Unconventional path to becoming Woody Guthrie Center director - The University of Tulsa
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Unconventional path to becoming Woody Guthrie Center director

woman speaking at lecternGraduates of The University of Tulsa often showcase the incredible ability to obtain careers that utilize their passions while enhancing their professional worth. Cady Shaw (BA ’99) is doing just that in her role as director of the Woody Guthrie Center in the Tulsa Arts District.

Having graduated with a degree in communications, Shaw applied her marketing and communications abilities to real work experiences in her first job at KOTV. “What I value most from my time at TU are the writing skills that I sharpened,” Shaw said. “Every course I took was essentially a writing class, even algebra. From drafting an email to writing exhibit panels, it has served me well throughout the years.”

Navigating passion and career

Shaw did not intend to become a museum expert, saying her true passion lay in history. “I was convinced I needed a job out of school that would allow me to afford the cost of living,” she said, “so I made history my minor while I focused on PR and communications.”

This path undoubtedly added to her skill set as a museum professional. “I fell into museum work while I was at Cherokee Nation,” Shaw said. “They were starting a cultural tourism program and I was working on event planning, but my writing and research skills led to me creating the first exhibit, and I was hooked.”

Diving deep into historical topics and disseminating valuable knowledge spoke to Shaw’s passion for history. “I’ve pursued museum work ever since,” she said.

Collaboration and creativity

People examining artifactAs its director, Shaw is responsible for the operation of the Woody Guthrie Center, which is dedicated to promoting the life and mission of Woody Guthrie. Shaw makes facility decisions, meets with donors and members, oversees staff and their exhibit work, partners with other businesses and so much more.

“I like to tell people that museum work is fluid,” Shaw said. “One day you’ll be placing a priceless artifact inside an exhibit case and the next you’ll be working with the HVAC. There are no typical days because every day is different, and I love that.”

Like many TU grads, Shaw appreciates being at the center of Tulsa’s Arts District. Businesses in the area collaborate to provide unique experiences for visitors, fostering a cohesive blend of enthusiasm, ideas and a shared aspiration for a more creative and inclusive community, Shaw said – just like the TU family continually works toward.

“TU alums are community-focused, and I think that speaks to TU’s influence of giving back to the community and creating the places that you want to be part of,” she said. “In my experience, TU graduates are dependable, creative, and passionate. There is never a dull moment.”

Success in a dynamic world

A lover of literature and delicious treats, theater and live music, film and museums, Shaw’s passions are endless, and her dedication reaches beyond the boundaries of the museum. As a mother of three, she often finds herself stretched thin. Nevertheless, Shaw’s husband consistently steps in to share the family responsibilities, lightening the heavy load. “I couldn’t do what I do without him,” Shaw said.

Her advice to TU students is simple: Try new things and be flexible. “It’s OK if you don’t have all the answers or even if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up,” Shaw said. “Show up, work hard, give effort and take accountability. You’ll go very far.”

Take diverse courses, explore different topics and unlock new opportunities today by exploring all the programs that TU has to offer.