Academic Collaboration with Bridget Hoyt

Cut Hoyt Bridget

Despite being closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Snite Museum of Art remains a vibrant institution that is available to the students, staff, and faculty of the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, and Holy Cross College. Most visitors are students who require access to the Museum for academic coursework. Bridget Hoyt, the Curator of Education for Academic Programs for the past eight years, is the mover and shaker behind the Museum-Academic partnership. She is a Notre Dame alumna who has a background in art history and museum education.

Bridget’s role is to support and collaborate with faculty members to identify and foster goals that utilize the visual arts as a learning tool. When course descriptions are released by faculty members each semester, Bridget identifies specific learning outcomes and reaches out to faculty with suggestions of how they can partner with the Museum to attain them. She also assists professors in writing grants for course revision and development and often introduces faculty to new pedagogical strategies. Most academic disciplines tap the Snite for the visual arts, but others—such as sociology—might examine the Museum’s organizational structure.

Snite 3 - Academic Teaching Gallery

When collaborating with faculty members, Bridget suggests particular works of art to promote learning objectives. Works designated for classwork are sometimes selected by professors, most often with direction from Bridget and her colleagues. Many of the pieces used for coursework are in the Museum’s permanent collection, but most are retrieved from storage; those artworks are displayed in the Lower Level Teaching Gallery, a space located outside the Annenberg Auditorium.


Early in Bridget’s tenure, fewer than 10 percent of courses directed students to the Museum. This percentage translated into approximately 2,500 students from the Art History and English Departments. Bridget has increased that to about 40 percent; there are now over 10,000 participating students, from over 500 courses, coming from every college and school across the University. Bridget noted that part of this collaborative growth is due to the creation of new courses that partner with the Snite Museum. These include the Moreau First Year Experience, Writing and Rhetoric, and Romance Language courses. Most classes using the Museum require students to meet on-site for one or more sessions per semester, with a few courses meeting exclusively at the Museum for the entire semester. 

Museum classwork discussions are frequently facilitated and led by Bridget or are guided by faculty. Student teachers also lead many classes in the Gallery Teaching Program. As employees of the Museum, student teachers must meet together every Friday for two hours to review teaching and learning techniques and theory and prepare for leading and facilitating discussions. Bridget and the student teachers strive to help students find individual meaning and connection to works of art rooted in course content.

Snite 1-Academic outside

Higher education research demonstrates that visual literacy enhances communication, teamwork, concept formation, problem-solving, critical thinking, and empathy. For example, a pre-med course at Notre Dame sends students to the Snite Museum to explore the concept of compassionate care. From the course evaluations they receive, professors report that students view their visits as positive learning experiences.

The backbone of the Snite Museum-Academic partnership is a set of core values that drives the initiative. They are for students and faculty to:

  • have an authentic experience with original works of art.
  • create personal meaning.
  • engage and connect with the Museum in diverse, layered ways.
  • support and promote a culture of reaching across disciplines.
  • be an active participant in campus life. 

There have been some adjustments to programs at the Snite due to COVID-19 precautions and restrictions. Student participation has been reduced this semester by about 50 percent. Usually, two or three classes are meeting simultaneously within the Museum; currently, only one class can meet at a time, with some classes divided into smaller groups. Because campus classroom space is now at a premium, the Annenberg Auditorium is used daily for such high enrollment classes as physics and electrical engineering. Museum staff members have also noticed that students are using the Snite as a unique and safe indoor place in which to retreat in these stressful times. The Museum was also open this semester as a quiet study space for students preparing for final exams. Even in challenging times that require ingenuity and flexibility, the Snite Museum is alive and well with learning and discovery.  

Mary Kay Welle, Friends Board of Directors

December 2020