There is an "Aha" moment during one of those mesmerizing classes when you realize "This is what you want to be studying. This is where your passion lies."

All Bowdoin students have them, and Brooks Rich '03 encountered his moment in an art history class he took during his first year at Bowdoin.

"Prior to enrolling at Bowdoin I had this impression that I would focus on English," Rich said. "But really, all it took was one art history class to change that. It was that combination of excessive symbolism and the ability to work directly with an object that was so accessible and present. These were qualities that I just couldn't locate in other classes."

Rich praises the art history faculty, particularly "Professor Docherty's amazing energy" and Professor Olds' presence.

"I had this previous interest in architecture and focused on that in many of Professor Olds' classes. It was one of those first classes I took with Professor Olds that was really the catalyst that got me going, that made me realize that a career with a focus on art history was something I could pursue," said Rich.

The summer between his junior and senior year, Rich interned in the education department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Rich describes it as a "formulaic summer internship experience," but one that was crucial for him to realize in which part of the art world he wanted to reside.

"I worked with five other [interns] running tours for summer camp students and I quickly realized that I loved working in the museum environment but that education wasn't the place for me," he said.

"The job ended up being more babysitting than interpreting collection, and by the end of the summer, the excitement of making things accessible was lost when I was spending most of my time telling kids not to touch things," he added.

"It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about the museum environment that I fell in love with that summer, but there was this intellectual engagement of being around objects and learning this new way of approaching objects in the world," he said.

"Museums face this very exciting challenge of how to present ideas and new concepts through the visual arts to an audience in a way that is accessible and exciting. It is a challenge that I was swayed by that summer that makes me keep pursuing a career in this field," Rich added.

Upon graduation from Bowdoin the following spring, Rich returned home to Boston and soon applied for a position in the European department at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Graced with what Rich describes as "good timing and good luck," he began a curatorial intern position in the department.

"It was a lot of clerical work, you know. A lot of photo copying and answering mail, but it was also this amazing opportunity to be around curators and to learn how exhibitions really came together. Being at the museum was this incredibly huge plus," he said.

Eventually, Rich became the executive assistant to the chair, a position which provided a lot of curatorial support, and an "unpredictable and exciting job."

"Working so intensely in the curatorial department really solidified that this was what I wanted to do," Rich said. "This opportunity to see an exhibition literally spring up. To understand all the work that goes into bringing a show to fruition. It was this very exciting—and intellectually exciting—environment filled with amazing people who are so excited to talk about art and look at art."

Rich worked at the MFA for five years, during which graduate school was always in the back of his mind.

"Once you get into curatorial work you realize you need your graduate degree. You need that skill set and that quality of writing—that quality of thought. You need that intellectual maturity," he said.

Although several years out of college, Rich describes his undergraduate studies with Bowdoin art history professors and the connections he forged with them as indispensable.

"I had stayed in good touch with my professors from Bowdoin," Rich said. "Particularly with Professor Wegner and Professor Docherty, and it seemed so natural for me to get their opinion and reconnect with them on this question of where and how to continue my studies. It is some of the best advice I can give to Bowdoin graduates or potential graduates: your Bowdoin professors really are your best resource," he added.

Eventually, Rich decided on Williams College for his post-graduate work. Currently, he is in his final year at the College, and when asked where he sees himself upon receiving his degree, Rich said that "right now the optimal path would be to finish at Williams and find a fellowship to return to an art museum. And then, soon, to return to school for my PhD."

"Ultimately I want to curate in an art museum. I want to work with considerable collections and I know that I won't have that opportunity without my doctorate. It's incredibly exciting and daunting to know that you will become an expert in something. That you will be the expert in an artistic field. It's pretty inspiring," he said.

Of his experience thus far, Rich speaks of its utter intensity.

"Williams has this very intense general program that focuses on preparing its students for curatorial careers as well as careers in academia which seemed very well suited for me. It's art history all of the time which is an amazing environment to learn in," he said.

"It's been a wonderful experience, getting into something so deeply in my studies at Williams, and I'd love to continue that," he said.

In looking to the future, Rich points to the Frick Museum and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as two of his favorite museums.

"I love the small and accessible nature of their collections. I also am very interested in college museums and the idea of having collections that professors can directly teach from and towards. In the end I think I'll feel the need to be at one of those smaller, second tier museums where the handcuffs and the politics are a little bit lighter," he said. "Where you have the greater opportunity for creativity. Where you can use the collection you already have."

"I love the idea focusing on the strength of one collection. Of really servicing the community with that collection and truly integrating those objects into the discourse of the time," Rich added.

In the end, its very inspiring to know that there is a very powerful opportunity to be had there."