benjamin Franklin’s Library.
For students interested in careers in the arts and culture sector, a chance to explore historic documents and artifacts — like, say, the original charter that founded the United States’ first national bank signed by Thomas Jefferson (held inside the collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia, pictured at right) — is a rare opportunity to see history up close.
Unfortunately, paid co-ops in the nonprofit field have traditionally been uncommon at Drexel.
That’s why Rosalind Remer is excited about the future. As Drexel vice provost and executive director of the Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships, and a research associate professor in Drexel’s History Department, she recruits students to help Philadelphia arts and culture nonprofits make their cultural assets more accessible to the public.
A new $3 million gift from the Lenfest Foundation will fund co-ops with organizations that work with the Lenfest Center, like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). Currently, Remer is collaborating with the Steinbright Career Development Center to place 11 paid co-ops earning $15,000 each at eight organizations in the Philadelphia region. The special endowment means new opportunities for both her students and for the Center’s partners.
The endowment will enable the Philadelphia Museum of Art, for example, to hire co-op students to work on editorial projects, web development and a capital building project. The LeBow College of Business will now be able to send a co-op to PAFA as a marketing associate. A film industry student within Westphal will work as a film editor at History Making Productions, a Philadelphia-based film production company.
“Working for these organizations gives students truly unique, behind-the-scenes exposure to major institutions, allowing them to understand what they offer as well as the challenges associated with sustaining them into the future,” Remer says. “It’s my hope that our students, no matter what field or discipline they enter, will view these co-op experiences as a way to connect to the Philadelphia cultural community.”
At a time when most nonprofits face tight budgets, the co-op endowment enables them to hire top young college talent, and gives Dragons a great opportunity to get noticed.
“The students who compete for the co-ops sponsored by the Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships have an extraordinary chance to make a significant — and even outsized — impact,” Remer says. “They’ll be learning from the best in the field, and they’ll have terrific networking opportunities.”
What makes Lenfest Center co-ops “life-changing,” as many students report? We asked some Dragons to share their experiences.
Lisa Getz National Constitution Center
With Lisa Getz’s help, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia plans to present an exhibit in 2020 celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women’s suffrage. Getz, a master’s student in museum leadership in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, worked with the Lenfest Center and the Constitution Center last summer to create a 10-page interpretative plan that will serve as the museum’s exhibition blueprint. The report covers everything from the strengths and challenges of the proposed exhibit location to the current and desired visitors. The hands-on experience has been “better than anything else you could do in a classroom,” she says.
Paris Gramann Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
Paris Gramann, social entrepreneurship and product design student in the Pennoni Honor College’s Custom Design Major Program, calls her experience on a Lenfest Center-sponsored co-op last spring a growth experience. As a social media and communications fellow with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, she handled advertising, wrote grant applications and assisted with brand marketing. Though she was only a student, she says the team asked for her opinion on big decisions and gave her important tasks, all while offering advice at every turn.“Their openness and drive to teach and create learning experiences made my co-op educational in hard and soft skills, career planning, and in my overall life journey,” Gramann says.
Seth Kurtz and Jennifer Cutler Independence National Historical Park
The Lenfest Center’s partnership with Independence National Historical Park began with a special topics class, taught by Ros Remer, on Hamilton’s efforts to create a national bank for the young United States. After the class ended, several interns continued to conduct research over the summer — among them, history majors Seth Kurtz and Jennifer Cutler.
Drawing from original founding documents stored in the collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia (the library founded by Ben Franklin and his friends in 1731, now a rare books research library), Kurtz produced overviews of two exhibit themes, one on economic instability and one on the debate between Thomas Jefferson and Hamilton over the bank’s founding. “I gained a new appreciation for the resourcefulness and dedication of our founding fathers,” Kurtz recalls, “and how their qualities are reflected in our current society.”
Cutler focused on the architecture of the building and how it would have been understood by passersby on bustling 3rd Street in 1797. “This project has given me the opportunity to learn how to best access history and utilize it in a way that is educational and useful,” Cutler says.
Building on the students’ work, Remer and Lenfest Center scholars Page Talbott and Melissa Clemmer are developing an exhibit that will be displayed on the site of the First Bank at Independence National Historical Park, in anticipation of the building eventually re-opening to the public.
“The people you meet and the connections you make…it’s just been monumental for me. The Lenfest Center itself and everyone who works there, they’re so respected in their fields and have so many connections. We’re lucky that it’s here.”— Lisa Getz
Ben Seal / Photo by Jeff Fusco
A new $3 million gift will endow paid student co-ops at museums and other arts and culture nonprofits.