One of the University of Charleston’s graduate students, Jenna Whetzel, has been awarded as this year’s SC Arts Alliance Fellow
“Meet Jenna Whetzel! She is pursuing a dual path in Arts and Cultural Management graduate certificate and a Master of Public Administration degree.
Jenna was formerly a Development Associate at PURE Theater and is now a Graduate Assistant with the CofC Honors College Admissions Office. Her passions lie in theatre management and arts advocacy. When she’s not spending time at the theatre, her other hobbies include writing, visual arts, and film.
A fun fact about Jenna is that she’s written and directed two musicals; a sci-fi musical about a gang of misfits who must travel back in time to save the world from killer robots titled “Wormhole!” and a show about the real-life “dancing plague” of 1517 titled “Choreomania!”
Jenna is excited to dive into the big picture and foundational ARCM theory and practical knowledge that will help her lead and advocate for theater mission statements that she aligns with.
We love having you here, Jenna!” – CofC Arts Management Instagram
We are thrilled to announce that Jenna has been chosen as the 2023-2024 South Carolina Arts Alliance Fellow. In this role, Jenna plays a critical part in shaping diverse programs at the South Carolina Arts Alliance. Her responsibilities include developing advocacy strategies for arts and education, and contributing to the planning of SC Arts Advocacy Week.
Jenna’s achievements don’t end there; she was recently awarded a Graduate Presentation Grant from the Graduate School of the College of Charleston for her participation as a co-presenter at the annual conference of Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts (STP&A), held in Lexington, KY from September 21 to September 23, 2023. The above presentation is part of a joint research project led by Dr. Kate Keeney, the former Director of the Arts Management Program, and Dr. Hsin-Ching Wu, Assistant Professor of Arts Management, with the Riley Center for Livable Communities. Together, they provided consulting services to the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, assisting the agency in identifying the marketing and associated needs of local arts and cultural organizations.
Let’s jump right into the Q&A to learn more about her experience in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree and Arts and Cultural Management (ARCM) Graduate Certificate programs!
What did you do before CofC and what led you here?
“My undergraduate degree comes from UNC Chapel Hill where I earned a BA in Communications: Media Studies and Production. After graduation, I headed to Los Angeles to work in pre-development with A&E Television Networks. I believe in helping others and giving back to your community, so I eventually decided to pursue a career in nonprofit development. I worked as the Program Manager for the Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah for five years before moving to Charleston to pursue an MPA and an ARCM Graduate Certificate. I love working as a nonprofit manager and decided to earn my MPA to build foundational knowledge and be able to earn a higher-level position within the public sector post-graduation. I have been a theatre lover for my entire life, so earning an ARCM Graduate Certificate and a MPA simultaneously is a natural fit for me. The extracurricular job opportunities I have received through this program have given me practical experience in the field that coincided perfectly with class topics.”
What makes these programs special?
“The ARCM cohort is a small, tight-knit network of like-minded students who work together and bond during classwork and beyond. I feel lucky to be able to cultivate meaningful relationships with my cohort and professors. My professors have become invaluable mentors in my career and have opened so many doors for me that have led to research study, fellowship, and graduate assistantship opportunities!”
What has been your favorite experience so far and what did you learn from it?
“I had many wonderful experiences during this program. I learned about fundraising, the patron experience, donor management, advocacy, arts education, community-based arts organizations, event planning, obstacles and limitations in the field, creative placemaking, audience development, technological advancements in the field, research methods, nonprofit arts management, and community engagement through the arts, among other skill sets and knowledge bases. I have years of experience in public sector administration, but ARCM courses provided foundational knowledge that will help me excel in future career endeavors.”
What was your favorite class and why?
“My favorite class was the introductory class to the ARCM Graduate Certificate program. It provided a broad overview of the arts and cultural field and highlighted various careers open to graduates. Through this class, I was able to work with North Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs and shadowed Director Kyle Lahm as she planned festivals and events that foster North Charleston’s robust cultural scene and nourish residents through interaction with the arts.”
How did your mentor in the program impact your education?
“Dr. Kate Keeney has been my biggest supporter and mentor during my time in the program. Unfortunately, she has left the College of Charleston, but she uses her vast networks to advocate for her students and guides each towards opportunities suited to their unique talents. She was the reason I ultimately decided to pursue an ARCM Graduate Certificate and has been monumental in helping me to find fellowships, job opportunities, research assistantships, and other professional development opportunities.”
How has your experience been connecting with industry professionals?
“I worked with Sharon Graci, co-founder and Artistic/Executive Director of PURE Theatre, as a development fellow during my first year of the program. She is a powerhouse of creativity, talent, ambition, and leadership who created a thriving professional theatre company in Charleston with a reputation for excellence. Her drive inspires me to chase big dreams and turn obstacles into opportunities. I also worked with Dr. Hsin-Ching Wu during a research assistantship and her knowledge and enthusiasm have opened up a new career avenue for me: research.”
What career aspirations do you have following the program?
“Post-graduation, I am not completely sure what I would like to do. The MPA and ARCM programs present myriad career pathways and I am drawn towards multiple careers. I would like to advocate for legislative support for the arts, complete research that guides funding, work in a municipal cultural affairs office, lead a nonprofit organization, and engage in cultural diplomacy through arts exchange programs. I am excited to navigate my career through various avenues. Currently, I completed a development fellowship with PURE Theatre and am a South Carolina Arts Alliance fellow. I also completed a research assistant position where I worked with Dr. Kate Keeney and Dr. Hsin-Ching Wu to explore how the Charleston Visitor Bureau and other regional entities can work together to promote arts and cultural organizations.”
How has CofC contributed to your success?
“ARCM classes have an uncanny way of aligning perfectly with my career pursuits in real-time. I learned about grant writing while applying for funds for PURE Theatre, took a research methods and statistics course before completing a research assistantship, learned about CLOUD-based CRM systems before giving a tech proposal during my fellowship at the South Carolina Arts Alliance, etc.”
Why should prospective students choose CofC?
“I would highly recommend the College of Charleston to anyone interested in arts and cultural management. Pursuing a master’s degree in either Public Administration or Fine Arts while earning an ARCM Graduate Certificate is the best way to widen your net as you apply for jobs post-graduation. In addition, ARCM classes are taught by enthusiastic, engaged, passionate professors who truly want the best for their students and seek ways to connect these students with various positions to lead them towards their ultimate career potential.”
Do you have any other advice for incoming students interested in your field?
“Before embarking on a career in arts and cultural management, make sure that you are passionate about this field. Are you interested in both the arts aspect and the administrative/leadership side? Funding will always be vital and at times, success depends on your development and networking capabilities. Passion, drive, and a strong work ethic are absolutely essential in both the ARCM program and the web of career possibilities you will be entering upon graduation.”
How can CofC engage with alumni of the graduate student community?
“The College of Charleston does a great job bringing alumni back to speak to students currently earning their ARCM Graduate Certificates. It may be useful to create a database of alumni with their job information to allow students and fellow graduates to network with one another to share resources and job opportunities. This may already exist, I am not sure.”
Congratulations again to Jenna Whetzel and her incredible accomplishments, including her recent award as this year’s SC Arts Fellow. We appreciate the differences you make in the community every day!
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