Joy Tahan Ruddell

photograph of alumni Joy Tahan Ruddell
December 18, 2020

Joy Tahan Ruddell graduated from SSU in 1993 with a BA in Art History.

Q: How did your time at SSU prepare you for your career after graduation?
It was working with Professor and Gallery Director, Michael Schwager that helped me define what I wanted to do with the rest of my life! While I always loved art and settled on Art History as a major, I had no idea what I wanted to do with that degree until I met Professor Schwager. Through taking the Art History and Museum Studies courses he taught, a light bulb turned on and I knew museum work was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I am still doing it now, always grateful to Professor Schwager and the opportunities he gave me.

Q: What did you do after you graduated from SSU?
Following graduation from SSU, I attended JFK University and earned a Master's Degree in Museum Studies - with an emphasis in Collections Management.  After graduate school I remained in the Bay Area and worked first at the Jewish Museum, San Francisco and then moved to the Oakland Museum of California where I worked my way from Assistant Registrar to Senior Registrar and Acting Director of Collections. I left the museum about 6 years ago and now work for myself as a collections consultant, working with artist foundations, artists, private collectors and museums.  I specialize in helping museums build capacity through creative problem solving and determining scalable solutions for almost any collections problem. 

I am also currently Director of Museums & Collections for CatalogIt, an innovative collections management system for documenting the story of things. CatalogIt helps private collectors, artists, organizations, and museums of all sizes care for their collections.  

Q:  What did you love about your time at SSU?
A: SSU offered a sense of community that was so important to me.  The art department, especially, was a special place. The students and faculty - art history and art studio - all worked together. 

Q: Who was your biggest mentor at SSU:
A: Again, my biggest mentor was and is Professor and Gallery Director, Michael Schwager, who recently retired after almost 30 years at SSU. Even after I graduated, I spoke with him often; he always helped point me in the right direction - whether it was with career advice or life advice and I am forever grateful to him for the ongoing support he always offered me. 

Joy can be reached at: