Allison Miller Schwanebeck ’06, spent weeks this year obsessed with a dinosaur. For a woman in her late 20s, the preoccupation may seem strange. But for Schwanebeck, it was all in a day’s work.
Schwanebeck was recently promoted to Director of Exhibits at the Science Center of Iowa, where she has worked in varying positions since graduation. One of the first traveling exhibits she took on was “A T. rex Named Sue,” a 42-foot-long cast of the largest Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. The exhibit is at the Science Center in Des Moines through May 12, on loan from The Field Museum in Chicago. Schwanebeck coordinated the exhibit’s visit to Iowa.
The actual assembly of Sue—a kind of giant 3-D jigsaw puzzle—took her team less than eight hours. But she also organized the exhibit materials, designed accompanying displays and helped build a large pit for digging up mock dino bones.
In her position, Schwanebeck is in charge of all the permanent and traveling exhibits at the Science Center. They are in the process of creating a new permanent exhibit, a monumental undertaking. She has also worked with Egyptian artifacts and mummies and learned about the human exploration of Mars in the traveling exhibits “Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science” and “Facing Mars.”
“I get to do a little bit of everything,” she says of the position. “Not only do I plan exhibits, but I also work on large-scale projects. I get to be creative and learn about many different topics. A liberal arts education teaches you to love learning.”
Although she didn’t major in the sciences at Central, Schwanebeck still uses her Central education every day. A theatre and art double major while in college, she particularly draws on the skills she learned in the Arts Management course with Ann Wilkinson, a class she first dreaded taking.
Schwanebeck was also a founding member of the improvisational group at Central and participated in the A Cappella Choir and Chamber Singers. She has found that the arts and the sciences aren’t as strange of bedfellows as most people think.
“The skills I learned through improv, acting and public speaking help me do my job every day,” she says.
Also beneficial was her time spent with Central College Abroad in Leiden, the Netherlands, and London, England, where she interned at a theatre museum. “I really loved studying abroad,” she recalls. “The study abroad program was one of the things that drew me to Central College. The experiences I had overseas are very precious to me.”
In a time when jobs in the health, science and technology fields are booming, Schwanebeck encourages current students not to discount majors in the arts. With diverse coursework, internships and co-curricular activities, students who major in theatre, music and art can land a job in many fields. Central’s liberal arts education exposes students to many disciplines, which Schwanebeck says is a plus because new careers are being created every day.
“The arts are important to the college experience because they teach you skills that can’t be learned from a research paper, lecture or test,” she explains. “Creativity, self-expression, communication and collaboration are key in today’s workplace. The arts allow you to look at the world—and your studies—from fresh viewpoints that challenge you.”