Alumni Profile: Sarah Hilliam

Sarah Hilliam
Deputy Director of Development, Royal Academy of Arts

Part time MLitt, 2014-2016

At first, I applied to the MLitt partly as ‘unfinished business’. I’d regretted not taking on the full-time course immediately after graduating from my MA in Art History at St Andrews back in 2008 and so jumped at the opportunity to do the distant learning course.

In retrospect, taking it part-time at a later date was a far better move for me personally. Being able to apply what I was learning in real time and discuss challenges with a diverse group of supportive colleagues was invaluable. The course provides you with an opportunity to step outside of your day-to-day work. I really enjoyed the written assignments and having an excuse to use my brain in different ways, to research and view the work of my institution from different perspectives. People loved to hate the documentation exercise (!) for example but it gave me a chance to understand how fundamental it was to pretty much every activity for so many museum staff looking after collections.

Key to my role as a senior member of the Development Department at the Royal Academy is having a solid grasp of almost every aspect of my organisation, and the MLitt certainly gave me a platform to achieve this. It also encourages you to think critically about your own work and how it fits within the wider context of the museum sector. This is true for the project work in particular, which not only builds confidence but encourages a more considered and impactful approach in everything you do.

The enthusiasm of the tutors and lecturers was infectious and we quickly established a community of students and staff that were keen to discuss common issues we faced; needless to say we have stayed in touch post-graduation.

Shortly before graduating I was promoted to head up my team and have since completed the largest funding campaign in the RA’s history, as well as launching the next one. The MLitt gave me new perspectives, greater confidence and a network of contacts in museums across Europe. I’ve since recommended the course to two colleagues and continue to reap the benefits from my time at St Andrews.