Emily Nott: Using art to change lives


RCAH Class of 2013


  • Arts and Humanities from RCAH
  • Double major: Arts Education


Manager of Professional Development at After School Matters

Background and Location

  • Grew up in Augusta, Mchigan
  • Gradated from Gull Lake High School
  • Lives in Chicago, Illinois

Hi Emily! When you were making your college decision, what attracted you to RCAH?  

I was drawn to the college’s deep commitment to social justice, the ability to explore multiple passions, and the innovative community learning model. I needed a place where I could learn how to be a better participant in the world, where I could feed the fires of multiple interests and forge my own pathway forward. I also responded to the strong presence of the arts at the College. 

In what ways did RCAH prepare you for your career?

RCAH introduced me to ideas and practices which are central to my work: a commitment to civic engagement, community involvement, and arts as a tool for social change. These ideas shaped the work I sought, and how I engage with my work and my community. 

What do you do as manager of professional development at After School Matters?

I manage workshops and learning opportunities for a citywide community of almost 1,000 instructors. After School Matters® is a non-profit organization that provides life-changing after-school and summer program opportunities to more than 18,000 Chicago high school teens each year. 

How long have you been there?

Since 2013.

Where were you previously?

In the families and communities research group at the University of Chicago.

What experiences in college come to mind as having a profound impact on your life?

Being connected with REACH Studio Art Center helped me figure out what I wanted to do.

How so?

I was daunted by the restrictive, bureaucratic approach I saw to education in school placements for my education degree, and I found nonprofit and museum education offered a more youth-centered, flexible and dynamic learning space to forge relationships and create meaningful work. 

What professors do you recall as having an impact on you?

I loved working with Guillermo Delgado—he helped me see art as a tool for collective action and social change. I also appreciated what I learned about education and systemic inequality from Donna Kaplowitz, as well as the work I did in the LMC with Dave Sheridan. 

"I was drawn to the college’s deep commitment to social justice, the ability to explore multiple passions, and the innovative community learning mode."

What do the arts, humanities, and community engagement mean to your life today?

I work with a network of over 1,000 instructors, about 200 community organizations, and over 80 Chicago Public High schools. In my role at After School Matters, I have organized citywide visual arts shows, facilitated learning communities on youth development and engagement, and met and connected with dynamic and powerful teachers and learners. RCAH laid a foundation of caring about civic engagement: caring about people. This helped me find my path, and made me stronger in my work. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for everything—I love you guys.