More than 140 Students Currently Enrolled in Program Created to Diversify Museum Professionals; Program Launches President’s Fellowships 

The New-York Historical Society marks the third anniversary of its trailblazing Master of Arts in Museum Studies program—jointly created by the City University of New York School of Professional Studies and New-York Historical— with more than 140 students currently enrolled in the program. Launched in 2019, the program was created in part to address a 2015 national study conducted by the Mellon Foundation, the Association of Art Museum Directors, and the American Alliance of Museums that found that, at the time, only 16 percent of leadership positions at art museums were held by people of color. During the 2020-2021 academic year, 28 percent of students in the Museum Studies program identified as people of color. In addition to teaching the knowledge, skills, and preparation necessary for graduates to engage in professional museum practice, curate exhibitions, design educational resources, fundraise, and provide museum services for all potential museum visitors, the MA program aims to diversify the museum workforce and address the interests of an increasingly diverse and engaged museum-going public. 

Forty-four students have graduated from the Museum Studies program to date, with eight additional students expected to graduate in December 2022. Graduates have joined museums and cultural organizations across New York such as the American Museum of Natural History, Kupferberg Holocaust Center, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, MoMA, MoMA PS1, New-York Historical, the South Street Seaport Museum, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Two students continue their graduate studies in doctoral programs this fall. 

A new annual scholarship established by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang, board chair of New-York Historical and a longtime chair of its exhibitions committee, will support students, especially those who are from historically underrepresented groups or who can demonstrate a professional commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, to complete the MA in Museum Studies program. Scholarship recipients will be named President’s Fellows. 

The scholarship fund also supports current Museum Studies students who participate in New-York Historical’s Presidential Teaching Scholars Summer Institute. The Institute is a paid ten-week career training program at New-York Historical designed to diversify the interpretation of exhibitions and scholarly voices available to museumgoers. During the course of the program, students learn to create dynamic gallery tours committed to achieving greater diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for the Museum’s vast communities. The program also offers SPS graduate students in-person learning experiences and mentorships with museum professionals at New-York Historical. This summer, three Museum Studies students participated in the Institute and created new, vibrant, diverse tours of the permanent galleries at New-York Historical.

“Since 2005, New-York Historical has been a galvanizer in the museum world by boldly undertaking a series of landmark exhibitions that re-examine U.S. history from the perspectives of the historically disenfranchised, including Slavery in New YorkExclusion/Inclusion: Chinese in America, and most recently, Dreaming Together,” said Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang. “This groundbreaking initiative with CUNY further demonstrates our commitment to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion through affordable, high-quality public education; we are already seeing actionable results in three years.”  

In her address to the first graduating class in the midst of the pandemic, Dr. Hsu-Tang offered these encouraging words: “It has been said that art is the highest form of hope. We are not just curating art; we are curating hope, and we have the power to give voices to our collective history.”  

The MA program features online classes taught by museum professionals at New-York Historical and CUNY faculty. From administration and finance to curation and education, the program educates students about all areas of museum operations. Graduates of the program are prepared to work as curators, archivists, museum technicians, educators, administrators, conservators, and operations specialists in museum settings. Knowledge and skills acquired through this rigorous program are also applicable to employment in government, higher education, and other types of public service and cultural heritage organizations.

A key component of the curriculum is the Capstone Project, which students must complete to graduate. Under the direction of two faculty members, students work individually and collaboratively to create a conceptual framework and design for a new museum or cultural initiative in ways that replicate real-world museum operations. Each student takes on a leadership role in an area of interest—such as curation, education, digital media, development and fundraising, finance, or visitor services—and designs a plan that contributes to the realization of the collaborative project. At the end of the semester, students present their Capstone Project to a group of real-life cultural philanthropists and leaders who provide feedback on the feasibility of the design.  

Paris McGruder, who interned at the Rochester Museum and Science Center in its collections department, is interested in pursuing a career in museum curation or museum education after graduation. “The Museum Studies program has taught me a tremendous amount about the power of storytelling, preserving our history and pouring into our future,” she said. “I am interested in this field because it allows the stories of ‘others’ to be told and affirms the truth of their history. As an African American woman, a lot of my family’s history is told through storytelling and is not well documented. Pursuing this program means providing a platform for the parts of history that were not deemed important enough to put in a museum.”

Kelly I. Aliano, a resident of Long Island, now works as the manager of education special projects at New-York Historical since completing the MA program. “I learned so much,” she said. “I am a better collaborator, a better instructor, and a better writer because of the rigorous work in the program. The most interesting thing that I learned in my coursework was about representation: how some voices seem to be absent from the record and how we must listen to the silences in order to understand where and how that marginalization occurred.”

Kristin Cuomo has worked full-time as a museum educator at the Long Island Museum throughout the degree program. “I had wanted to go back to school for a masters in Museum Studies for some time, but scheduling and cost were prohibitive,” she said. “When I found out about this program, I applied immediately!” After researching Elizabeth Jennings and 19th century transportation rights movements for class projects, she and her team worked her research into a well-received virtual museum program that’s been presented to hundreds of school classes and received a generous library partnership grant to share Jennings’ story with a wider audience. 

For information about the Master of Arts in Museum Studies program, visit The regular deadline to apply for the spring 2023 semester is December 8, 2022. The online Master of Arts in Museum Studies is approved by the New York State Education Department as a CUNY SPS degree. Additional scholarships are generously supported by Bernard L. Schwartz; Agnes Hsu-Tang, Ph.D., and Oscar Tang; and Ruth and Harold Newman. 

About the New-York Historical Society
Experience 400 years of history through groundbreaking exhibitions, immersive films, and thought-provoking conversations among renowned historians and public figures at the New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum. A great destination for history since 1804, the Museum and the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library convey the stories of the city and nation’s diverse populations, expanding our understanding of who we are as Americans and how we came to be. Ever-rising to the challenge of bringing little or unknown histories to light, New-York Historical will soon inaugurate a new annex housing its Academy for American Democracy as well as the American LGBTQ+ Museum. These latest efforts to help forge the future by documenting the past join New-York Historical’s DiMenna Children’s History Museum and Center for Women’s History. Digital exhibitions, apps, and our For the Ages podcast make it possible for visitors everywhere to dive more deeply into history. Connect with us at or at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Tumblr

About the CUNY School of Professional Studies
As New York’s leader in online education since 2006, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) offers the most online bachelor’s and master’s degree options at the City University of New York, and serves as the University’s only undergraduate all-transfer college. With 26 degrees and numerous other non-degree and grant-funded workplace learning programs, CUNY SPS meets the needs of adults who wish to finish a bachelor’s degree, progress from an associate’s degree, earn a master’s degree or certificate in a specialized field, and advance in the workplace or change careers. Consistently ranked highly by U.S. News & World Report for its quality online offerings, and noted for its soaring growth and enrollment, CUNY SPS has emerged as a nationwide leader in online education. The School’s renowned and affordable online programs—which offer in-state tuition to all students regardless of where they live—ensure that busy working adults may fulfill their educational goals on their own time and schedule.