U S I A    A l u m n i

Photo of Carol Owens


Carol Owens, coordinator of public programs at Hillwood Museum and Gardens, learned that while the path to a retirement career requires planning, it also is helped by a large dose of luck.

Carol's civil service career with USIA spanned thirty-two years. During later years, Carol was the Agency's liaison to the East-West Center in Hawaii, working on the Fulbright Scholarship Program in USIA's Academic Exchange Program Division, East Asian Programs Branch.

After two years of true retirement - days of leisure followed by weeks of travel - Carol entered Hillwood's guide training program in the fall of 1996. She had planned to work or volunteer in a museum by taking several art history courses and selected Hillwood because of its renowned collection of French and imperial Russian decorative arts. She "graduated" as a guide in the spring of 1997 and happily began what she anticipated would be a once-a-week commitment at most. Some months later, she was asked if she would like to work part-time in the museum's Office of Public Programs. She was selected, out of a field of sixty guides, because of her experience at USIA. While the Hillwood directors recognized full well her past career in educational and public affairs efforts, they realized the skills and work habits she had developed would be totally transferable. The ability to prioritize projects, organize events, edit a newsletter, communicate with people, speak in public, and write, write, write, are applicable from one field to another, from public to private sector.

What began as a par-time job soon evolved into a hectic schedule when the head of the office left to pursue her second career, motherhood. As the museum undertook a natioinawide search for a new education director, an effort that would take ten months, Carol organized lectures, workshops, and day trips on topics ranging from porcelain to Pushkin, form orchid potting and English enamels to the history of the Romanovs and azalea pruning. She wrote press releases, worked with Hillwood's book club (Russian classics) and with the Levine School of Music on a jointly-sponsored concert series. Carol was invited to join two committees, one which developed the museum's website (www.hillwoodmuseum.org), and another which will be working for the next several months on improving visitor services and materials.

With the arrival of a new museum educator and two additional, professional public affairs staff members, Carol asked to go on the schedule she originally agreed to, three days a week plus special events. Not that she regrets a moment of this past year. It was stimulating and great fun. But having a professional job in a field one loves on a part-time basis is the best of all possible worlds.