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Why Academic Museums Need Student Advisory Boards: A Case Study of the McClung Student Advisory Board (MSAB)

What is the McClung Student Advisory Board? 

The 2021-2022 MSAB Exec Committee. From left to right: Lisette Morris-Treasurer, Sean Burke-President, Sadie Counts-Graduate Advisor, Keri Burge-Vice President

General Definition

Student advisory boards act as liaisons between students and academic museums with the goal of increasing both student engagement and investment in academic museums.


MSAB subdivides their members into three separate focus groups:

Events – The events committee plans both (1) community events to connect students and the broader Knoxville community to the McClung and (2) board events, both social and professional, to create a strong sense of community and purpose within the board.

Outreach – The outreach committee focuses on

(1) social media/an online presence: Instagram, blog posts, semesterly newsletters (2) campus outreach: promote board events, engage with other student organizations (3) community outreach: plan board-wide volunteer opportunities

Fundraising – The fundraising committee strives to create a solid foundation of fundraising logistics in which the board can utilize in future years. The fundraising committee not only plans fundraising events throughout the semester but also addresses overarching goals such as attending conferences.

Monty, the McClung’s resident dinosaur and beloved MSAB mascot

Mission Statement 

The mission of MSAB is to engage with students through educational programming that is accessible and engaging, while serving to create a community for students built around the study and appreciation of culture and history.

The board is composed of twenty student leaders with the goal to cultivate professional skills and create an inclusive, collaborative environment through their role as advisors to the McClung and liaisons to the student community.

Katy Malone, MSAB Staff Advisor

The Student Advisory Board allows the museum to connect with the campus community in a tangible way. Their leadership shapes our service and responsiveness to UT. By having such a board, we are more literally the students’ museum—serving their needs directly, and providing an accessible space for learning, professional development, and enjoyment.

-Katy Malone, Curator of Academic Programs, McClung Museum

A Timeline of Events

A timeline of MSAB

What Can We Learn From Others? 

Princeton University Art Museum Student Advisory Board (PUAM SAB)

The Princeton University Art Museum Student Advisory Board logo

The Princeton University Art Museum Student Advisory Board exists to engage all Princeton students with the collections at the Princeton University Art museum in a non-academic context. Since their inception in 2010 they have seen great success, averaging between 300-700 students per event, or often more during their annual Museum Student Gala. This success is thanks to the confluence of a number of factors, though especially thanks to their large social media following, the strong support of the PUAM, involved student members, and a large annual budget of more than $50,000 a year.

Looking to the Future 

General Goals

Members of the 2021-2022 MSAB

As well as continuing to support the McClung Museum, MSAB is moving towards professional development by focusing on programming and activities that refine our members’ professional skills and that can be recorded on resumes. We accomplished this through increased member engagement in the planning and development of ideas.

MSAB is focused on increasing connections with campus organizations, fellow student advisory boards, and the professional museum world as a whole.

So far…

  • Created member specific committees to increase member involvement.
  • Attended our first conference as an organization.

Still to do…

  • Create more robust resume building activities
  • Increase communication with UT community
  • Attend conferences and other networking opportunities

Stay in Touch!

Sadie Counts: Graduate Advisor |

Sean Burke: President |

Keri Burge: Vice President |

Lisette Morris: Treasurer/Secretary |

Instagram: @msab_utk



This blog post was taken from the content created by the MSAB Exec Committee for a student poster presentation at the 2022 Tennessee Association of Museums (TAM) Conference held March 16-18 in Kingsport, TN.