University of Wisconsin–Madison

Alumni Profile: Mary Kate Kwasnik (MA’15)

Mary Kate Kwasnik (MA ’15) is the Manager of Exhibitions and Public Programs at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. She builds digital exhibitions and timelines with archival materials and works on their website. She also manages grant funded programs that send exhibitions and programming funds to schools, public libraries, museums, and universities.

Mary Kate loves the variety of her job. She enjoys working with archival materials and building learning tools for K-12 students, and she really enjoys the programs the Gilder Lehrman Institute runs for librarians. Last winter, show worked on a proposal for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant that would send funding to public libraries to run programs based on a reader they will publish with Gilder Lehrman’s lesser known Founding Era documents. They were awarded the funding in August of this year and are now building out the program—Mary Kate says “It feels really exciting to have written a real NEH proposal that has been funded! I also love that this hard work will result in underserved libraries being able to run programs for their community.”

While in school, Mary Kate worked at Wisconsin Historical Society and UW Digital Collections with different archivists and librarians, at an academic reference desk, and volunteered at local museums cataloging archival collections. She strongly advises that current students gain plenty of experience while in school to both firm up an idea of what they think they want to do when they graduate and to help rule things out.

Mary Kate says the Information School did a fantastic job of getting her ready to get out into the work force, “By being flexible about what kinds of jobs I was applying to, I was able to find a really neat, unusual position that I love. My work experiences while I was in the iSchool prepared me for all different kinds of work, as did my classroom experiences. While I may never design a database, I have a solid foundation for good data keeping practices, or although I may never be a public librarian, I have the tools needed to work with public librarians to build great public programs!”

Thank you, Mary Kate, for sharing your awesome experiences with us!