Alumna takes on triple role as museum educator

July 14, 2011

Kristin Hsueh graduated from Arizona State University in 2010 with not one, not two, but three undergraduate degrees. So, how does such a multitasker begin her career?  With not one, not two, but three jobs.

Hsueh – who received bachelor’s degrees in anthropology, conservation biology and history with a minor in art history – found her niche as an educator at three valley museums. She works in educational programming at the Arizona Museum of Natural History, as an education intern at the Musical Instrument Museum and as a garden educator at the Desert Botanical Garden. Kristin Hsueh Download Full Image

At the Arizona Museum of Natural History, Hsueh creates new programs and focuses on making learning more enjoyable for children and parents alike. This year, she introduced a series of overnight programs called “Night at the Museum,” which encourages children 6-12 to explore subjects like dinosaurs and ice age creatures while getting a behind-the-scenes look at the museum and the chance to camp out in their favorite sections.  

Hsueh also helps manage the Exploration Station, the hands-on center of the museum, where children explore and experiment with magnets, fossils, geology and changing exhibits, such as the upcoming offering, “Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe,” opening July 22.

In addition, Hsueh was instrumental in planning this year’s summer classes for preschool and elementary age students, and will create lessons and activities for children up to junior high age for the Southwest Paleontological Society’s evening lab nights, beginning in August.

“Kristin is a marvelous person to work with,” praised Tom Wilson, director of the Arizona Museum of Natural History. “She is smart, focused and dedicated. She has a wonderful way of explaining the science of natural history to visitors of all ages and is, therefore, an effective educator and a terrific ambassador for the museum.”

At the Musical Instrument Museum, Hsueh teaches the craft portion of the summer tours for pre-kindergarten to high school children. She also helps plan crafts for summer events and assists visiting artists and musicians. Currently, she is working on educational activities for the museum’s Elvis Week in August and the Dia de los Muertos celebration in November.

In the fall, Hsueh will resume educator duties at the Desert Botanical Garden, taking school and scout troops on tours and assisting with special events. She’s looking forward to the installation of several oversized insect sculptures and the reaction of children to the pieces. She sees David Rogers’ “Big Bugs” exhibit as yet another fun way in which the garden connects children to their environment, in this case by spurring discussion about the importance of pollinators and other creatures that promote decomposition.

“I love how the Desert Botanical Garden gives students the opportunity to get out of the classroom and spend time in a more natural environment,” she explained. “Being in the middle of the city, it is beneficial for children of all ages to spend time outside and explore nature.”

Hsueh also benefits from her time at the garden, as well as her other work locations.  “I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to experience three very different but remarkable museums,” she said. She is especially appreciative of the program development opportunities at the Arizona Museum of Natural History and her experience with a large venue like the Musical Instrument Museum, where she has learned that “coordination and cooperation of different departments is essential to make even the simplest event a success.”

Hsueh began her career path in ASU’s agribusiness/pre-veterinary track at the Polytechnic campus. She switched to conservation biology early in her first semester and soon added anthropology as a double major. That turned into a triple major in history after she took an exceptionally interesting course on the Reformation. Eventually, she added art history as a minor.

Professor Mark von Hagen, director of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, remembers Hsueh as an exemplary student. He said, “She enrolled in my upper-level undergraduate Soviet history course, a subject seemingly far removed from her usual interests – though given the number of majors and minors she has accumulated, there might not be anything distant from her interests – and found something that got her engaged with the subject. Students like Kristin make our days bright.”

Now that Hsueh has swapped her student status for that of educator, she plans to further her career in museum education and hopes to remain in a natural history museum, since the setting employs all of her degrees and interests.

She has sound advice for students who worry about successfully transitioning to the work world. “Take your education into your own hands,” she said. “Go the extra mile and volunteer in labs on campus. Take every opportunity to gain experience; it will help you in the long run. Most importantly, be appreciative to the professors or professionals who help you. This will help you network in your field and make others more willing to work with you.”

Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


Speakers explore alternatives at religion and conflict lecture series

July 14, 2011

The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict has named Reza Aslan and Elaine Pagels, two highly regarded scholars of religion and public intellectuals, to headline its “Religion and Conflict: Alternative Visions” lecture series for the 2011-12 academic year.

The lecture series, supported by a grant from local philanthropists John and Dee Whiteman, brings to ASU nationally and internationally recognized writers, scholars and policy experts concerned with the dynamics of religion and conflict and strategies for their resolution. All lectures in the series are free and open to the public. Photo of speaker Reza Aslan engaged in dialogue with audience. Download Full Image

Reza Aslan will open this year’s series with a lecture on “Beyond Fundamentalism,” which will be held at 4:30 p.m., Oct. 20, in the Great Hall of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Armstrong Hall on the Tempe campus.   

Linell Cady, director of the center, says that Aslan was sought out for his ability to communicate his extensive knowledge of Islam and global politics with the broader public. 

Born in Iran, Aslan grew up very well aware of the controversial role of religion in politics, a topic he has explored in two bestselling books and several edited volumes, including “No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam” and “Muslims and Jews in America.” An advisor to the Council on Foreign Relations, Aslan has appeared in numerous media outlets from CNN to The Daily Show. 

Given the rise of the Arab Spring and emerging protest movements in the Middle East and North Africa, Aslan’s lecture is very timely. 

“He brings knowledge of the multiple cross currents within Islam including the Middle East,” says Cady. “He can address what is going on with fledgling democratic movements, their opportunities and potential pitfalls.”

Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton University, will deliver the second lecture in the series at 4:30 p.m., Feb. 16, 2012, in the Old Main Carson Ballroom on the Tempe campus.  She will discuss competing versions of Christianity in a lecture titled “Beyond Belief.”

Captivated by the study of early Christian movements, Pagels has authored multiple bestselling books including “The Gnostic Gospels,” “The Origin of Satan,” “Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas,” and “Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity” (with Karen King).

Her studies, which analyze early Christian manuscripts discovered in Egypt, challenge dominant views of Christianity, bringing to light the competing interpretations and politics at play in the formation of the tradition. Her groundbreaking work has earned her Rockefeller, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships.

Cady says that Pagels’s historical work on the formation of the New Testament and early Christian traditions is very relevant to contemporary debates.  “So many people have the idea that religion is homogeneous and static,” says Cady.  Pagels’s work shows that traditions are far more diverse and contested than often thought.   

Cady notes that the Alternative Vision Lecture Series has tried to capture the varied roles of religion in relation to conflict. “We have lectures that explore the religious sources and dimensions of violent conflict, but we also feature speakers who offer new and transformative ways of thinking about religion and politics in the 21st century.” 

Past speakers in the series include CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen, public intellectual Martha Nussbaum, New York Times commentator Robert Wright, and Isobel Coleman, the director of the Council on Foreign Relations’s women and foreign policy program.

The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict is a research unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. To order tickets for this event, click CSRC ticket request, call 480-727-6736 or e-mail

Story by Nesima Aberra