Degrees/Certificates: BA, Art History, Villanova University
MA, Museum Education, University of the Arts
Current Occupation: Assistant Membership Manager, Longwood Gardens
Previous Museum Experience: Manager of Audience Engagement, Fleisher Art Memorial (2008-2013)
Director, Camp Programs, Shofuso, Japanese House and Gardens (2008)
Education and Development Coordinator, Chester County Historical Society (internship 2007-2008)
Other Relevant Work Experience: -Founder and Chair, Philadelphia Visitor Experience Conference (2012-Present)
-Corresponding Secretary, Marketing and Communications Chair, Museum Council of Philadelphia (2010-Present)
-Grant Panelist, Philadelphia Cultural Fund (2011-2013)
-Trustee, Middletown Township Free Library (2013-Present)
-Development Assistant, Easter Seals of Southeastern PA (2011-2013)
-Collections Manager/Registrar, Office of Mayor James Baker, Wilmington, DE (2007-2008)
Did a mentor play a significant role in your career development? Not in the formal way, but there are people that I’ve found along the way that I’ve prodded for advice or modeled their ideas. People such as Joseph Gonzales (also my husband), Helen Shannon – my grad school advisor, plus those other big thought leaders in the field like Merilee Mostov and Nina Simon. The value mentors bring, or finding that person whose ideas you would like to emulate are a great key to navigating the quirky world of museums and non-profits.
How does your current position fit into your career plan? Longwood Gardens is a stellar place to have the opportunity to work. Having spent a lot of time in smaller institutions, it was the chance to take on an entirely new role and begin learning how a much larger organization operates. The training and professional development that is provided is invaluable and I have no doubt will help with the next step down the road.
My goal long-term is to educate and support the role of the Visitor Experience/Visitor Services work that folks are doing, but is often overlooked in many institutions. Longwood provides a first-class experience for their guests, so bringing that knowledge to such organizations as the Philadelphia Visitor Experience Conference and creating dialog around that often forgotten department is a passion of mine.
What museum organizations do you belong to? Museum Council of Philadelphia
American Alliance of Museums
American Public Garden Association
Delaware Valley Association of Volunteers
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began in this profession? The amazing passion that people have for their work and the excitement they wake up with each day to continue the mission of their institution and those they support is really quite fantastic. I “fell” into this field and the road to where I am now was a little bumpy, but I have no regrets.
Oh, and Excel Macros! What an amazing tool and time-saver.
What do you enjoy most about your position? The culture and the people I get to call my work family. We spend more time with our colleagues, it is important to make that a productive and supportive, environment and thankfully Longwood provides that.
What is it that keeps you engaged at work? Trying new things. In Membership we get to do a lot of testing and playing. So taking creative risks and working closely with Marketing is a lot of fun. And, we have five seasons here, so the environment around me is always changing – it’s quite beautiful.
Having grown up in family businesses, Nicole was ingrained from an early age about the importance of customer service – but was also business minded. When college time came, it felt natural for Nicole to go for a business degree though it ended up being anything but. Nicole floundered trying to find the right major and one semester enrolled in an Art History general elective class. It was clear pretty immediately that this was what she wanted to do. Nicole changed majors “for like the 27th time” and graduated with a BA in Art History. Upon realizing that you can’t do much with a BA in that field, Nicole quickly found the Museum Studies Program at UArts and within the month was enrolled in the Museum Education Program. At the time, the program was only two semesters, so it was very quick from start to finish. Nicole was lucky enough to get a summer gig, actually putting to use her new education skills at Shofuso. As that was wrapping up, she secured an interview with Fleisher.
“They were looking to start a Visitor Services department from scratch, and thankfully enough they thought I was the person to do it. I worked my way up there, taking on several more departments including special events and volunteers – and it was truly an amazing experience getting to be a part of that institution and leave my mark.” After five years with Fleisher, Nicole came across an opportunity at Longwood and knew that it was the right time to make a move to continue to expand her skills and horizons. “I just celebrated my first anniversary and couldn’t be happier with where life has taken me.”
Nicole’s favorite museums outside of Philadelphia include the Visionary Museum in Baltimore and the City Museum of St. Louis.
Fun Fact: Nicole has been scuba diving in Belize, St. John, Key West, Cozumel, and Cancun, can play the guitar (not well), loves working on people’s resumes, and can quack like a duck.