College, MSU Museum appoints informal education specialist
Denice Blair Leach, who received her Ph.D. from the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology (EPET) Program at Michigan State University, has been named informal education specialist at the MSU Museum and MSU College of Education. Leach, who was a visiting assistant professor at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., will develop educational programs for the museum’s diverse pre-K-12, university and lifelong learning audiences. An active researcher, she also will study how learning happens in informal, out-of-the-classroom settings like museums, to better understand impacts and improve methods.
The new position will have a direct link with the MSU College of Education — a first for the MSU Museum — and Leach will be active in teaching informal education, learning and evaluation. She joins a team of educators and curators at the MSU Museum, the natural science and culture museum at Michigan State University and the state’s first Smithsonian affiliate.
Education at the museum ranges from special exhibition and companion programs, specially-developed curricula growing out of museum fieldwork, collections and international partnerships, virtual and distance learning, science camps and hands-on discovery, and traditional arts and expressive culture demonstrations at events like the Great Lakes Folk Festival. The MSU Museum is home to faculty-curators representing a number of disciplines at MSU, including Agriculture and Natural Resources, Arts and Letters, Natural Science and Social Science. Museum curators often serve as the core faculty for the Museum Studies Program at MSU, teaching courses in museum education, curatorial practices and exhibition development.
“Denice will provide a very significant boost to the MSU Museum’s educational team,” said Gary Morgan, MSU Museum director. “She brings a very relevant background in teaching, learning and technology. As a shared position with the MSU College of Education, she will be a primary point of liaison between our units, enhancing teacher training in informal education methodology and connecting more students and faculty of the College of Education with the wonderful educational resources that we have at the Museum.”
“Denice will also be conducting research in informal education in museum settings while recruiting MSU students to join in her research program, and that will be of great interest to both the MSU Museum and the College. This is a Museum-College partnership around informal education that we hope can grow significantly into the future,” adds Morgan.
As a graduate of the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology program, Leach will help lead efforts at the MSU Museum to expand its offerings in digital and online learning programs.
While a graduate student at MSU, Leach taught College of Education courses, “Teaching Social Studies to Diverse Learners” and “Reflections on Learning,” emphasizing formal and informal learning environments. She also co-taught a seminar focused on portfolio-based assessment techniques. In addition, Leach served as assistant to the editor for the journal Museums and Social Issues and conducted an inventory of more than 1,000 objects and architectural elements in the Alice B. Cowles House (president’s residence) at MSU, while also serving as a board member of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. She previously worked as an academic specialist at the MSU Museum, developing and presenting virtual (videoconference) field trips for K-12 classes from Michigan and nationwide, and as a curriculum consultant for the Nokomis Learning Center in Okemos, Mich.
The MSU Museum — accredited by the American Association of Museums — collects, preserves, studies and interprets cultural artifacts and natural science specimens, with collections numbering more than 1 million in four buildings on the MSU campus. Established just two years after MSU was founded, the MSU Museum is one of the oldest in the Midwest. For more information, call (517) 355-2370 or see http://museum.msu.edu.