The Root Beer Ladies
In 2007, when Sarah Guy-Levar became executive director of the Dorothy Molter Museum in Ely, MN, she realized the job came with a laundry list of to-dos that she was expected to tackle. The museum had slipped into financial stress, which was only worsened by the Great Recession. All eyes turned to the executive director to turn the museum around.
Be aware that the Dorothy Molter Museum is no ordinary museum. It’s a historical gem in the Boundary Waters community, honoring the memory of the area’s beloved “Root Beer Lady,” Dorothy Molter, who lived from 1907 to 1986. Guy-Levar can tell you all about Molter: she wrote a book about the legendary woman, Dorothy Molter: The Root Beer Lady of Knife Lake. Molter made her own root beer, cared deeply for the natural world, and had the tenacity you’d expect from a devout nature lover in the North Country.
Actually, Molter shared her tenacity with Guy-Levar, who over the last three years has been earning her BS in Multidisciplinary Studies (MdS) and a Certificate in Applied Business from the University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education. She aims to put her degree and certificate to good use on behalf of Molter and the museum.
“I found that my job as a nonprofit manager at the museum was outpacing my skill levels,” Guy-Levar explains, as she unpacks her reasons for going back to school in the fall of 2013 at age 46. She wanted a flexible program that would allow her to keep her job and complete the degree online.
“As an adult learner, I don’t think I would’ve been comfortable in a classroom with 18-to-22-year-olds,” Guy-Levar says. “I loved my online classes, and I found them to be full of really interesting, diverse students.”
With special focuses on management, communications, and applied business, Guy-Levar is graduating in the spring of 2016 armed and ready to apply what she learned in her online classrooms to her real-life job. In fact, she’s already started.
“I took an Intro to Grant Writing class, which helped inform how I write grant proposals for work at the museum,” Guy-Levar says. “I’ve acquired grant funds totalling more than $100,000 so far for projects like infrastructure improvements, collections care, and exhibit development.”
Another perk that she’s experiencing from earning her MdS degree is a growth in self-confidence. Her family is noticing the change as well. “My husband said to me, ‘You know, you really are smarter,’” Guy-Levar says with a laugh. “It was sweet of him to say. I honestly do feel that my critical thinking skills and writing skills have gotten much stronger.”
She goes on to add that an Intro to Marketing course motivated her to create a marketing plan for the museum’s Dorothy’s Isle of Pines Root Beer, which is a big revenue generator for them.
“I just learned so much about learning,” Guy-Levar says. “I’m excited to get back to work with this degree in hand and use what I know to continue evolving the museum to meet the demands of the future.”
Dorothy Molter would’ve raised a glass of root beer to that.
Sarah Guy-Levar is a recipient of the CCE Tuition Assistance Program Award, the Harrison Scholarship, and the Osher Reentry Scholarship. Learn more about the College of Continuing Education's Multidisciplinary Studies Program.
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