Alumnus Profile: Brandon Sexton ‘09
Aquinas students make up a diverse body, representing a variety of core interests and values. Because of this, no two Aquinas graduates are alike. These unique individuals can be found across the country, working in many fields as they seek to pursue their calling of service.
For Aquinas graduate Brandon Sexton ‘09, that calling led him to work with the National Park Service. A history and political science dual major, Sexton reflects on his current field as he prepares to transition from work with the Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet, Michigan, to a new position with the Boston National Historical Park. Among these thoughts, he shared memories of his Aquinas years and their role in where he has gone.
Sexton’s current title is Museum Technician for Keweenaw. “My primary job is collections care. I catalogue, then insert items into our online, computer-based database. I care for them. Cataloguing includes photography of objects. Also, we just opened our new Visitor’s Center [in late October], and since then I’ve been cleaning and taking care of the museum exhibits.” Among these collections are historic writings, postcards, vintage books and photographs. The focus of these exhibits is primarily Michigan’s copper mining heritage.
“From the 1840s to the 1960s, this region was a major producer of copper,” Sexton said. “Our collections work around that heritage. We have a lot of mining equipment, a lot of hard hats, ore samples, and office furniture from the company. But also we have domestic stuff from families and people who also lived in the area, businesses that made up a part of the larger community, and that sort of thing.”
When asked what a day in his life as a Museum Technician looks like, he said, “I come into work at 8:30 [a.m.]. I spend the first five or ten minutes recording basic [environment factors] - temperature, humidity - to ensure that nothing drastic has changed, because most of the objects are sensitive to rapid change in both temperature or humidity. That’s how I start my day. From there, it’s mostly along the lines of that collections care. Today I spent the first hour-and-a-half down at the Visitors Center, cleaning the cases - mostly behind the scenes operation of the museum. I also do computer support.”
When thinking back on what led him to where he is today, he shares a charming story about discovering Aquinas College: “One day, I was driving around with my parents in Grand Rapids, and we drove by [Aquinas]. And I asked my mom, ‘What’s this?’ She said, ‘Well, it’s a college.’ I was attracted to the trees and the campus setting. That’s really what drew me toward it. It’s a beautiful campus, especially in the springtime.” Sexton also cites the financial aid department as playing a significant role in helping him manage the tuition costs, making Aquinas a feasible opportunity for him.
“During my time at Aquinas, I was involved in History Club, POLIS - I was in the Political Science Honor Society. I was the Vice-Chair of Student Senate. I worked on Programming Board. I worked in the Moose Café. I was really involved in campus activity. I think that involvement - that really helped to shape [me]. I was always looking for more opportunities for something to do.” Sexton cited his work with Student Senate among his favorite memories as an Aquinas student, stating that it allowed him an opportunity to see the College in a much different perspective.
Sexton contributed to a variety of other organizations on campus while a student, eventually taking that passion off-campus during his studies. “In my senior year, I applied for an internship at the Gerald R. Ford President Museum.” With the support of Aquinas faculty, Sexton took the leap. “I think that’s really what set my trajectory for where I am today, because that introduced me to museum work. At the Ford Museum, I did basic cataloguing and I helped rotate exhibits out and bring others in while I was there.” Sexton added that his history studies at Aquinas were the perfect accent to his work with actual artifacts, making history come alive. “It was a turning point for me,” he said.
Sexton, now making another change as he prepares for new museum work, enthusiastically credits much of his success with formative years on campus. To both current and prospective AQ student, Sexton offered this advice: “College is what you make it. If you choose to get involved on campus through clubs, orgs, or interests, I think that’s a much more rewarding experience than just going to class. Being involved on campus was what really helped me find where I wanted to be, where I wanted to go.”