Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program

The Visiting Professionals Program (VPP) is offered periodically to mid-level professionals at Smithsonian Affiliate organizations. Participants receive a modest stipend to develop their professional skills during an immersive, hands-on experience at the Smithsonian. The VPP provides in-depth access to Smithsonian subject and technical experts, resources and collections, and allows participants the time and support to tackle a pre-identified challenge for their organization. Different topics are chosen for each VPP cycle. The two-week program equips participants with the necessary skills to create buy-in and lead change at their organization and sends them home with tools and strategies to effectively address their individual challenges.

Participants in the cohort:

  • Learn more about a specific topic which relates to a particular challenge in the field and at their Affiliate organization
  • Meet with and have access to Smithsonian subject experts
  • Learn strategies for leading change and practicing leadership at their home organizations
  • Engage with other diverse mid-career museum professionals in collective learning experiences
  • Are part of a learning cohort where they can learn from and work with both Affiliate and Smithsonian colleagues

The curriculum for the two-week program is developed specifically to support the needs and interests of the cohort members. The program mixes presentations by Smithsonian staff, small group learning, and site visits with deep dives into Smithsonian resources, individual reflection, problem solving exercises, and other interactive learning activities. The VPP emphasizes collaborative learning and dialogue over one-way, teacher-to-student content delivery. There are also post-program opportunities to connect with Affiliations colleagues and fellow cohort members to continue talking with and learning from one another.

Full-time, mid-career staff members at Affiliate organizations. In accordance with the American Alliance of Museums’ National Emerging Professionals Network, we are defining mid-career staff as those who are past entry level but not nearing the end of their career, and are not the director of the organization.

Participants will receive a modest stipend plus a travel allowance. The stipend may be used to defray housing costs or in any other way that supports the participant’s stay in Washington. The travel allowance may be used for airfare, train transportation, mileage, and/or parking. Payments are officially distributed by the Smithsonian Office of Fellowships and Internships.

The deadline to apply will be announced in Fall 2020.

Applicants must apply using the Smithsonian Online Application system
Once registered and logged in applicants will need to complete the requested information.

A complete application package must include:

  • A current CV or résumé (two-page limit)
  • A two-page essay outlining the following:
    • A statement of a problem and/or challenge involving the year’s chosen topic that the participant plans to work on during the VPP.
    • A statement describing the applicant’s professional experience and personal and professional learning goals for participation
    • A statement addressing how the applicant intends to affect change upon returning to the Affiliate organization
  • A completed Certification Form signed by the applicant’s supervisor or the director of  the organization indicating permission for the staff member to be at the Smithsonian for two weeks and that the challenge identified by the participant is a priority for the Affiliate. In addition, the signed form recognizes that he staff member will participate in follow-up, virtual activities with the cohort.
  • A letter of reference from the applicant’s director or supervisor

Essential Tips for the Online Application

  • Do NOT submit your application until all necessary components are uploaded.
  • Once submitted, you cannot upload or change anything within the application.

VPP candidates must complete the application materials, which include a certification form from the director or supervisor of their home organization, an essay, a CV or resume, and a reference letter from their director or supervisor. All application materials are then reviewed and evaluated by a review committee of Smithsonian Affiliations staff, other Smithsonian colleagues, and at least one external reviewer. Selection criteria are based upon how well the applicant describes the problem/challenge at their organization; the relationship of the project to the Affiliate organization’s strategic plan; and the Smithsonian’s ability to support the project with content, resources and/or expertise.

Smithsonian Affiliations will provide candidates and Affiliate organizations with information regarding the status of applications and will notify the candidates of final selections. VPP is a competitive program, so not all candidates may be accepted.

Participants are expected to complete an evaluation survey and participate in periodic post-residency activities. Project reports may be shared with Smithsonian staff or used in promotional material as appropriate.

The Smithsonian does not provide housing, nor is there a specific housing office at the Smithsonian. As such, Visiting Professionals are responsible for their own living arrangements during their time at the Smithsonian. Participants may use the stipend to cover housing expenses. Below are nearby hotels close to the Smithsonian Affiliations office where coursework will take place.

Hilton Washington DC National Mall
Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol
Mandarin Oriental
Canopy by Hilton- DC Wharf
Hyatt House- DC Wharf
Residence Inn
Hyatt Place

Professional development updates will be sent through the Affiliate eNewsletter. Make sure you are signed up!

If you have any questions about the Visiting Professionals Program, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee, Communications and Professional Development Manager, 202-633-5304,