BA in Art History

Kennis Pieper, 2018

Kennis Pieper

Why did you choose art history as a major?

I kind of just fell into art history. I was transferring to GMU from NOVA where I studied Liberal Arts. I hadn't decided on a career path yet so I had no idea what to select as a major. On the advice of my mother (a GMU staff member!), I simply chose the one I thought I would enjoy taking classes for and if I decided to change it later I could. I grew up in a huge history loving family where historical documentaries were constantly on the TV and I was frequently dragged into art galleries the world over; so I knew that I'd enjoy the subject matter. After my first Renaissance art class, I was sold and decided to build my career around the major. I hadn't quite figured out what that would look like yet and I wouldn't for a while after.

What was your career path after graduation?

I ended up minoring in anthropology and as my time at GMU ended I decided to try going into archaeology. After graduation, I completed an archaeological field school at Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest. When I got back home I started volunteering in the collections at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on the recommendation of one of my field school instructors. This position was strictly to fill time and keep me in the cultural heritage world while I hunted for work as an archaeologist. However, that would not happen (not with lack of trying). The longer I was at NMNH the more I realized how much I loved the hands-on (indoor and not in a literal pit) work of museum collections, and bada-bing-bada-boom I finally found THE career for me. I attended Georgetown University's Art and Museum Studies program to earn my master's in 2020 and now I'm working in two separate positions doing the work I love. For half my week, I am the collections coordinator at Woodlawn & Pope-Leighey House in Alexandria, and for the other half, I am a collections special assistant for the National Museum of the Marine Corps. 

How do you think being an art history major at Mason prepared you for your career?

My art history professors truly fostered a passion I had no idea was inside me. Participating in GMU's Art History program was the first domino to fall in my long journey to a career in museum collections. 

Any advice to give to current Mason students?

I think if I had to give current students any advice it would be that it is OK to not know what you're doing or where you're going. Use your time in college to try different things, you may just find your path hidden somewhere you weren't expecting. Oh, and do an internship or two. That's something I always wished I had done and I think it's a great way to test run a job before deciding to spend the rest of your life doing it.