Park Profiles: Meet Alyssa Gardner!

Kristen MihalkoBalboa Park Cultural Partnership, One Park - One Team, Park Profiles

Alyssa is the Development Coordinator at the San Diego Natural History Museum. As a long time regular of Balboa Park, Alyssa combines her visitor services background and knowledge of the institutions to her new position at the NAT.

1. How did you first get involved with the Natural History Museum?

I grew up participating in Junior Theatre, so I was always in Balboa Park and at the museums as a child. The Natural History Museum was always one of my favorites. I moved away from San Diego and when I came back, I found that the Nat was hiring a temporary Visitor Services team member for the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. I’m a huge fan of Titanic so I immediately applied, and ended up staying on staff and eventually became a Visitor Services Lead. After four years, the opportunity to apply for the Development Coordinator position became available and here I am today!

2. What has surprised you most about working for the Natural History Museum?

The amount of specimens that the Nat has is definitely of the biggest surprises because the public never really sees them! For instance, the Entomology department has over 900,000 labeled specimens in the collection, and the Herpetology department has more than 76,000 catalogued specimens. There is so much more to the museum than just what a visitor gets to see on a typical visit!

3. What has been the most challenging and most rewarding experience working as the Development Coordinator?

The most challenging aspect for me is that I come from a completely different professional background. I have a theatre degree and worked in theatre for so many years, so working in a museum and in development is relatively new for me. On the other hand, it is very rewarding to be able to apply my visitor relations background and communications skills to my work in development.

4. What is the most interesting part of your job working in development?

Everyday is different which makes it super interesting! In my organization, there are always opportunities to work in or with new departments, people, and events.

5. Best advice in encountering a new situation at work?

I would say, first take a deep breath and think of the best way to execute this new encounter. If your first idea doesn’t work, try something else and never be afraid to ask for help!

6. What do you like to do outside of working in the Park?

I’m a big Disney fan, so one of my favorite things to do is go to Disneyland! I also recently joined a running group and I’m training for my first marathon. I’m also a  big fan of traveling and would love to do more of it.

7. Favorite book, TV show, movie, song?

I don’t have a favorite book, but I have two favorite authors: Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner. I really enjoy reality television such as: Survivor and Big Brother and crime dramas likes CSI, (when it was on)  and Law and Order. My favorite Netflix series are The Crown and Stranger Things. Since I’m a big Disney fan, my favorite Disney movie is Beauty and the Beast.

8. If you could be any animal (including prehistoric!) what would you be and why?

Since I love to travel, I would probably be any type of bird so that I could fly to wherever I would like to visit.

9. What is your favorite spot in Balboa Park?

Definitely the Lily Pond, it’s a great spot for people and animal watching, and is such a historic landmark of Balboa Park!