CivicStory's "Next Gen" Staffer Integrates Humanities and Science

CivicStory PR Assistant Jessa Henschel and Creative Director Susan Haig at The Wine List in Summit, NJ on June 11, 2018

CivicStory PR Assistant Jessa Henschel and Creative Director Susan Haig at
The Wine List in Summit, NJ on June 11, 2018

CivicStory's PR assistant Jessa Henschel graduated from Skidmore College in 2017 as a Psychology major, and will be commencing a Masters Degree in Professional Studies, Art Therapy, at the School of Visual Arts in NYC this fall.  She has worked with CivicStory since March, assisting in public relations, marketing our spring forums, attending and reporting on the May 10 Collaborative Journalism conference at Montclair State University, analyzing and monitoring our subscription list, organizing files, and handling registrations at our recent gala at The Wine List of Summit.   

Jessa's organization and communication skills, attention to detail, courtesy, efficiency, and strong work ethic have all been a tremendous help. Her ability to integrate technical and inter-personal skills and her passion for both scientific and humanities-oriented work suggests that our future democracy will be in good hands when today's graduates become future leaders!

Jessa took a few moments to answer our questions; her full-time summer work for the Newark Museum full time starts this Friday.

How have you spent your 'year off' before starting grad school?
My vision after graduating was to work in education, arts, community, and nonprofit areas. Through this past year, my love for education, community, and the arts have all come together and contributed to my decision to attend graduate school in Art Therapy.

What has surprised you most about your work with the Newark Museum and what has been most gratifying?    
What surprised me most was learning that many schools in NJ still have minimal art programs. To me, the understanding and creation of art is a vital part of one’s own development, and to see Art omitted in some schools is shocking and saddening. 

There are so many gratifying aspects about working for the Newark Museum, one of them being the fact that I get to help make art accessible. Another is that I am physically around a variety of incredible works of art, almost every day!

Were you able to apply skills and knowledge learned at Skidmore, or was it mostly on-the-job training?   
Skidmore's slogan is “Creative Thought Matters,” and I have definitely been able to incorporate creativity into many disciplines this year.  However, interacting with hundreds of children at the Newark Museum has taught me things I hadn't learned in psychology or education classes. I've learned to differentiate my instruction to children with a variety of needs, and I understand that this is a daily and ever-changing process.

What was most important to you after graduating, and what is most important to you now?    
Last spring, I was laser-focused on finding a full-time job, based on a very specific vision of a "job." Throughout the past year, I have found that impact can be made in a variety of ways and doesn’t need to fit one mold. Right now, using the arts for community building and healing are most important to me.

What has been most intriguing or interesting about CivicStory's work and mission? 
CivicStory’s no-blame approach is the most intriguing aspect to me, because I believe that this is truly how one builds community. If we look at the big picture of bettering society and our communities, and put away the intense focus on blame, we accomplish much more, and are able to truly connect with each other better.

What do you hope to see CivicStory accomplish in the next year, given a new Editor starting in July?   
I would like to see CivicStory cover more community arts events, and have more conversations (maybe even a public forum) surrounding the idea of the arts as a community builder or social justice tool. 

Anything else you'd like to share with CivicStory subscribers?  
I think it's important to know of (founder and creative director) Susan Haig’s musical background, which is an intriguing context for envisioning a news site. Learning that CivicStory started as NJ Arts News helped me understand the organization's journey from arts to broader civics-related topics such as humanities, sustainability, economics, invention, etc.  Also, I've learned through CivicStory that collaboration can start anywhere, when people come together understanding themselves as part of a greater whole, rather than as partisans or "oppositions."