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Alum Lands Dream Job
With New England Patriots

RELEASED: July 13, 2006

Brent Hensel
Brent Hensel

EAU CLAIRE — A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumnus was recently hired by the New England Patriots, not to play football but to start the team's new museum and hall of fame.

Brent Hensel, the first student to complete the university's new graduate certificate in public history, left his position as the director of Boys and Girls Club of Jackson County this month to become the Patriots' curator and team librarian.

"I'm excited to be working for the New England Patriots, one of the best-run organizations in sports, and to pursue my dream job of being a curator of a museum and working for a professional sports organization," said Hensel, who grew up in Black River Falls. "I have always loved professional football and have been a lifelong Packer fan. I will always love the Packers, yet will be shifting my allegiances slightly."

He will help the Patriots start the process of building a team museum and hall of fame, scheduled to open by 2008, and serve as curator and team historian. It will be his job to inventory their collection of artifacts, help acquire items they need for the museum, and help create the museum.

Hensel, who previously taught high school social studies for two years in Prairie du Sac, said he decided to pursue a graduate certificate in public history because he was looking for the opportunity to use his graduate degree in history in a non-teaching field.

After completing the public history coursework, he applied for and received an internship during the summer of 2004 as collections intern with the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

"I basically was trained to be a curator of a museum. I learned accessioning of a collection including categorizing, labeling, identification numbering and storage of artifacts. I learned the skills of researching artifacts, restoration and design and implementation of exhibits," he said. "UW-Eau Claire and the public history program gave me the academic understanding, resources and opportunities that led up to this opportunity."

John W. W. Mann, an assistant professor of history and project director of the Learning by Doing graduate certificate program, said the three-year-old public history program is designed to prepare students for careers in history outside of the academic realm, such as in museums, historic preservation, documentary film and video, cultural resource management and the private sector in general.

"In addition, the program is intended to give students some understanding of the theory and practice of these various pursuits and when possible provide some actual practical experiences," Mann said. "We have had students intern at national parks, Civil War battlefields and various museums."

Mann said Hensel's story illustrates what the public history program can provide. "Brent came back for the MA because he loves history but was not interested in being a classroom teacher. He learned about the different career possibilities available and decided he was interested in the museum world."

According to Mann, the history department at UW-Eau Claire has long been involved in local and regional public history, but degree offerings in the field are relatively new. Today UW-Eau Claire offers a public history emphasis for undergraduate majors and a graduate certificate in public history for graduate students. In addition, the history department and Center for History Teaching and Learning, in partnership with the Chippewa Valley Museum and CESA 10, are running an innovative two-year graduate program for area history teachers called "Learning by Doing: Public History in the Classroom," funded by the U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History Program.

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JW/JP

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