Students highlighted for Graduate Student Appreciation Week overview image

Students highlighted for Graduate Student Appreciation Week

  • Post Date: 10/30/2020
  • Author: Katya Reno, marketing and communications coordinator
  • Reading Time: 6 minute read

It’s Graduate Student Appreciation Week here at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Here are just a few of the incredible graduate students that we have been lucky enough to work with.

Larissa Almanza (2019–2020)

As a graduate student in costume design, Larissa used her sewing and design skills at the Spurlock to help build custom-made mannequins. She also altered costumes for our recent In Her Closet—How to Make a Drag Queen exhibit. She worked closely with the artists to ensure that each drag queen was accurately represented in the exhibit. Larissa also developed a template to create customized dust-covers for the Museum’s over-sized plaster casts. Read about her and other student work on our blog: Student Involvement in Creating the In Her Closet Exhibit.

Kathryn (Kati) Fay (2010–2013)

Kati helped Collections staff on a diverse set of preservation projects, including artifact cleaning, condition reporting, and reorganizing, as well as exhibit design and installation. She spent substantial time examining and documenting the museum’s 1,700-piece cuneiform tablet collection. Kati is currently the assistant manager for exhibitions, art collections, and registration at the Denver Botanical Gardens.

Sadia Mazid (2017 to present)

Sadia currently works as a museum educator with the Big History program, which includes a series of social studies outreach programs presented to area sixth graders. The programs are hands-on and artifact-based, and Sadia has become an expert in engaging the middle schoolers while ensuring the safety of the objects. During the pandemic, Sadia has worked with education staff to create a new program in the series and move our programs to a virtual format.

Tatiana Niculescu (2013–2017)

Tatiana helped on a wide range of preservation projects during her time at the Spurlock, including artifact cleaning, condition report-writing, reshaping, storing, and packing of artifact collections. Tatiana is currently a museum technician (aka archeologist) for the Office of Historic Alexandria, in Virginia, where she helps identify and protect newly uncovered historical materials/sites during current construction projects in the city. You can read more about her on our blog post, "Spurlock Museum Alum Highlight: Tatiana Niculescu".

Susana (Xuxa) Rodriguez (2014–2017)

Xuxa was the driving force on multiple large-scale administrative projects, such as updating museum-wide policies and creating the framework for our Preservation Plan. One of the most impactful initiatives Xuxa worked on was creating the museum’s Risk Management Plan, which helps museum staff anticipate and mitigate threats/damage to the artifact collection. You can read more about this important work on our blog post, “Risky Business: Spurlock’s Risk Management Plan Is Done!”

Leslie Straus (2018–2019)

Leslie filled the unique role of sewing specialist within Collections. She designed and sewed custom-made storage mounts and dust covers for artifacts, as well as highly-specialized mannequins for our recent In Her Closet: How to Make a Drag Queen exhibit. [hyperlink to exhibit info here] Leslie is currently an archivist and assistant registrar at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Check out the blog post she wrote about her work at Spurlock: "Sewing For Spurlock".

Jon W. Sweitzer-Lamme (2016–2017)

Jon worked with Collections to create a training document for the handling, assessing, and storing of ethnographic textile collections. He also researched and implemented specific housing practices for the museum’s military uniforms. Jon is currently a collections conservation technician at the Library of Congress. Read our blog post for more about his work planning and implementing storage for military uniforms and objects: "At Attention–Storing Our Militaria Textiles".