This story originally appeared in the winter 2022 issue of “The Honor Role,” a newsletter for graduates of the Newman University Honors Program.
Like many students at Newman University, Kristin Martin ’14 found her career through the encouragement of a professor.
It was thanks to history professor Dr. Cheryl Golden’s advice (and that dreaded service component of most scholarships) that Kristin first volunteered with a local museum during her junior year, a volunteer opportunity that morphed into a semester-long internship, which then led into Kristin’s first job just months after her graduation: Education Director at the Museum of World Treasures.
In the seven years since, Kristin Martin has moved from managing tours and student groups to overseeing most of the visitor experience, including maintaining collections, planning exhibits and providing a fun and educational experience to every person who walks through the museum door.
Kristin would describe her job as the programs director a little differently, though. Her job is to be an interpreter — to minimize the distance between the viewer and the objects behind the glass.
Her job is to tell a good story.
What was immediately apparent from talking with Kristin was how much this revelation — her role as storyteller — added purpose and meaning to her job. It was a turning point, a lightbulb moment in the trajectory of her career. What was even more startling, however, was the way in which the long journey to that vital dose of inspiration coincided with Kristin’s Honors Program experience at Newman University.
Joining the Honors Program as a freshman was a no-brainer for Kristin.
“I’m an Honors person, so I’m going to do Honors” was the mentality that propelled her through the application process and into her first, quintessential Honors experience: the freshman seminar and its “Reacting to the Past” gameplay.
While the Honors program certainly compares academically to the high standards students maintain prior to college, no high school Honors class can quite prepare a student to stand on a table and shout for the heads of his or her fellow classmates, French-revolution style. In other words, while Kristin certainly expected the academic rigor of the program, she had no idea as a freshman what kind of unique experiences awaited her within the Honors. And it has been these experiences that have made all the difference.
For example, playing the role of a bishop at the Council of Nicea’s “Reacting to the Past” game (among many other roles) opened Kristin’s mind to a whole new world of experiential learning.
The kind of educational practices she saw modeled in Honors classes gave her an advantage in pitching summer camp ideas at the Museum or brainstorming interactive exhibits.
Another example: the many book discussions that characterized Kristin’s Honors Program experience, both in and out of the classroom, bolstered her intellectual capacity, broadened her curiosity, and expanded her ability to converse about difficult topics in a non-confrontational way, all of which make Kristin a good researcher and a better coworker.
In fact, it is this same curiosity and willingness to learn from others that Kristin looks for in hiring a new team member. Sometimes, the skill that clinches the job is not one particular to the field of work in question at all. Are you an interesting person? Are you an interested person? Consistently reaching out to others through books and discussion is a good way to become a bit of both.
The Honors experience that truly primed Kristin to excel in the professional world, however, was her senior Honor’s thesis. As difficult as the research and the writing proved (hang in there, upperclassmen), the chance to share her work at the Missouri Valley History Conference — where she won the Student Best-Paper Award, by the way — set a precedent in her career.
Attending conferences and finding revitalization and inspiration among colleagues was now a less threatening, more comfortable experience, not just a distant career recommendation. The Honors Program introduced Kristin to a professional tool, one that helped her find her way to the Mountain Plains Museum Association and to new friends, mentors and ideas. And it was through these connections that Kristin made the discovery of her role as storyteller.
The Honors Program may not impart every single piece of knowledge a student needs to excel in their career of choice. What the Honors Program does purport to do, however, is provide the kind of unique, difficult-to-teach experiences that make day-to-day life post-graduation a little more understandable, a little more navigable, a little more treasurable.
Kristin Martin is not just surviving, she’s thriving. And the roots of that success stretch back to her time in the Honors Program. We can only guess how she will continue to grow with such strong roots.
Learn more about the Honors Program
The Honors Program at Newman University empowers high-achieving students to transform society.