Vashawn Gray stands outside
By Roanoke College News

Internship exposes Environmental Studies major to complexities of museums

Vashawn Gray learned much about the complexities of running a museum from his internship at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.  

Gray, who is a senior environmental studies major from Martinsville, converted an existing pollinator garden into an exhibit display, adding educational information about the plants in the pollinator garden and the types of native pollinators in the local area.  

Gray created a mascot graphic for the pollinator exhibit to help make the information more colorful and attractive to children. Gray, who has a minor in creative writing, also created a booklet about the pollinator garden and a presentation that could be used for groups or virtual meetings. 

"My passion project was the pollinator exhibit,” Gray said.  

Gray worked closely with Dr. Joe Keiper, the executive director of the museum. Gray shadowed Keiper through all aspects of museum operations. He attended meetings with him and learned about the different aspects of museum operations, including fundraising, events, working with the board and more.  


“My passion project was the pollinator exhibit.”

Vashawn Gray ’22, environmental studies major

“A lot of collaborative effort is required for one exhibit,” Gray said. “There’s a rigorous process to ensure information was correct. You cannot do it alone.”  

Gray said he enjoyed the experience. He also helped edit and work on an exhibition about minerals. For Entomology Day, he learned how to properly pin and display bugs and insects. He also digitized maps.  

“It was very informative,” he said. “I’d love to work for a museum.” 

Dr. DorothyBelle Poli, professor of biology at Roanoke College, helped Gray connect with the museum. Poli is a research associate at the museum and has been involved in many research projects with the museum.  

“Dr. Poli hooked me up,” Gray said. “I want to thank her for it. She provided me with a great experience, one I would really recommend to other people. I would do it again. It was really fun and informative."