History graduate desires to pursue a career in museums

Mary Zoll-Montoya

Photo courtesy of Mary Zoll-Montoya


Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

As someone who grew up in Arizona, for Mary Zoll-Montoya, making the choice to go to Arizona State University was a no-brainer. Not only was her father a professor at ASU, but her mother was a school teacher as well, which made a path to education inevitable for her. 

She has always had a love for art, but one thing she wasn’t expecting to take over while she was at ASU was her love for history as well. She chose to major in history and minor in art history to combine her two passions to create a career path for herself. 

We caught up with Zoll-Montoya to ask her about her time at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

Answer: I have a thirst for knowledge and had a hard time initially settling on one subject. It wasn’t until my junior year at ASU that I really knew history would take precedence over art history. Majoring in history allowed for a wider range of study and a better understanding of the world and the works of art created in it. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective? 

A: I was surprised at how much I enjoyed mathematics. I was very intimidated to start, but it turns out that I love to solve equations. That was a real surprise and I wish I had known it sooner.

Q: Why did you choose ASU? 

A: I chose ASU because I have always had such respect for the school. My father had been a professor at ASU and I knew from a young age of the high quality of education available at ASU. ASU has many brilliant professors on staff as well as numerous and innovative learning opportunities. It was an easy choice.   

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? 

A: While I had many wonderful professors, I have to say that Dr. Karin Enloe had the biggest impact for me. I was lucky enough to have several classes with Dr. Enloe, including my capstone history class. She taught me a very important aspect of historical writing, and that is to cite, cite, cite. Alongside giving brilliant lectures, Dr. Enloe taught me how to produce a well-researched and properly cited paper worthy of academic consideration. I will always be grateful.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school? 

A: Don’t just take classes that look good on a resumé. Sprinkle courses into your schedule when possible that may not necessarily be part of your career path, but you simply are interested in and want to learn more about. It can really help get you through a tough semester.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: My favorite spot is always the library. So many books, so little time.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: I am hoping to go on for my master’s degree in museum studies next year. One of my favorite places to haunt in my free time is a museum. I enjoy museums with grand halls of art and antiquities as well as small neighborhood museums with local objects of interest. I would very much like to work in the conservation and archival field of museum collections.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? 

A: I would absolutely work to clean the world’s oceans of garbage, especially plastics. This is a global crisis we are only beginning to understand the full consequences of.  

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