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Ask, and ye shall… see.

Posted on March 15, 2016 by in The OFI Blog

Jen Page with two wood carvers from New Mexico at the 1992 Folklife Festival. Photo courtesy of Jen Page

Jen Page with wood carvers from New Mexico at the 1992 Folklife Festival. Photo courtesy of Jen Page

Could there be anything in common between a New Mexican wood carver and an Irish stone craftsman working on renovations at the White House? As it turns out, all of us share much more than we think we might if only we care to see… and ask questions.

The 1992 Smithsonian Folklife Festival brought together four different cultures: New Mexico folk artists, White House workers, Native American and African Maroon musicians. Illuminating the underlying connections  across seemingly wide-apart worlds the Festival emphasized that sources for inspiration, creativity and universal human experience are the profound bonds that hold us together. It proved an eye-opening experience for Jen Page, at the time a sophomore at the College of William and Mary and an intern at the SI Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH).

Jen Page, presently a Senior Instructional Designer at USAID

Jen Page, presently a Senior Instructional Designer at USAID

Jen was working under the mentorship of SI curator Olivia Cadaval, who taught her the “art of asking questions and drawing comparisons between seemingly disparate contexts”. This experience evolved into an indispensable skill – a skill that helped her build a career and lifelong passion. At present a Senior Instructional Designer at the U.S. Agency for International Development USAID, Jen Page continues to stress the importance of seeking hidden links and questioning the apparent: “What are you doing? Why do you do it that way? Who taught you? It’s amazing where the conversation will lead.”

The internship at the SI also sparked Jen’s lifelong curiosity about the world – in the following years her professional commitments took her all over the world from Puerto Rico to Malaysia. Jen led the professional development programs at Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation and designed training programs at clinical trial sites in Africa and India. Now at the height of her career, Jen reflects on the importance of her discoveries during the SI internship, which subsequently steered her path.

To read the original article on the CFCH Talk Story Blog please click here.