Anywhere you go, you’re bound to find Drexel alumni! Sarah spoke with Leah Hamilton, who resides in Wiesbaden, Germany, for this piece about Leah’s experiences working abroad and presenting her thesis work at an international arts conference.
Twenty miles outside of Frankfurt, Germany is where you’ll find Leah Hamilton, an Arts Administration Online program alum, arts consultant, researcher, and recent transplant from Springfield, Missouri. Two years ago, Leah’s husband, an opera singer, received notice of opera contracts and opportunities in Germany. At the time, Leah was working as the head of the undergraduate arts administration program at Drury University in Missouri. After traveling back and forth between continents for a year while finishing up her work at Drury and completing her MS, Leah made the move to Europe this past summer to join him.
Leah is no stranger to living and working abroad; she holds a postgraduate diploma in music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where she studied. She says she loves the European lifestyle and support of arts and culture, as demonstrated by European nations’ governments.
“It’s been great, and I continue to do research here on different practices in terms of fundraising, marketing, audience development - all of those sort of avenues when it comes to being so subsidized by the government, compared to what it’s like in the States,” she says.
Leah now works as an independent consultant for arts organizations, particularly opera companies in Missouri, remotely. She’s focusing on American companies for now and has yet to work with European companies, but she is building her network abroad by joining the European Network on Cultural Management and Policy (ENCATC). One challenge she’s facing is mastering the German language. She says that fluency is a must if one is to work for German arts organizations, even though English is very prevalent in Wiesbaden.
Recently, Leah presented her thesis on emergency planning for arts facilities at the 42nd International Conference on Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts (STP&A), this year held in Montreal, Quebec from October 14-16. STP&A describes itself as “an interdisciplinary gathering of researchers, policy-makers, practitioners and students that explores key trends, practices and policy issues affecting the arts around the world. STP&A is the oldest and one of the most influential academic gatherings of researchers and practitioners in the field of arts management and cultural policy."
Attendance for the conference was capped at 100 people, and Leah says she liked that intimacy. She said that going to a smaller conference actually felt like networking was more substantial. Participants could really have some conversations in depth about people’s research and you’d get around to see more things and people too because there were fewer sessions than some of the really, really large conferences, she says.
Leah says she had 15 minutes to present her 80-page thesis, followed by a five minute question and answer session. It was challenging for her to truncate her research into an overview for the presentation. Her thesis includes a new strategic planning model for emergency preparedness for arts facilities.
“I spent the majority of the time talking about the new model because I felt like that was the more relevant information for an international conference, because it was not specific to cultural issues in the United States,” she says.
In addition, Leah is now in the process of reworking her thesis to fit the guidelines of and submit to the Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society (JAMLS) for the first time. In order to be considered for STP&A, she had to submit an abstract, some key words, and her biography. Conference officials make selections based on the abstract, whereas if you were to submit for publication, it’s usually a larger paper that is submitted and adapted from your thesis.
“I found it to be a great process. It was nice to do the conference first because it allowed me to see others people's research and to make contacts with people who were on the scientific committee and editorial board for the publication, so it felt like there was a little more of a personal connection before submitting my article,” she says.
Leah says she feels more confident in submitting to JAMLS after presenting because people asked great questions during her session that showed her what other researchers in the field think is the most relevant of the information she presented. This helped to frame the article, and she recommends that people who are interested in submitting to JAMLS and the STP&A edition attend the conference. She was excited to see young researchers in the field at STP&A, as well as people who had been a part of the conference and publication for nearly 30 years. The effects of the combined group of passionate and experienced people wasn’t lost on Leah, and she noted that mentoring was happening, even during the short weekend.
“I left feeling very inspired to continue my research and inspired to go ahead and submit for publication,” she says.
Information about next year’s STP&A conference will soon be available on their website. Please note that Drexel offers some support for graduate students presenting at academic conferences!
Going along with the theme for this issue of ArtsLine, I asked Leah if she had any advice for students currently in the AADM program and how she balanced her academic work and personal life.
Leah was teaching full time at the University while she was in school, taking two to three classes per quarter online. Her advice is to really get to know your professors, and to not be afraid to ask questions about how to continue your work outside of the classroom. She says she was really grateful for Dr. Brody’s and Dr. Zitcer’s advice, and all of the professors who talked to her about her interests and work in the field outside of the content of class.
“We have really amazing professors at Drexel who have done great things, so being willing to ask them questions even outside of school content can expand your knowledge of what’s available in the field after you graduate,” she says.
Leah also commented that these programs have a lot of reading, and it can feel overwhelming. For her, looking at the discussion board questions online before reading was the most helpful so that she could get an idea of what she wanted to post in the boards as she was reading and prioritize accordingly. She says she considered the readings during the program as a privilege, because the sources were already vetted by her professors, and it’s harder to have that motivation and time to read after the the program. She also suggests saving all of the readings, and she uses them quite a bit in her work today.
“Take advantage of opportunities to get to know your classmates,” she says. “Now that I’ve graduated I have tried to stay in touch with some of my colleagues and classmates, and it’s fun to see what they’re doing. And you never know - you could easily be working with some of your professors later on or some of your classmates.”
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Leah! Best wishes to you and your growing family!