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30 Nights at the Museum

Alumna Kate McGroarty wins contest to spend month living at Museum of Science and Industry

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October 6, 2010 | by Matt Paolelli
Kate McGroarty (Communication '08) reacts to winning the Museum of Science and Industry's "Month at the Museum" contest. At the announcement ceremony, each of the five finalists poured a test tube of liquid into their designated flask. McGroarty's flask contained hydrogen peroxide, resulting in a foaming reaction to signify her victory. Photo courtesy of Museum of Science and Industry

Northwestern alumna Kate McGroarty has a new address -- at the Museum of Science and Industry.

After winning the museum’s first “Month at the Museum” contest, the 2008 School of Communication grad will move into her new digs Oct. 20 and remain there until Nov. 18. With a transparent “cube” as her homebase and office inside the museum, McGroarty will spend the month exploring exhibits, mingling with visitors, hosting educational events and using an arsenal of new gadgets (also part of her prize) to keep the public informed of her activities via social media sites.

McGroarty was one of more than 1,500 applicants from around the world who entered the “Month at the Museum” contest for the chance to win a $10,000 prize and spend a month living at the museum, while chronicling the experience on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Museum officials narrowed the applicant pool down to five and posted selections from each finalist’s application -- along with their one-minute application videos -- to the MSI website. (watch video below)

The museum encouraged the public to vote for their favorite finalist during the past two weeks and announced McGroarty as the winner Oct. 6 in a dramatic ceremony in the museum’s rotunda.

A Minnesota native, McGroarty remained in Chicago after graduating from Northwestern, working as a performer, director and high school theatre teacher. She hopes to eventually write for a television show or become a college professor.

Rives Collins, an associate professor of theatre who taught McGroarty in several classes and hired her as a work-study student during her undergrad years, said she is a perfect fit for her new role at the museum.

“She’s a great storyteller, so I think she will engage people in the museum in wonderful, friendly, funny ways,” he said. “Her sense of humor is quirky and marvelous, and she brings an innate curiosity with her to everything she does. And as if all that wasn’t enough, she brings the adventurous spirit of a circus performer, and she has a heart bigger than the lake.”

In her application essay, McGroarty reflected on the “adventurous spirit” that led her to apply for the contest.

“I’ve always wanted to be an explorer,” she wrote. “Well, when I was around two, I wanted to be a fire truck. After I recovered from the crushing realization that I would never grow wheels, I wanted to go on adventures. Moving into a museum for an entire month and sharing that journey with the public sounds like one of the biggest adventures I could have in my lifetime.”

You can follow McGroarty’s adventures on her “Month at the Museum” Twitter and Facebook pages.