On June 10, 2021 The Block Museum team cheered graduating Student Docent Coordinator Erin Claeys as she was recognized by her peers and the Office of Student Affairs with a 2021 Wildcat Impact Award for her work at the museum.
Northwestern’s Annual Wildcat Impact Awards recognize students who have significantly contributed to improving the quality of student life at Northwestern. These students embody demonstrated Student Affairs values for integrity, innovation, social justice, responsible stewardship, and collaborative work with others, to create a more engaged and inclusive campus community.
Erin was awarded for her extraordinary collaborative work in supporting and extending the Docent Program during the challenges of its remote transition. In Fall 2020 the Block pivoted the Docent Program from in-person trainings and tours to conducting this work entirely in Zoom. This was a significant shift, and radically changed the work of the museum. As coordinator Erin was undaunted, and embraced every new challenge as an opportunity to learn and improve. She was the first to offer solutions to problems that seemed intractable, and modeled a calm, level-headedness for her peers. Her confidence buoyed all those around her, and helped to make our docents feel fully comfortable — and excited — to offer tours of the museum in Zoom. Thanks to Erin’s efforts the Block launched a successful series of online undergraduate Art Talks that welcomed over 250 online visitors to the Block from near and far.
Erin Northington, Block Museum Susan and Stephen Wilson Associate Director, Campus and Community Education and Engagement, reflects on Erin’s contributions:
“It is hard to pick just one value that Erin embodies, but her model of collaborative leadership in her capacity as the Block Museum’s Docent Coordinator has been outstanding. In her role, Erin serves as a co-facilitator in our weekly trainings, and role model, peer mentor, and cheerleader for her fellow undergraduates in and outside of their work at the Block. Our work at the museum is highly collaborative as we work across academic disciplines, divergent perspectives, and changing ideas about art and why it matters in the world. Erin embraces each conversation with openness, and consistently scans the Zoom room to make sure all voices are heard. She excels in facilitating open and productive, yet masterfully directed, discussions with her peers, colleagues in the Engagement Department, and partners across the museum and on campus.
One specific example jumps out — the student docents’ spent the Spring quarter making an acquisition for the Block’s collection. As you can imagine, this could be a challenging process to navigate, and as the leader of the program, I was concerned that the students may have had trouble coming to consensus. When it came time to select an artist and their work, Erin led her peers through a 2 hr facilitated inquiry-based discussion that can only be described as a true masterclass in generosity, collaboration, careful listening, and openness to diverse and sometimes differing ideas and perspectives. I learned a great deal from Erin this year, and her model of peer leadership.“