Exploring Majors and Internships Is Time Well Spent

After nearly two years as an undecided major, Madison Kautman declared two majors in one day and then went on to accrue four professional experiences in less than a year, proving that good things come to those who explore.

Initially unsure which career path to pursue, Kautman spent her first year and a half at MSU trying out classes that sounded interesting. Two of those classes, entry-level Art History and Professional Writing courses, inspired her to declare both those as majors during the second semester of her sophomore year, and shortly after she decided to pursue a Museum Studies minor.

“It was interesting how it all happened,” said Kautman, now a senior. “They all just came together really well because I’ve always loved art, history, and museums, and I’ve also always really loved writing. Being able to combine those has been really interesting, and the opportunities that MSU offers to support it has been really awesome.”

Since making the final decision about her majors, Kautman’s world has been a whirlwind of extraordinary professional experiences, including three internships and co-curating a Wharton Center exhibit.

Blonde girl with curly hair holding a green Spartan flag
Madison Kautman showing her Spartan pride.

Her first internship didn’t come until the end of her junior year, when she began working as an Arts Administrative Intern for the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center. Here, she had a variety of tasks, including blogging, setting up and tearing down exhibits, and even corresponding with members of the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate.

“It was a really good all-around internship because every day had different opportunities,” Kautman said.

After a semester with the Lansing Art Gallery, Kautman continued gaining knowledge in her field as a Curatorial Intern for the Flint Institute of Arts. In this position, she spent the summer researching more than 80 artists that will be featured in the new wing of the museum.

“I had to be very self-motivated, and sometimes I had to step forward and ask for more experiences,” Kautman said. “As a student and as a professional, I had to throw myself out there and offer to help or to observe, so I did grow a lot from that internship.”

Returning to MSU for her final year, Kautman began working with MSU Director of Galleries Jacquelynn Sullivan as a Gallery Intern for the MSU Union Art Gallery and (SCENE) Metrospace. This opportunity arose after Sullivan observed Kautman’s work in a Museum Studies class last semester, where Kautman, along with the rest of her class, curated a show for the MSU Union Art Gallery called (Re)Dress: Outfitting Controversy.

2 women standing in front of glass gallery sign
Museum Studies Professor Susan Bandes and Madison Kautman (right) in front of the MSU Union Art Gallery.

“Not only was I impressed by everything she had done, but I was impressed by how much more she still wanted to learn,” Sullivan said. “I am excited to be working with her this year and to see her expand upon the experiences she has had so far.” 

The position with Sullivan led to Kautman’s favorite experience so far: co-curator for College of Arts & Letters alumna Selma Hollander’s recent solo show at the Wharton Center, in which Kautman was responsible for pricing, cataloguing, hanging the show, displaying info blurbs, and more.

“At my age and place with my education, to say I was a co-curator for a project at the Wharton Center is just amazing,” Kautman said. “And that’s not to mention how great it was working with Selma, who is so well-known on this campus and so honored for everything that she has done over the years. It was incredible.”

young woman with blonde hair posing with woman alumna
Madison Kautman (right) with College of Arts & Letters alumna Selma Hollander.

Kautman says her classes have well prepared her for her internships.

“I’ve been amazed by some of the Art History, Professional Writing, and Museum Studies classes that I’ve taken that have helped me with certain experiences,” Kautman said. “A lot of times I was able to prove to my employers that I could do something more than what they had originally asked me to do.”

Kautman’s biggest word of advice to fellow students is to not stress about the number of professional experiences they have had.

“I would always panic because I didn’t have internships until the end of my junior year, but one thing to keep in mind is that your experiences and your opportunities sometimes come out of nowhere,” Kautman said. “Don’t freak out. Take your time and enjoy what you’re doing, and it’ll come.”