In December 2009, Ka’iu Kimura was named Interim Director of ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of the University of Hawaii at Hilo. She is the first alumnus of the ASTC Diversity & Leadership Development Fellows program to be named as executive director or CEO of an ASTC-member institution. Kimura has been involved with the center since initial planning began in 2001 as an exhibit content researcher, leading the development of Hawaiian content for exhibits and helping define the mission of the center. After the center’s opening in 2006, Kimura served as experience coordinator, designing and implementing educational programs and engaging the community in development of programs that met the needs of Hawaiian youth. In 2007, she was named associate director as part of the center’s commitment to developing native leadership and its larger sustainability plan.
Kimura was selected as an ASTC Diversity & Leadership Development Fellow in 2006, attending her first ASTC annual conference in Louisville, Kentucky. The ASTC Fellows experience was her first exposure to the larger science center field and the ASTC community. She notes that the program provided her the “opportunity to meet other Fellows who experienced similar challenges in their own institutions, understand informal science education on a higher level, and network with professionals in the community outside of educational programs and exhibit designers.” Kimura also acknowledges that the program provided guidance on how to be engaged in the conference, ask questions, network effectively, allowing her to enjoy a more nuanced conference experience.
Participation in the ASTC Fellows program opened the doors to other professional development opportunities, including the CAISE Fellows program. Participation in the 2008 program helped her overcome geographic isolation; network with diverse professionals from different informal science education sectors; and gave her insight into the priorities of organizations funding informal science education.
Reflecting on how these experiences have shaped her as a science center leader, Kimura notes, “Imiloa’s mission is to bring together culture in science to benefit all parts of its community, especially to engage youth as the next generation of STEM leaders. Coming to ASTC and CAISE has helped me understand what’s going on in the larger community, and the opportunities for contributions from ‘Imiloa on bringing together culture and science for the benefit of all communities.”