Scripps Alums Combine Business with Art to Craft Their Dream Careers

By Ella Boyd ’22

From the time Marielle Epstein ’18 first set foot on the Scripps campus, she knew what she wanted to study: fashion history. But figuring out how to craft a career out of a seemingly niche interest was a tougher question. Building on her experiences as an intern at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Epstein now works at Hindman Auctions as the department coordinator for the couture and luxury accessories and Asian works of art departments.

Epstein points to the interdisciplinary nature of Scripps as a key factor in her career success, noting that “the way you’re educated at Scripps has an impact on so many different layers of your life.” She attributes her ability to switch between multiple departments each day at Hindman to the skills she developed while at Scripps. “You really do learn that skill of changing disciplines very quickly and learning where those intersections are among them,” she says. “[Scripps] teaches you to synthesize information quickly and how to develop a broad map of how things fit together, whether it’s from the social sciences or media. You’re not just honing in on a single project.”

Epstein also credits her internship at the Williamson Gallery with providing her with hands-on career experiences. During her internship, she organized the Ancient Traditions, Modern Japan exhibition with two other interns to create a cohesive exhibition in a limited space. “You learn teamwork very quickly when you’re communicating with people you have not been working with up until that point,” she says.

In 2018, Epstein received the Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Scholarship which funded her graduate studies in twentieth-century dress history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Because she’d spent the previous year conducting research for her senior thesis—a required part of the Scripps curriculum—Epstein felt prepared for the rigor of graduate school. Writing her thesis, served as a vital blueprint for her success at the Courtauld: “To have a project that is a culmination of your studies is really a gift, because you have something to show for what you’ve already done,” she says. “If you want to continue studying, Scripps gives you a roadmap.”

Valérie Whitacre ’08 has found similar career success mixing art and business, founding her own art advisory company, BLACK etc., in 2013. Because of her experience networking at The Claremont Colleges and beyond, she felt prepared for the learning curve of entrepreneurship.

“Thanks to my self-designed major, I really experienced the wide variety of expertise across the consortium,” she notes. “My professors wanted me to learn from the best faculty in the best fields to maximize my undergraduate experience, which meant I spent a lot of time learning about business and politics as well as art at the other 5Cs.”

During her time at Scripps, Whitacre interned at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and later at Monitor Group, building up her business experience and professional network. The Musée d’Orsay internship provided her with an important window into the art world and set her on her current career path. “It was a formative experience in terms of teaching me what I didn’t want to do in art. I didn’t want to do curation; I wanted to work on the business side,” she says. “At the age of 21 I learned that I wasn’t fascinated by being in a back room making exhibitions happen for the public—but without that experience, I surely would have thought that’s what I wanted to do.”

Whitacre also looks back on her time at Scripps as fundamental to her comfort navigating the business world.

“The confidence I had as a woman walking into a room full of men saying, ‘No, I think this is the best decision. It doesn’t matter what these guys think,’ was inspired by attending a women’s college within a larger consortium,” she says, adding that The Claremont Colleges allow the type of integration that challenges interpersonal and networking skills. “When I set up my company, I was trying whatever I could—and that adventurous spirit came from Scripps and Scripps women as much as it came from the academic ethos.”