Auslander moves on to Michigan State
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CWU is losing a faculty member when Mark Auslander, the director of the Museum of Culture and Environment, leaves for the Michigan State University [MSU] Museum on July 1.
Auslander, an associate professor of anthropology and museum studies, was contacted by a “headhunting firm” to become the new director of the MSU Museum. The move is one that will advance Auslander’s career, as MSU’s museum is a larger and more well-known museum than CWU’s.
The Museum of Culture and Environment at CWU has over 10,000 objects and one staff member that is full-time. The MSU Museum has one million objects in different subjects and 35 staff members.
“And of course it’s a research one university, a much larger profile,” Auslander said. According to the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education, research one universities are colleges that have doctoral programs with high research activity.
J. Hope Amason, an assistant professor of anthropology and museum studies at CWU, said that even though her and Auslander have collaborated on projects for the Museum of Culture and Environment, she was aware of his work before her arrival at CWU.
“That’s probably where I’ve come to know Mark most, but actually I knew Mark before I ever came here,” Amason said.
During graduate school, Amason read a book by John and Jean Comaroff. Jean Comaroff was the chair of the dissertation committee at the University of Chicago, Auslander’s alma mater for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees. Auslander wrote a chapter within the book, “Open the Wombs!: The Symbolic Politics of Modern Ngoni Witchfinding” from his research in Zambia.
Amason began to admire Auslander’s anthropology work from there.
“In spring 2011, I saw that he was coming to interview for the position as museum director and was pretty excited [because] he was someone [whose work] I read in grad school,” Amason said.
She said that it was thrilling when he accepted the job in fall of 2011 as well.
“I think we’re going to pick up the pieces and we’re going to chug along, the way that we have been,” Amason said.
Amason said that she will become the interim director of the museum for next year and they’ve already started preparing the museum for projects ahead. She said that she will be helping students with internships and teaching classes like Exhibit Design and Introduction to Museum, which she has done previously.
Auslander said that the job at MSU is an appealing option and while he enjoys Ellensburg, it was a serious career opportunity where he could broaden what he’s accomplished so far with the Museum of Culture and Environment.
“I’m honored to join the MSU Museum, a museum known for the remarkable depth and breadth of its scientific and cultural collections and for its innovative exhibits and public programs,” Auslander said in a press release on March 21 by MSU Today.
Auslander is scheduled to begin his new position on July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, according to MSU Today.