Advocate at work
Advocate at work
H eidi Schureck, ’19, (they/them/theirs) is enthusiastic about working with others to create a more just world. They don’t think twice about getting involved. While a student at Georgia College, Schureck worked with school and community entities, and continues to do so in their profession as an education facilitator at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History and a play facilitator at the Children's Museum of Atlanta. They also lead the charge for community alliances as the director of Partnerships for the National Emerging Museum Professionals (EMP) Network.
At Fernbank, Schureck engages with youth through educational programs. It’s their favorite thing to do as a museum professional.
“It’s incredibly rewarding, especially when you see them light up about something,” they said. “I’m a life-long learner. When I work with kids, they keep my imagination flowing and motivate me to keep opening my mind to new concepts, because they're so creative. The questions they ask sometimes blow my mind.”
Schureck’s also involved in the museum’s newly-formed Community Action Committee, which seeks to develop partnerships while strengthening existing ones.
“We wish to further the mission of Fernbank, which is about science, nature and human culture, as well as igniting the curiosity and exploration around that,” they said. “I’m a little enthusiastic when it comes to being involved.”
Schureck’s a member of the Southeastern Museums Conference’s Equity and Inclusion Action Team and co-chair for the Atlanta EMP Network.
They got their start in leadership at Georgia College, where they were a double major in art and liberal studies.
Schureck was head art editor with The Peacock’s Feet Journal, the literary and arts journal of Georgia College; co-president of the Student Museum Association and treasurer of the Environmental Science Club. Schureck was also a member of the Creative Arts Alliance, Gardening Club and Pride Alliance.
They always sought to belong to organizations that brought people together through art, culture and nature.
“Joining these organizations helped me do just that—to work with people who had common goals and find a community to have a sense of belonging,” they said.
“Because I was drawn to many different organizations, I was also able to collaborate with them,” they said. “If I saw an organization working on something, and it correlated with what another one was doing, I'd create a partnership. I especially loved those moments when we had different realizations in what could be.”
For three years, Schureck was a docent and interpretive guide at Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion (OGM). They interpreted a 19th century collection for guests on guided tours, installed new exhibits and led school programs.
“I'm very fortunate to have facilitated the conversations I had with guests,” they said. “A lot of them were about pretty traumatic historical events.”
"Some of the conversations I had at the OGM are the most formative conversations for me as a white person,” they said. “It helped me recognize my responsibility to continually unlearn racist ideologies and organize towards collective liberation. I think having a welcoming environment for folks to reflect on these historical events and structural inequities and injustices we’re seeing reverberated today is so important.”
Matt Davis, director of Historic Museums at Georgia College was a huge mentor to Schureck.
“He's constantly lifting up his employees, student workers—past and present,” they said. “Matt really opened up his network of museum professionals to me and always makes me aware of opportunities.”
Davis got them in touch with the Southeastern Museums Conference, which recently featured Schureck in “Ones to Watch.” This profile highlights up-and-coming, talented museum professionals, who are making an impact across the region.
They tear up as Schureck reminisces about their time at Georgia College. One of their favorite things was studying in the library with friends and chatting with former Georgia College Custodian Carl Hubbard. He brought them through a difficult time.
“Carl was always there to say I could get through this, and that I was going to do great,” Schureck said. “He also came to my capstone event.”
Schureck fondly recognizes their professors and mentors: Dr. Sabrina Hom, Dr. Sunita Manian, Ernesto Gomez, Valerie Aranda, Bill Fisher and Dr. Fadhili Mshana.
Another special memory was spending time with friends on Front Campus and participating in Earth Fest held on Earth Day. Since they were an officer of the Environmental Science Club, they helped organize the events.
“It was so amazing,” Schureck said. “A lot of local organizations were able to work with me to bring up really important issues like the coal ash ponds at the former Georgia Power Plant. We also worked with Keep Baldwin Beautiful, the Harrisburg Community Garden, Green Market, the Georgia College Sustainability office and our sister clubs on campus to discuss important issues.”
Georgia College was a safe environment, where Schureck could speak their mind.
“My professors made sure students respected each other during class discussions. They taught us to really listen to what other students had to say,” they said. “We would sit in a circle, so we were facing each other. This arrangement was a welcoming environment to hold discussions.”
The class would discuss what they had read and debate points on which they didn’t agree.
“This was such a challenge,” Schureck said. “It really taught me to think independently, because combing through a lot of research and coming from the mindset of others that you may not agree with, makes you understand why you think the way you do and even change your opinion, which is an important lesson.”
Today, Schureck applies the leadership skills they learned at Georgia College to their career and community involvement.
“Oftentimes, we're taught we're not capable of being a leader, because our attributes are the opposite of what a leader 'should' be,” they said, “and that being vulnerable is usually 'not' a sign of a leader.”
Schureck's experience at Georgia College taught them that emotional intelligence and vulnerability are valuable leadership skills.
“I learned to recognize my intersectional identity, because I'm not just a queer femme neurodivergent person,” they said. “I'm also white and come from an economically stable family. And I think it's important to recognize those biases and listen to the multitude of perspectives around us, so we can unlearn oppressive systems and really imagine what an inclusive system can be and work towards that.”
Schureck's time organizing with others at Georgia College taught them one crucial concept.
“Surround yourself with people who support you and those around you,” Schureck said. “When you see someone succeeding that means you are capable too. It takes small steps to make big ones. Build your community. I believe we are interdependent. Think of who you are connected to. How can you propel each other forward? I think this will give us the potential to accomplish our dreams.”