Leadership

The National Emerging Museum Professional Network is comprised of an all-volunteer board made up of  leaders from local and regional EMP Chapters and museum professionals across the United States.  Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the NEMPN. 

Current Board Members (2020-2021)

Sierra Polisar, Co-President

president@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live: Nola baby!
What I’m drinking: Campari spritz on my porch
My cat’s name: Morris Bart! One call that’s meow!
What hypes me up: Opening my CSA box, Dipping my toes into the river/lake/ocean/pool, Peach cobbler, Rearranging my bookshelf, Mudlarking, Spa, World Parades
Nicknames: Si PoPo (please don’t call me that)
Favorite Museum: The Wellcome Collection and, not a museum, but the gift shop at the Visionary Art Museum
Industry pet peeve: Hiring folks as contractors instead of staff so museum’s don’t have to offer them benefits
Museum specialties: collections management, inventory, install, Newcomb Pottery
Ask me about: my new house!
I can’t live without my: cast iron pan.

Sierra Van Ryck deGroot, Co-President

president@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live: 
Dirty Jerz (also known as New Jersey or the Garden State)
What I’m drinking:  Most likely a beer – love a sour
My cat’s name:  I don’t have a cat, but shout out to my god-cat (it’s like a godchild, but a cat!), Odin
What hypes me up: A well curated Spotify playlist, Talking about design, Good coffee , Dig Inn, The fleeting moments that I work out and feel #healthy after
Nicknames:  I don’t have any, but I will tell you to never call me Sisi
Favorite Museum: Art Gallery of Ontario. I literally always find myself there whenever I am in Toronto.
Industry pet peeve:  PAY YOUR INTERNS. It doesn’t matter if they are paying for college credit to get an expensive piece of paper. Pay them and pay them a living wage. But also, pay your staff a respectable wage as well. All of them.
Museum specialties: Internships , Informal Education, Programming Cheerleader, Paying people
Ask me about:  the real Jersey Shore, where to find the best apple cider donuts
I can’t live without my:  Apple products. I am too tethered now. I can’t escape.

Chloe Doucette, Treasurer

treasurer@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live:
A place called Idaho Falls thanks to some clever/shady canal developers. There’s a river here, but the falls are man-made.
What I’m drinking: Raspberry Sour Crush by 10 Barrel Brewing, or Scotch Ale from Idaho Brewing Co.
My cat’s name: Get ready to cry- my cat’s name was Lilly. She was black with a white spot on her chest and meowed SO LOUDLY ALL THE TIME. She honestly had a bigger vocabulary than I do, and she was tolerant of every little hand that wanted to love on her. She died last year. We buried her under a lilac bush and planted Lily of the Valley around her grave. 😦 Now I have a dog named Fella. I love him.
What hypes me up: Learning about weird things and sharing those stories with other people, Playing the bass in a two-man band with my brother, Being outside with people I love, HALLOWEEN and horrible B-movies, Sharpies, Local politics, Delicious vegetarian options at a restaurant, My daughter doing something she thinks is awesome and then saying “Let’s show dad, he’s gonna FREAK. OUT.”, My husband FREAKING. OUT.
Nicknames: Chlo, CoCo, Chloe Malone- Private Eye
Favorite Museum: Besides the Museum of Idaho where I work, a couple of shout outs- North Carolina Museum of Art, Natural History Museum of Utah, and Cassia Historical Society Museum (because they have a Pullman train car which used to house the purported mummified corpse of John Wilkes Booth.)
Industry pet peeve: Feeling internal or external pressure to settle for less/ bite your tongue because museum work is your “passion”.
Museum specialties: Educational programs of all kinds and for all age groups, research and exhibit development, recognizing the incredible effort and expertise of my colleagues
Ask me about:  The incredibly compelling, ungrateful asshole, Truman Everts- a man who barely survived in the wilderness of Yellowstone for 37 days in 1870.
I can’t live without my: scrunchie, Thermos, and a variety of statement earrings

Laura Santoyo, Secretary

secretary@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live:
Aurora, Illinois (yes, that place from Wayne’s World)
What I’m drinking: Probably wine, though I also enjoy peanut butter whiskey and apple martinis
My cat’s name: Jasper
What hypes me up: The Office, anything Harry Potter related, any time I get to bring up museums in everyday conversation, baking, feminism, museum collections, a new restaurant or food dish, a cute new skirt or pair of shoes, anything that has to do with fall or Halloween
Nicknames: Laurito Burrito, also “Lizbeth” – there’s a story behind this one
Favorite Museum: How can you decide?! Colonial Williamsburg comes to mind…but probably only because I grew up around there and it holds some nostalgia for me.
Industry pet peeve: “But we’ve always done things this way”
Museum specialties: collections management, registration, mount making, pest management, social media management
Ask me about: the time my then boyfriend (now husband) almost got murdered in backwoods Kentucky (totally kidding – but it’s a funny story)
I can’t live without my: caffeine or my phone

Michelle Reynolds, Director of Resources

theoryandpractice@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live:
Tacoma, WA
What I’m drinking: True Pacific Northwesterner in my love for all things coffee
My cat’s name: Got a whole herd – Lyric, Max, and Axel
What hypes me up: New books (always down for a new biography of often forgotten females in art and history), Baking a new recipe, British television, Nature walks
Nicknames: currently nicknameless
Favorite Museum: The Andy Warhol Museum
Industry pet peeve: Can you make this go viral? What if we build an app? Or VR? Why isn’t anyone using this digital project? Probably because our communities didn’t want it!  Stop creating projects and expectations based solely only on what one person wants or likes. Incorporate more community and staff voices (especially outside of senior leadership).
Museum specialties: Outreach, Communications, Marketing, Art History
Ask me about: pop culture and podcasts (aka what takes up the majority of my non-work hours)
I can’t live without my:  coffee mug and notebook 

Emily Esten, Director of Communications

communications@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live:
[hot as hell in] Philadelphia
What I’m drinking: Peppermint tea (caffeination depending on the time of day)
My cat’s name: I unfortunately do not have a cat but I do cohabitate with two cats, Sammy and Boo.
What hypes me up: Public art/Street art/Muralism, A night at the theatre, A new running route, A dress with pockets, Exploring used bookstores (shout out to my neighborhood favorite!), Pop culture analysis
Nicknames:  currently nickname-less! Previous nicknames have revolved around the assonance of my repeated E initials.
Favorite Museum: from smallest to largest: Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, Eastern State Penitentiary, RISD Museum (so many memories!), Balboa Park
Industry pet peeve: “Can you build an app? Can you build [x] asap?” Can we build digital literacy within our organizations and get collaborators involved at the formative stages of our projects to holistically support visitors/visitor experiences?
Museum specialties: Project Management, Digital Content Strategy & Engagement, GLAMs broadly (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums)
Ask me about: which theatre cast recording you should be listening to
I can’t live without my:  graph-ruled notebooks (better for notes & for doodles!)

Kelsey Brow, Regional Director-Northeast

northeast@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live:
QUEENS GET THE MONEY
What I’m drinking: Something that tastes like plants, with gin and egg whites
My cat’s name: Mary Alsop King
What hypes me up: Historic patterns of consumption, Heavy Metal, Brutalist concrete architecture and 1920s prefab concrete garages, Cutting out a new sewing project, Old book smell
Nicknames: History Buff (bro, do you even lift?)
Favorite Museum: Musée Gustave Moreau
Industry pet peeve: funders who pay for consultants or assessments but refuse to pay staff salaries so the plans can never become reality
Museum specialties: Writing, Creative Problem Solving, Historic House Museums/ Small Museums
Ask me about: The time I saved an airplane
I can’t live without my: 24-hour planner

Cassandra Cavness, Regional Director-Southeast

southeast@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live:
(Sweet Home) Alabama (I know you all just sang that in your head!)
What I’m drinking: Carbonated flavored water, preferably peach
My cat’s name: No cat here. (I think I’m breaking an unspoken Board rule by not liking cats. SHHH!) My dog’s name is Dax.
What hypes me up: Comedy (Bill Burr is my hero!), Cheesy romantic movies, Anything Lin-Manuel Miranda creates (He is LEGIT a genius), Listening to explicit songs on the radio because the edited versions are usually hilarious
Nicknames: CeCe, Cassi, Cass, Miss Cass a Frass
Favorite Museum: The Legacy Museum #Truth
Industry pet peeve:  The pay. When I look at job descriptions I often think “You want how many years of experience and what type of education for THAT amount of money?! Uh…No. Bye Felicia!” I know it’s not all about the money, but let’s be real- it’s a little bit about the money. (Insert Jerry Maguire reference here 😜)
Museum specialties: Grant Writing, Strategic Planning, Project Management, Community Engagement
Ask me about: working with Olympic athletes
I can’t live without my: fiance and kids

Dianne Choie, Regional Director-Midwest

midwest@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live:
Brew City/Cream City/Home of the Bronze Fonz, Milwaukee
What I’m drinking: Cola Cola (Classic only, thank you)
My cat’s name: Reggie and Oliver, and my stepcat is Magritte
What hypes me up:  baby animals, children being super weird, bright colors, amazing and inspiring women doing amazing and inspiring things, clothing with fun patterns, especially when it’s a secret pattern in the jacket lining, GOING TO MUSEUMS, seriously.
Nicknames: My sister calls me “Di,” but it’s always awkward when she’s calling out to me in public.
Favorite Museum: Sorry I have to do this superlatives-style: Best Medical Oddities (this is my favorite category): Mutter Museum in Philly | Best Private Collection with Lots of Surrealist Art: Menil Collection in Houston (see also the Cy Twombly gallery next door, which is theirs as well) | Best Extremely Strange Collection of Mostly Junk but It’s Beloved Junk Like if Every Grandma in Town Cleared out Her Attic: Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth or Consequences, NM
Industry pet peeve: The general commitment to tradition and reluctance to look at itself closely and make real changes
Museum specialties: Education from early childhood through teens, but particularly elementary school (taught third grade for two years, woo!)
Ask me about: Podcasts, I am obsessed.
I can’t live without my: Pencil pouch of colored markers

Amy C. Oliver, Regional Director-Southwest

southwest@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live:
Deep deep in the Sonoran Desert, in Rio Rico, Arizona
What I’m drinking: Coffee, black. I’d say like my soul, but you know what they say about gingers…
My cat’s name:  Phanta, like the 1800s horror theatre, not the soda pop; and, Drew, a chonky creamsicle that quacks fatly
What hypes me up: Anything to do with astronomy and astrophysics, Quietly hunting wildlife with my DSLR, Teaching chemistry concepts live, Playing guitar and violin; music amps up my soul!
Nicknames: Ames; Slimey Greaseball (or Greasy Slimeball…there’s a really old story here and I’ve forgotten which Amy was who)
Favorite Museum: Must I choose one? Well then, this museum has closed and moved, but the Children’s Museum of Utah (now the Discovery Gateway) used to be housed in an historic pool and plunge house. I was a volunteer there when I was a teenager and the adventures around the museum and through the old pools and plunge areas are what made me fall deeply in love with history and discovery.
Industry pet peeve:  Lack of opportunity; so many people spend their entire careers in the same place without the opportunity advance or even grow in their current space through trainings and expansion of knowledge and skill.
Museum specialties: Communications, management/administration, strategic planning, exhibits management
Ask me about: My tattoos, how my telescope got his name, and what it was like to work in Cemetery Preservation
I can’t live without my: Criminal Minds series on DVD…don’t judge me…

Jesse Dutton-Kenny, Regional Director-West

west@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live: 
my home sweet home of Oakland, CA
What I’m drinking: Black tea or Stout, fills my Irish heart/stomach
My cat’s name: Fiona, the queen of tortitude
What hypes me up: Making something, anything really, Doing pottery, getting my hands covered in clay, My niblings!, Baking fancy desserts, Checking boxes on a checklist
Nicknames: Jess; chicken (to be fair I’m the big chicken and the cat is the little chicken – our household is weird)
Favorite Museum: I have two! The Gardiner Museum in Toronto, it’s a wonderful ceramics museum! The Oakland Museum of California, probably the first museum I ever went to and the one I return to the most. My ritual every time I go is to visit the baskets in the History Gallery and say hello – see how everyone is doing in the cases.
Industry pet peeve: Gatekeeping; the stunning lack of diversity, and all the barriers to entry that contribute to keeping this field so white (saying that as a white woman with a lot of work to do myself)
Museum specialties: Exhibitions, mount-making, collections care
Ask me about: All my tattoos, some have museum meanings. There is of course one of a chicken.
I can’t live without my: Mugs. I have shelves full of mugs, and I use them all!

Madeline Smolarz, Regional Director-International/Multi-Location

international@nationalempnetwork.org
Where I live:
*gestures North of the border* (Kingston, Ontario, Canada)
What I’m drinking: La Croix, when it’s not appropriate for a G&T
My cat’s plants’ names: Aubrey Plaza, Latrice Royale, Jana Melhoopen-Jonks, Jana Junior, Nirvana, the Tomato Tornados, Purple Rain… many more TBD, I have a lot
What hypes me up: nature (have you BEEN OUTSIDE LATELY?!), good deeds for no reason, museum work teams that reflect the diversity of the people they serve, home cooks (have you SEEN MASTERCHEF LATELY?!), people using museums as their Third Places, a stack of books, someone doing the dishes for me
Nicknames: I tweeted this in September 2020 (emoji replaced with text & pipes added): Maddo: Vous parlez français et nous sommes ami(e)s 11/10|Madeline: lawful good 12/10|Maddie: we’re actually close or you rly underestimate our closeness 10/10 or *side-eye emoji*/10|Mad: you’re my brother; our hearing impaired dad might answer bc yelled thru the house this sounds like dad 8/10”|I’d like to add “Magda” which only my partner calls me to embarrass me as it’s my Polish name and spy alias if I ever need to be a spy. Which is probably never, but…
Favorite Museum: The Bytown Museum in Ottawa, Ontario. Despite crazy circumstances, they stand out with programs, outreach, partnerships, advocacy, exhibitions, and hella good social media. Small museums FTW!
Industry pet peeve: “Thank you so much for interviewing with us at X Museum. Now that the *serious* portion is over (chuckles) we have a minor ‘test’ for you to help us determine your suitability! You’ll have just an hour to design an exhibition using at least 15 objects pulled from this dated collections software, an interpretive plan with 6 sample text panels, and 8 programs in accordance with current learning theory and education curriculum. Regardless of whether you get the job, we’ll keep your ideas on file – which we got for FREE – and probably use them in our 5-10 year plan! That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Okay! Here’s a pencil that’s sure to break and one piece of paper, see you in an hour, bye!!!”
Museum specialties: operations, multi-site management, municipal organizations, rural museums, exhibition research, interpretive copy-writing, social media
Ask me about: the time during an excavation in an Italian field when I climbed into an underground cistern unexplored since its creation 2,000+ years ago
I can’t live without my: network of museum pals, bookmarks, chiropractor, hiking time, extra-long jeans (I’m 5’11), stationery and stamps

NEMPN Committees

Want to become more involved with NEMPN? Join a committee!

Communications Committee 

Finance and Fundraising Committee

Advocacy Committee

Community Community

Resources/Theory and Practice Committee