When 21-year-old Kate Parsley of White Hall returns soon to Hendrix College in Conway for her senior year of study toward an English degree, she may surprise a professor if she’s given an assignment to write a paper on how she spent her summer vacation.
Instead of devoting her time to “hanging out” with other young students and bypassing responsibility while in pursuit of carefree fun as many folk in her station might seek to do, Parsley worked – without pay – for about 250 hours over eight weeks at the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical Museum. And if she wrote of her experiences as an intern there, she would describe them as “rewarding and educational.”
“I can see myself in the future looking back on my experiences here,” Parsley, a daughter of David and Pat Parsley, said in a recent interview at the facility. “I’ve always had an appreciation for history and museums, and I worked more with objects here than I did people, which I think will make museums more appealing and interesting to me than they’ve been in the past.
“But this was my first time working with the public. I interacted with people more than ever before, and I think that’s helped me to improve my people skills,” she said.
However, the internship may have had an even deeper impact on Parsley, who has a minor in history.
The 2009 White Hall High School graduate and granddaughter of longtime museum volunteer Arleen Parsley of Pine Bluff is now planning on taking a year’s break after earning her degree and then entering law school at an east coast university yet to be determined. And later, as an attorney, Parsley hopes to work – at least in part – with museums and other non-profit operations.
“I think that would be a rewarding thing to do,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to following her career and seeing where her decisions and steps will take her,” said Museum Director Kristi Alexander, a former museum studies instructor at the University of Tennessee. “Kate is more intuitive than most others her age. She’s a very serious student, and I see very big things ahead for her.”
Parsley, who earlier this year traveled to London and toured several museums there, is just as impressed with Alexander and veteran museum volunteer Lynn Gaines.
“Kristi knows a lot about everything,” said Parsley. “She works hard and is so good at planning for the museum’s future. I never really knew what has to be done to keep a museum interesting, changing with the times by updating and changing exhibits. I’ve learned about that from her.”
Gaines, Parsley said, possesses a wealth of knowledge on local civil war history and is always eager to share it with others. “He has been nothing but nice and helpful, and Kristi has been so supportive of me,” said Parsley. “I’ve enjoyed working with them.”
“I wish I could keep her here,” said Alexander. “But I know she’s got a brighter future. I just hope that something she’s learned here will help her in achieving her career and personal successes, and helping others do the same. She may have worked with us for only a couple of months, but she made a big impression in a short time.”