Meet Nakita Byrne-Mamahit
Nakita Byrne-Mamahit graduated from the University of Guelph in 2019 with a Masters in Art History from the Art History and Visual Culture program. During her time at the University, she worked with faculty from the College of Arts and the School of Fine Art and Music in several roles, including working as a research assistant to Dr. Christina Smylitopoulos (Associate Professor for SOFAM and Faculty Curator of the Bachinski/Chu Print Study Collection) and a practicum mentorship with Mary Walsh (Senior Development Officer, College of Arts). In these positions, she was able to develop her skills in donor relations, digitization, cataloguing, research, curation, and more, which she notes have given her “a new level of confidence in her work”. Nakita is now working as the Museum Technician at The Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, while continuing her role as Dr. Smylitopoulos’ research assistant, and attributes her career success to her experiential learning opportunities at U of G.
Please briefly describe what you were responsible for in your experiential learning roles.
“In my role as Dr. Smylitopoulos’ research assistant, I have been part of numerous exciting projects, from coordinating a workshop that brought in an international panel of researchers, giving public presentations, assisting in the publication of a book, to learning about the process of research and developing a series of research tests. In the Bachinski-Chu, I helped plan the workshop, ‘Nexus for Innovation: Extended Practices of Art Collections’ which explored how art collections can be used by disciplines outside of the humanities for research and as educational tools.”
“During my mentorship with Mary Walsh, I shadowed her as she cultivated donor relationships for the College of Arts while planning the annual Dasha Shenkman Lecture. She offered career advice and a behind-the-scenes look at the field. I learned more about her field of work, and with her guidance began developing a donor system for the Bachinski-Chu Print Study Collection.”
What was your favourite part of these experiences?
“My favourite part of these experiences was how involved I got to be in the projects and events. Being able to step away from writing and work in a hands-on format helped me
better understand what I wanted to do in the future.”
What was the most interesting thing you learned?
“One of the most interesting things I’ve learned is how your career path doesn’t have to follow a definite set of guidelines. So many of the professionals I met told me how they found their positions, and each one was a unique story where they followed their passions and talents.”
What do you do now at The Fashion History Museum, and as Dr. Smylitopoulos' Research Assistant?
“I am the Museum Technician at The Fashion History Museum, and currently working on two major projects. The first is digitizing the periodical collection onto an online library database for the public. I am also curating a show on Canadian Fashion as reflected in print culture that will be on exhibition next year.”
“As Dr. Smylitopoulos’ Research Assistant, I am helping develop research tests that investigates how the visual observation skills taught in Art History and Studio Art can be beneficial to researchers in other STEAM disciplines.”
How did your Experiential Learning roles help you gain these work positions?
“These roles helped me gain my work positions because they gave me practical experiences outside of summer jobs and volunteering. Getting hands-on work within a cultural institution can be challenging to find. These roles allowed me to have a wide range of experiences and arts-based projects that I can speak to.”
What would your advice be to current students considering experiential learning opportunities?
“My advice would be to step out of your comfort zone and try out experiences you may feel nervous about! Some of my most rewarding moments involved doing things I had never done before, like coordinating a large event or presenting to a large audience outside of the classroom. I use the skills I’ve learned in my job today, and continue to take this mindset in my professional life.”