Celebrating Diversity at ASTC and Throughout the Field

By Anthony (Bud) Rock

In a special edition of Dimensions magazine, we are exploring the many aspects of diversity in the activities of our science centers and museums worldwide. We refer, in particular, to the importance of “cultural competence,” defined as “a process of lifelong learning [that] results in knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes that allow us to work effectively with others from differ-ent cultural backgrounds, increases the ability of organizations to maximize the benefits of diversity within their workforces, and improves the services [offered to] various stakeholders.”

As a global association serving a diverse membership, ASTC is particularly proud of its leadership role in the Cultural Competence Learning Institute (CCLI), in partnership with Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, California; the Association of Children’s Museums; and Garibay Group. CCLI is a process and set of resources designed to help museums increase their organizational capacities around diversity, inclusion, and culture. CCLI encourages institutions to build from their strengths to maximize the benefits of a diverse workforce and improve services offered to increasingly diverse communities. More than ever before, the work of CCLI is globally relevant. I want to thank all of our ASTC-member centers and museums that have participated in CCLI training programs and encourage more to do the same.

We in the ASTC staff have also been guided by the CCLI message, and I have initiated a new cultural competence program for our team in Washington, D.C. Beginning in February, this facilitated program will involve a bimonthly series of activities addressing widely ranging aspects of cultural competence. The program will include not just education and self-reflection, but also real-world experiences that will further inspire an ASTC staff that is already both diverse and deeply committed to inclusive practices in our mission and our work. ASTC has led, and will continue to lead, by example. We are proud of our highly successful Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows Program, with 164 graduates to date, many of whom now occupy positions of considerable responsibility and respect in our field. We place new priority on addressing the changing demographics in communities through-out the world in our conference programming, our publications, our communities of practice, and our messages of outreach and advocacy.

One might be tempted to use this editorial opportunity to speak more about the uncertain and unsettling challenges and stresses facing our plan-et and our population today. Instead, I would prefer only to reaffirm here that we serve our communities best when we are recognized (and utilized) as objective centers for knowledge, inspiration, and healthy discourse among every diverse segment of society that we can conceivably reach.

And how hard is the task? Maybe simpler than it might seem. Once, during a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, I stood before the Giant Heart exhibit next to a young boy from the local community who was visiting the museum for the first time. He marveled as the giant heart beat to the pace of his pulse. He turned and asked me if his heart really worked like that.

I said, “Yes,” and he then asked, “Is your heart the same?”

“Indeed it is,” I replied. And so it is for us all.

Anthony (Bud) Rock is ASTC’s president and CEO.