Meet the Board of Directors


Mark Heppner
President & CEO
Ford House
Grosse Pointe Shores

Favorite Quote or personal motto?
“Do the most good for the most people.”

What is your museum background?
I “cut my teeth” in the museum field volunteering, interning and working in many capacities and at several institutions over my career. My earlier background came from the “curatorial-collection world” and began in earnest at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, a National Historic Landmark in Akron, OH. I spent 16 years there rising up in the organization and finally found myself in more administrative roles. I eventually took the leap of faith to run my own historic estate, Salisbury House & Gardens in Des Moines, IA. I spent 3 years there as Executive Director before being recruited to the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House as the Vice President of Collections & Visitor Experience. Today, I am the President & CEO of Ford House and a day does not go by where I do not reflect on how fortunate I am. I could not have imagined, those many, many years ago when I decided to make a career in this field that I would be here today.

How did you get involved with MMA?
I came to Michigan in 2012 and quickly reached out to MMA. In all of my past roles, I have always tried to be involved with the state museum associations in which I lived (Ohio & Iowa) and was fortunate to serve on the boards of both states. It did not take long for MMA to get into my blood and I found myself quickly on the board and I have been honored to serve the museum community in this capacity.

What is your favorite thing about MMA?
In our day to day work, it is often easy to develop “blinders” to things around you. The risk is that this can shelter you from the museum field and you can quickly forget about the good work (and challenges) that are occurring around you. MMA, through its many programs, is a constant reminder of the greater good and how each of us is part of something larger. MMA helps to keep me personally grounded and I continue to learn new things and, even on occasion, might share my own experience in a helpful way.


Christina Hirn Arseneau
Niles History Center

Favorite Quote?
"The past is never dead. It's not even past." -William Faulkner

What is your museum background?
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, my favorite childhood book, convinced me that I needed to work in a museum. As a college student at the University of Illinois, I volunteered at every museum on campus, covering world history, natural history and art. I completed summer internships at the Brooklyn Art Museum and the Milwaukee Public Museum. At New York University I earned an MA in Classics and a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies. I have worked as an educator, curator and director at museums in Illinois, Wisconsin, New York and Michigan. Ona  personal note, I met my husband, also a museum professional, at a museum conference. Museums always feel like home to me.

How did you get involved with MMA?
I moved to Michigan from Illinois in 2006. I had been involved with the Illinois Association of Museums, so it was a natural move to join MMA. I started attending conferences and volunteering as a proofreader and on the Museum Squad. I was elected to the Board of Directors 2017.

What is your favorite thing about MMA?
MMA gives me an opportunity to connect with other museum professionals across the state. No one understands this world like another museum colleague. MMA also helps me keep up with what’s happening in the museum field.

Sanam Arab
Manager of Programs and Patron Services
University of Michigan-LSA Technology Services
Ann Arbor

Favorite Quote
“Becoming a doctor is easy, becoming a decent human being is much harder”— My father, Dr. Seifoddin Arab (1934-2004)

What is your museum background?
My earliest memories of fun family events revolve around visiting museums, antique shops and flea markets around the world especially in Iran and France as my family put their love of art and collecting together. My interest expanded once moving to the US, and I received my BA in History of Art followed by my Master’s Degree in Archives and Records Management and a Graduate Certificate in Museums Studies, all from University of Michigan. Although the majority of my career has been in libraries or collection management and circulation, I have worked in various archives and at U-M Museum of Art. I served on the Baha’i World Centre Library and Archives Executive Board, and currently also Chair the City of Dexter Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee and I am on the City’s Art Selection Committee.

How did you get involved with MMA?
In 2012, Dr. Bradley Taylor, then on the Board of Michigan Museums Association and the Associate Director of U-M Museums Studies Program, encouraged me to submit my first MMA Conference paper. As a Museums Studies student, I presented in the student papers session and that was the beginning of my membership and involvement in MMA. As he finished his term on the Board of Directors, Brad nominated me, and I have been serving on the Board since October 2016. I also have been involved with Museum Advocacy Day through MMA and look forward to my 5th year attending the event once we can all be back in D.C.

What is your favorite thing about MMA?
MMA is a family. We form friendships as well as professional connections. And we all care about the success of the organization that gives so much to museums across Michigan. And this is evident in every level of the organization from the Board to different committees and members themselves. There are many paths of involvement at MMA and through all one can expand their knowledge, give back to the community, and do it all while having fun with friends and colleagues. 

Caitlyn Perry Dial, Ph.D.
Assistant Director of Development
MSU College of Veterinary Medicine
East Lansing

Favorite Quote

"Be excellent to each other." - Bill and Ted
What is your museum background?
I started my museum career way back in the early 2000s when I was an undergrad at Michigan State. I was a history major and knew that I wanted to seek a career in museums after returning from Study Abroad in the UK. I took that path through graduate school and became familiar with collections care, education, visitor experience, administration, and fundraising. In my last position, I was Executive Director of the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame where I feel like I put all of those skills to work. Though I have left the field (for now!), I am still committed to the advancement of Michigan's museums and of this organization.

How did you get involved with MMA?
I started getting involved with MMA in 2009 at the conference in Kalamazoo. I was in my first year of my PhD studies and realized right then that I had found my people.

What is your favorite thing about MMA?
My favorite thing about MMA are the connections and friendships I have gained over the years. It's not just a group of like-minded, museum loving people, but MMA has a culture of "helping up" where those within this organization reached down the ladder and pulled me up as they moved along. I've tried to do the same.


Lisa Plank

Executive Director
Lowell Area Historical Museum

Favorite Quote

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” - Audrey Hepburn
What is your museum background?
I have always been fascinated by history. I think it began in my grandparents basement where generations of family memorabilia were tucked in corners. In middle school, I began volunteering with the Public Museum of Grand Rapids. They graciously took an eager 12 year old under their wing and let me spend the next 5 years as a volunteer and intern in the collection department. My time there solidified my interest in history and in my conviction that the public loves history. To present the exciting things I had seen behind the scenes to others was something I wanted to pursue. I went on to do a Public History degree at Western Michigan University and graduate coursework at the University of South Carolina in Applied History. My time at Western was enhanced with internships at the Michigan Maritime Museum and the Allegheny Heritage Development Corporation in Pennsylvania and a summer of Archaeology field school. My Sophomore year was spent at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. For a history major, it was a bit of dream. The town is rich in history. Studying early Scottish history in the actual buildings that it occurred in was remarkable.

My career has included work at the Voigt House, Hackley & Hume Site with the Lakeshore Museum, Carver County Museum- Minnesota, Richfield Historical Society- Minnesota, and currently the Lowell Area Historical Museum. I have worked as a volunteer coordinator, site manager, assistant curator and director. Every position has allowed me to pursue presenting history to the public and bringing it alive for them.

How did you get involved with MMA?
I began by attending conferences and then serving on the program selection committee for the joint conference with AASLH. I was elected to the Board in 2016 and appointed Treasurer in 2017.

What is your favorite thing about MMA?
The Michigan Museums Association provides an opportunity to connect with other museum professionals. This networking strengthens our organizations and our state’s museum professionals. It also provides us with a way to give back to the museum community and mentor an upcoming generation.

Vice President

Jason Dake
Curator of Education
Dennos Museum Center 
Traverse City

Favorite Quote

"He at least was learning the world, the good and the bad of it, as must happen to every one who accomplishes anything in it." - Mark Twain, The Gilded Age

What is your museum background?
My last semester of undergrad before student teaching, I visited the CMU Museum with my history class. That's when I realized that people are trained to work in museums for a living. I stuck with teaching and spent a year, post-graduation, looking for a teaching job in K-12 art. Eventually, I took on a service year with Americorps in the Downriver Detroit area. When I finished my year of service, I landed a job at the Flint Institute of Arts where I spent 6 years in the education department designing curriculum, teaching art classes, leading gallery tours, and developing my early career as a professional museum educator. I also found time to graduate as the first recipient of a Master of Arts in Arts Administration from University of Michigan - Flint, in December 2011.
In 2012, I joined the staff of the Dennos Museum Center as curator of education, where I handle most all responsibilities associated with learning. I train docent volunteers, lead tours and public programs, collaborate with local partners, and write interpretive texts. Given our small staff, I also curate and hang exhibitions, book performing groups, and handle some of the public relations as well.
I'm probably one of the few museum professionals of my generation who has had the privilege of working for just 2 museums full-time over the course of 13 years. I try to spend some of my extracurricular time helping others accomplish the same, advocating for transparency, fair wages, holistic funding, and a supportive work culture.

How did you get involved with MMA?

My first interaction with MMA was in 2006 during the Flint conference. It wasn't until I joined the Dennos Museum Center that I was actively encouraged by colleagues to get more involved. I helped plan conferences and programs in 2013 and 2014, and have led various conference sessions since then. In 2016, I was invited to join the board, and happily accepted.

What is your favorite thing about MMA? 

I have often espoused the amazing opportunity that MMA represents to younger professionals, perhaps more than they even wanted to hear. But if someone wants to develop their career, meet similarly passionate museum geeks, or have some fun that is related to their work interests, MMA is the organization to join. The welcoming atmosphere and flexibility for how to be involved are what keep me in board meetings and at the annual conferences.


Nathan Kemler
Director of Galleries and Collections
Grand Valley State University 

Personal Motto

“That belongs in a museum!” – Indiana Jones

What is your museum background?

I started very young. My father collects Victorian paper ephemera, among other things, and as a result my family and were frequent visitors to antique shops. Coming out of this deep appreciation for history, I started my career with my undergraduate studies in world history, archaeology, art history, and studio art. All of these areas of study came together with my first internship at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. I was hooked from that point on.

I continued on to grad school and then returned to the Public Museum for my first official professional position. After that appointment I went on to work at the Holland Museum and then Grand Valley State University. Over the past 20 years, I have worked as collections manager, curator, assistant director and now director. I serve on museum boards and as a American Alliance of Museums Peer Reviewer in the Museum Assessment Program.

How did you get involved with MMA?

During my first few years in the museum field, I attended a MMA conference. I remembering not knowing anyone and being amazed by how many other museum professionals there were in our state. I was eager to learn new things and meet new people so I continued attending MMA’s annual conferences and eventually started to attend whatever workshop or events I could throughout the rest of the year. I began to volunteer on numerous MMA committees such as professional development, programs, and the conference team. I co-hosted a MMA conference in 2012 in Muskegon and then joined the board in 2016.

What is your favorite thing about MMA? 

There is something incredibly powerful when you’re able to connect with others on a passion level. With MMA, we all share a passion for the impact that museums provide to our communities. So my favorite thing about MMA has always been getting into a space (a conference session, event, or Zoom call) with other museum professionals and feeling our collective energy. MMA has always excelled at bringing people together and making those experiences accessible for everyone.

Michigan Museums Association       313-334-7643       PO Box 5246, Cheboygan, MI 49721

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