Discovering the Expansive World of an Art Degree in a Museum Studies Class

Nina Dreiling
Nina Dreiling (’11) with museum exhibit

When Nina Dreiling (‘11) first came to Southern Virginia University to pursue an art degree, she had no idea the impact her professors and a museum studies class would have on her life and career.

“I absolutely loved taking Professor Crawford’s art history classes,” said Dreiling. “I didn’t know what I was going to do with what I learned, but I was passionate about it. When I learned about the behind the scenes of museums with their art collections in her museum studies class, her passion for the topic developed a passion in me, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Currently serving as the director of exhibits and facilities at Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa, Florida, Dreiling oversees a team that designs, builds, and manages the interactive children exhibits and other physical elements, as well as the facilities, for the entire museum.

“Being an art major doesn’t mean you have to be an artist,” said Dreiling, “Until I learned that as a student, I felt very limited in my career options, but there’s a million different avenues you can take. At Southern Virginia you take a lot of classes covering various topics, and taking art classes with that liberal arts background really opened my eyes to a lot of ways to view the world, which I firmly believe enhanced my learning.”

Nina Dreiling
(All photos curtesy of Nina Dreiling)

“The professors are incredible,” she continued. “They care about you, and they really know what they’re talking about. And they are so passionate about what they teach that it rubs off on you.”

Dreiling was introduced to Southern Virginia by a childhood friend attending the university. Though she had planned to attend another school, the friend persuaded Dreiling to visit campus, and she quickly fell in love.

“I absolutely loved the campus; it was so beautiful,” said Dreiling. “I had a feeling that it was the place I needed to be, so I changed my plans very quickly, applied, and got in. That fall I drove up and I got to be roommates with my best friend, whom I’d known since we were six.”

As a student, Dreiling’s professors introduced her to a variety of art experiences and views including taking class out of the art building—around campus and up the Blue Ridge Mountains. Becoming mentors and close friends to her, Dreiling quickly learned how much her professors were invested in her success.

“Halfway through my freshman year there was a week or two that I was having a hard time and wasn’t going to class,” Dreiling said. “But then I had the professor show up at my door and take me to breakfast so that I would get out of bed, and it just felt like such a personal experience. I didn’t even know college could be like that. It was just very special.”

After graduating from Southern Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in fine/studio arts in 2011, Dreiling worked as the assistant director of exhibits at the Thanksgiving Point Institute from 2013–20. She now lives in Florida with her husband, Ricky, and their three children.

“Southern Virginia University is such a strong, uplifting community with many helpful, wonderful people,” said Dreiling. “It was an amazing experience. Both of my younger sisters ended up going there because of my time there, and I hope one day my kids go. It was fantastic.”