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May 13, 2016
Hannah Mahnken has known for a long time that she wanted to build her career in museums, and she graduated from Northwest Missouri State University this spring with the confidence and the skills to make her goal a reality.
“I’ve always loved social studies, history and I thought it was a practical way to apply those things,” said Hannah Mahnken, of Schleswig, Iowa, who completed her bachelor’s degree in history with minor in public history. “I also love touching something and knowing there’s history behind it.”
Mahnken says she knew the first time she visited Northwest that she would enroll at the University.
“It was a beautiful fall day on campus and it felt big enough to where I could meet a lot of people and have new experiences, but it was also small enough to where I could make instant connections with classmates and professors and I wouldn’t be just a number in a classroom,” she said. “Also, I met with some professors, and they were just really personable and made me feel at home.”
Mahnken sought to expand her knowledge and push her comfort zone at Northwest. Looking back now, she says she accomplished that.
“Northwest has changed me by making me more aware of what’s around me and what’s out there for me,” she said. “I’m from a really small town, but I’ve met people that grew up in large cities, or even across the world. Just meeting professors who have traveled the world helped me realize what’s out there and what I can accomplish.”
She was a member of the History Club, Alpha Chi honor society and the National Society of Leadership and Success in addition to working at the Northwest Alumni House.
As a history major, Mahnken also had more opportunities than most Northwest students to delve deep into University – and Nodaway County – history.
Mahnken said she learned to become a better communicator at Northwest, but her courses also helped her learn important insights of museum work, including how to handle and accession items for preservation. Her coursework also provided opportunities to apply those skills and assist the Nodaway County Historical Society, for which she created an exhibit about rural childhood in the county.
She spent two trimesters working as an intern in Northwest Archives, creating exhibits about disasters to occur on campus such as the Robert Hall and Administration Building fires. She learned about Northwest’s famous visitors – from Helen Keller to Maya Angelou. And this spring she worked on a special project to identify clothing articles worn in Northwest theater productions.
“Northwest has prepared me in not only giving me practical classroom experience, but also through internships,” she said. “I’ve had four internships in the past year, so that hands-on experience gave me a heads-up on everyone else in getting into graduate school.”
As Mahnken continues to shape her own history, she will begin work toward her master’s degree in museum studies at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro while working as a graduate assistant at the Guilford National Courthouse, a Revolutionary War site that is part of the U.S. national park system.
As she makes that move, Mahnken says the Northwest community has left a lasting impact on her.
“I think the saying ‘Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat’ really embodies what I love about Northwest,” she said. “It’s not just a hashtag someone created a few years ago. It’s been a saying on our campus for a long time and to me that means Northwest is a community. We as Bearcats support each other, we learn together and we celebrate together. It’s just this big Bearcat family, and we don’t ever grow out of that – even after we graduate.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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