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Alumni Snapshots: Q&A with Tricia Edwards '88

Alumni Director Carrie MacVean Grimes '91 and Tricia Edwards '88 connected this fall, when Tricia reached out about serving as an alumni mentor. They are collaborating on possible future partnerships with Severn students and alumni at The Smithsonian, where Tricia serves as the Associate Director for Affiliations. 
When did you graduate from Severn? I graduated in 1988.

Where do you live now and how did you end up there? I actually live very close to Severn – just about 10 minutes away! After graduate school, I got a job in DC and moved back to the area. I’ve been here ever since.

What stops have you made along the way? I went to college in southwest Virginia in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and then moved to Delaware where I attended graduate school. As I was finishing up, I decided I wanted to move back to the DC/MD area and started job-hunting. I was lucky to land a great job at a non-profit in DC.

Please tell us about your professional/career journey thus far: What did/do you enjoy most about your career? I’ve spent most of my career in education in some form. When I graduated from college, I taught pre-school. During graduate school, I joined the education staff at the Delaware Museum of Natural History in Wilmington, where I developed student and family programs related to the museum’s exhibitions and collections. When I returned to Maryland, I became the Education Director for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the organization that built The Wall on the National Mall, developing secondary school curriculum and professional development programs for classrooms across the country. After several years, I found I really missed working in a museum and moved to the Baltimore Museum of Industry where I led the education department, and later joined the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History. As the Center’s Head of Education I created Spark!Lab, a hands on invention workspace at the Smithsonian, eventually licensing the concept to other museums in the US and abroad and launching a retail product line under the Spark!Lab brand. About a year ago, I was ready for new challenges and joined Smithsonian Affiliations. As its Associate Director, I lead a team dedicated to bringing Smithsonian content, resources, and expertise to 200+ partner organizations across the US, Puerto Rico, and Panama. I came to Affiliations at a time of great transition for the organization, which has offered me an exciting opportunity to rethink how the organization works and to consider ways we can better fulfill the Smithsonian’s strategic goals. What I’ve enjoyed about each of these roles is having the chance to enrich the lives of individuals and their communities with new ideas, opportunities, and ways of thinking. Being able to create or facilitate an “aha!” moment for someone experiencing something new is about as good as it gets!

What influence did Severn have on your life’s path? Your career path? Severn gave me a wonderful foundation, and helped me to build skills that have served me well: good study habits, effective time management, strong organizational abilities, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to communicate effectively. Severn gave me the confidence to feel comfortable sharing my views and ideas—even when they might be different from others’—and helped me develop the ability to make a strong and convincing argument. Also, I’ve never really let go of the dress code. I still dress up for work every day and find that on the rare occasion I’m in casual clothes – a la “No Dress Day” – it’s hard for me to get anything done!

What are your favorite things to do in your free time? I’m an avid runner and cyclist, and love doing DIY projects around my house. Also, there’s nothing better than settling in with a good book.

If you could give advice to the Class of 2019 what would it be? Follow your own path. Don’t get caught up in someone else’s expectations or ideas of success. There are many ways to be successful; choose the way that makes you happy and fulfilled.

Tell us about 2 things that bring you joy in life. Spending time with my family (including brothers Jim c/o ’82 and Rich c/o ’85), and being on, in or near the water.

What teachers had the most influence on you at Severn? My Latin teachers – Mr. Domenech, Mr. Lynch, and Mr. Heslin

What is one of your favorite Severn memories? I have such fond memories of being part of musical productions at Severn—from The King and I and The Pajama Game in middle school to high school productions of Bye, Bye Birdie, Godspell, and even a couple musicals we wrote ourselves! The shows were filled with camaraderie and teamwork, stretched me as a performer, and helped me to build confidence in front of an audience.

What is the most valuable asset you inherited from your Severn education? Learning how to think. Severn taught me to think critically, to evaluate, to make sound judgements, and develop educated opinions.

Did Severn have a lasting impact on who you are today? If so, in what ways? In addition to the things I’ve already mentioned, Severn gave me lifelong friendships. Some of my closest friends today are people I went to Severn with – such a wonderful gift!

What 3 words would you use to describe Severn School? Foundational, nurturing, challenging
 
 
 
 
    • Tricia Edwards '88

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