I actually came across a flyer for the McClung Student Advisory Board (MSAB), by pure luck. Since attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I have realized that college essentially means lots of emails—at least, that is what my inbox full of hundreds of unread emails tells me. Most of these emails consist of newsletters and announcements that I didn’t realize I signed up for in the first place. The majority of the time, I will delete or ignore them and move on with my day, but in August of 2020 during the beginning of my junior year, I decided to leisurely browse and take my time, causing me to come across an advertisement for MSAB applications in a different organization’s newsletter.
Honestly, I was quite surprised that I hadn’t heard of MSAB before. After all, I had multiple classes in the McClung auditorium during my first two years. I have always loved museums, and I spent a lot of time looking around the McClung before and after my courses. As an anthropology major and biological sciences minor, this organization seemed perfect for me. For those of you who were like me at the beginning of my junior year and have no idea what MSAB is, here is a quick introduction: MSAB consists of twenty students from across different majors and programs, both undergraduate and graduate, who serve as a liaison between the student body and museum staff in order to promote diversity, inclusion, and a broader student presence within museum-related programming.
I ended up applying last fall, and I am so glad that I did. I am currently MSAB’s Vice President, which is a role that has honestly taught me so much. Not only did I gain a sense of community with students who also share similar interests in museums, offering me diverse and new perspectives, but I have also gained leadership and professional skills as well. This past October, we held an outdoor event called Muffins @ the McClung where student board members had the opportunity to meet and chat with museum staff. Since in-person events have been few and far between these past two years, I really valued this time with my friends and the McClung staff on that slightly chilly Friday morning. That Friday happened to be a few days before the first time I would be presenting my own research at an out of state archaeological conference. As you can guess, I was pretty nervous and intimidated. However, having the time to talk with professors, staff, and graduate students in such a relaxed setting during that event really reassured me and calmed my nerves. I received so many helpful tips and tricks for presenting, which I definitely implemented! This a perfect example of the types of positive relationships that MSAB has created for both me and my fellow board members.
Overall, I am so glad that I joined MSAB when I did and only wish that I had joined sooner. This year, as Vice President, I lead our Outreach Committee, which I am very passionate about because I want other students to have an opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization. We are really pulling out all of the stops this year. In fact, it’s the board’s first year on social media, which definitely has a learning curve, but I think it will be well worth it in the end (follow us on Instagram @msab_utk)! We really want to increase our presence both on campus and in the broader Knoxville community. Hopefully, we will be able to achieve our goals this academic year. In closing, if you are a current student or upcoming student at UTK, I strongly advise you to look into MSAB, and even if you are not a UTK student, take my advice a look through your spam emails every now and then. If you are lucky like me, it may turn out to be time well spent.
This post was written by Keri Burge, MSAB Vice President and Chair of the Outreach Committee.