Profiles: Jill Sybesma

The Greater Philadelphia region is rich with great cultural institutions, each with a stellar staff of museum professionals. This feature is designed to use an interview to help us introduce you to some of the city and region’s best and brightest in the business.

Jill Sybesma

Years in Museum Field: 4

Degrees/Certificates: B.S. Recreation and Park Management from Pennsylvania State University, Level 6 Certificate in English Language Teaching from Link International ESOL

Current Position: Adult Programs Manager, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Previous Museum Experience: My first and only museum job is with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Before becoming the Adult Programs Manager, I was hired as a Teacher Naturalist primarily teaching Outreaches.

Other Relevant Work Experience: Teacher Naturalist at Elmwood Park Zoo, Activity Coordinator for Beelong Day Services, Teacher Naturalist for the Outdoor School in Horsham, Games Coordinator for Vacation Bible School at Hope Community Church

Did a mentor play a significant role in your career development? Karyn McGee at College Settlement Camp and Outdoor School opened my eyes to the way a boss can be both a friend and a leader. She reminds me that life is long and petty complaints are exactly that – they’re petty and short lived. It’s important to remember WHY you do what you do, if the WHY is still important to you then keep doing it and get past the challenges.

How does your current position fit into your career plan? I love my job and would like to see the program expand so we can offer more programming and different types of adult programming.

What museum organizations do you belong to? Philly Emerging Museum Professionals, Museum Council of Philadelphia, Philly Museum Educators Round Table, and the American Alliance of Museums.

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you began this profession? I wish I knew about the variety of professional organizations that exist for professional development, support, and exchanging ideas.

What do you enjoy most about your position? Working with live animals.

What is it that keeps you engaged at work? Creating new programs.

Jill Sybesma spent her childhood outdoors and camping often, so when it came time to pick a major Jill wanted to choose one that wouldn’t lead to a career spent indoors. Jill chose Recreation and Park Management concentrating in Environmental Interpretation. This major sparked Jill’s specific interests in birding and trees.Jill has been pretty consistent serving as a Teacher Naturalist with or without live animals for years before going to the Academy. “We have a great collection of animals to teach with and I expanded my teaching repertoire to include dinosaurs and geology,” Jill says of the Academy.

Jill’s experience in event planning and ability to network in coordination with the Academy’s goals of reaching young adults led to her current role developing the adult programs. One of her most well-known programs is Mega-Bad Movie Night, which is highlighted on the Networking page of this website. Jill counts the American Museum of Natural History in DC, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in NYC, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science as her favorite museums outside of Philadelphia.

Fun Fact: Jill is celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day by driving out to State College to bring a red tail hawk back to the Academy of Natural Sciences.


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