Professor Spotlight – The Illustrious Elee Wood

Happy Monday!

Once a month we spotlight a fantastic and interesting professor in the MSTD department at IUPUI by asking them 10 get-to-know-you questions.  Click here to subscribe to see other monthly professor spotlights, as well as alumni and student posts weekly!

Today is the turn of our illustrious leader, department director Elee Wood!

Distinguished Professor, Dr. Elee Wood, Director Museum Studies Program, IUPUI, 2-26-15
Distinguished Professor, Dr. Elee Wood, Director Museum Studies Program, IUPUI, 2-26-15
  1. What inspires you?

I get inspiration from lots of different aspects of life. My husband always says that I have an almost insatiable, spirited sense of curiosity that allows me to find wonder and excitement in almost anything. I’m most inspired by powerful experiences that really get my mind thinking. A recent inspiring came from watching the Progress Theatre performance of The Burnin’ at the Imagining America Conference in Atlanta. It reminded me of the importance of theatre (my undergraduate degree and favorite things about high school), and how we can use many different mediums to interpret and transmit messages.

  1. Who is your role model?

When I was growing up Susan B. Anthony was big for me, I even dressed up as her for Halloween one year. I think as a teacher Dr. Who, Willy Wonka, and Yoda all serve as models in some way. In the museum field, I really admire the work of John Cotton Dana, Stephen Weil, Elaine Gurian, Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, and George Hein.

  1. What is your greatest professional achievement?

I think I have many and each year tops the one before, so I think I can say this past year I’ve been most proud of being the recipient of the John Cotton Dana Award for Leadership in Museums from the Education Committee of the American Alliance of Museums. What is important to me about that award really is that I was nominated by a Museum Studies alumna and that the award recognizes the work of someone who promotes and advocates for the civic and educational role of the museum in communities.

  1. What is your greatest non-professional achievement?

Oddly enough I have to say managing to win the Presidential Physical Fitness Award in 7th grade. I don’t know if they do this any more but it was a whole list of physical challenges that you had to do above a certain level in order to get it. I was never very athletic as a kid, so being able to actually achieve something that was hard for me was really important. It helped me see that even when something seems out of reach that I can do it if I really focus and commit to making it happen.

  1. Where is one place you have always wanted to visit but just haven’t been able to yet?


  1. “If you remember nothing else…” – what do you want students to take away from your teaching?

This made me laugh because I know I say this pretty much every other week in every class I teach. But, I think it is this: No matter where you go or what you end up doing in your life, your education is never a waste. The “what” and “how” of your learning will become useful and useless throughout your life; what is important is that you learn to ask good questions, never take anything for granted and always keep asking “why?” The best thing that an education gives you, whatever it may be, is a way to think, a way to give perspective to the world, and a way to question.

  1. What was your favorite class in high school? Why?

I loved most everything in high school because it was interesting (see “spirited curiosity” above). What mattered most to me in high school was being in the drama club. In theatre I learned a lot about what it means to be collectively creative, to work as part of team, to feel the thrill of possibility and potential. My high school put on 5 shows a year and I was part of every single one for four years (plus some extras over the summer). I learned to do everything in theatre from acting to directing, stage managing, publicity, and box office. I learned about excellence, taking criticism, and making do.

  1. Where would you go in a time machine?

To meet the Doctor wherever he/she is at the moment.

  1. What is/was the most successful exhibit you helped to create/curate/develop?

What is sticking with me still is the Power of Children exhibit at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. That was one of the first major exhibits that I did in my role as public scholar, and one which I have spent much time writing and thinking about since.

  1. If you were a flower, what kind would you be?

Considering that I am a horrible gardener and have no green thumb to speak of, I don’t know flowers. I think I’m a hearty flower that can stand up to the frost, and have a pretty good outlook regardless of the weather. I looked up what this is and here’s what I am: Bergenia cordifolia Winter Glow (and oddly, sometimes known as pigsqueak!).

Distinguished Professor, Dr. Elee Wood, Director Museum Studies Program, IUPUI, 2-26-15
Distinguished Professor, Dr. Elee Wood, Director Museum Studies Program, IUPUI, 2-26-15

Thank you to Professor Wood for taking the time to answer our questions – subscribe to see more professor spotlights and alumni and student blogs.  You can also follow us on Twitter and FB using @MSTD_IUPUI!

Her IUPUI bio -“Elee Wood is associate professor and director of the Museum Studies Program in the School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) with a joint appointment in education, IU School of Education. In addition, she serves as the public scholar of museums, families, and learning in a joint appointment with The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis working specifically on audience research and evaluation, and exhibition development. The Museum Studies Program at IUPUI emphasizes public scholarship, civic engagement, and in training professionals to serve museums and their communities. Wood’s research interests include action-oriented phenomenology, object-based learning, critical museum pedagogies, and evaluation capacity building. Elee got her start in museums as a Wizard Wing volunteer at the Milwaukee Public Museum and worked as an exhibit developer and public programs manager at Minnesota Children’s Museum. She holds a PhD in Education for Community and MEd in Youth Development Leadership from the University of Minnesota and a BA in Dramatic Arts from Macalester College. Elee Wood is an active member of the Visitor Studies Association, American Evaluation Association, and the American Alliance of Museums.” 1

1. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.  (2015).  Liberal Arts @ IUPUI.  Retrieved from:


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