Briana Gonzalez (M.A. Arts Leadership ’17) joined the University of Houston’s Arts Leadership program fresh out of undergraduate studies. After earning her bachelor’s degree in art history from Baylor University in the fall of 2014, she became one of the first Master of Arts in Arts Leadership (MAAL) students the following spring. The groundbreaking program, launched by Fleurette Fernando in 2013, caught Gonzalez’s attention for a number of reasons — she was excited by the flexibility, the potential to grow with a new program and the chance to build upon her background in art history. But, perhaps most importantly, it was located in her hometown of Houston, a city she had been homesick for during her years in Waco, Texas.
“I love it here and I wanted to be closer to my family and friends,” she says. “Plus, this program was exciting because so many things seemed possible. I was able to completely tailor it to my interests.”
Because the MAAL program is small — only about ten applicants are accepted each semester — students have lots of one-on-one time with Fernando, allowing them to craft an individualized program of study that speaks to their career goals. “Fleurette is really great at understanding people’s strengths and weaknesses — and remembering what their interests are,” says Gonzalez, whose passion lies in museum administration and education. “I knew I wanted to work in a museum, but I didn’t have any experience going into the program.” With Fernando’s guidance, Gonzalez enrolled in museum education courses at the College of Education and landed a practicum with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) as an exhibitions fellow.
Now, as she wraps up her final semester of grad school, Gonzalez is perfectly poised for a career in the arts. After her successful practicum, she was offered a full-time role as the MFAH’s administrative assistant of exhibitions, a brand new position in the department.
Though Deborah L. Roldán, assistant director of exhibitions for the MFAH and Gonzalez’s supervisor, wanted to expand her team for nearly two years, her plan was only approved this year after she presented it with Gonzalez in mind. “I have no doubt that my praise of [Briana] and the fact that she could step right into the role were factors to its being approved by the executive officers,” she says. “We feel very fortunate that she will be staying on with us.”
The feeling is mutual. “I love it. Every morning I walk in here and I’m just so excited that I work here,” says Gonzalez. “It makes me so happy.”