Ashley McCloskey was in the final year of her undergraduate dance program when a summer residency in New York City helped her decide that pursuing dance as a career wasn’t the right path for her future.
As she finished her bachelor’s degree, Ashley’s professors pointed her in the direction of arts administration, a field in which she could integrate her knowledge of the performing arts with her organizational and interpersonal skills.
An advertisement for the MA in Arts Administration program at UM-Flint prompted Ashley (who was living in Ann Arbor) to visit campus. A conversation with faculty made it clear that this was the right program for her, and Ashley began taking courses while working full-time at a brokerage firm. Classes were held at night on campus, and the flexibility of part-time enrollment meant that she could continue working while earning her degree.
“I liked that all of my professors were actually working in the field, not just teaching in a classroom,” Ashley explains. She points to a grant writing class taught by the former executive director for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs John Bracey as a prime example of the practical instruction she received as a UM-Flint Arts Administration student.
It was Ashley’s last class in the program that truly set her down her current path. ADM 510: Fundraising and Planned Giving opened Ashley’s eyes to the world of non-profit development. Her job at the brokerage firm meant she was knowledgeable about many of the financial intricacies that go hand-in-hand with charitable giving. For Ashley, it became clear where her skills were best suited.
After earning her master’s degree from UM-Flint, Ashley took a position as the Assistant Director of Annual Giving at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor. She has since become a major gifts officer for the Ross School of Business, meeting with potential donors to help advance the school’s mission.
The transitions from the performing arts, to a botanical garden, to business school development may seem drastic, but Ashley believes there are more similarities than differences, and that the skills she gained from the MA in Arts Administration program have translated in each step of her career.
“Yes, there are a lot of differences—my offices are different, the people I meet with are different. But they are all trying to make the world a better place, just using different avenues. That is what I am passionate about.”
When looking back on her experience at UM-Flint, Ashley acknowledges that working full-time in Ann Arbor and taking courses in Flint took some sacrifices, but they were well worth making.
“Whatever is important to you, you have to find time for it. I knew I had something more to offer the world, and UM-Flint helped to do that,” Ashley says.