A Great Year in Review, with Hopes and Challenges for the Future

By Anthony (Bud) Rock

I hope that you enjoy the special year-in-review edition of Dimensions magazine featuring some of the great programs and activities that have made the past year very special. ASTC has been hard at work for our members, and this is our opportunity to thank you for participating so actively in our Communities of Practice, workshops, webinars, podcasts, publications, and, of course, our superb annual conference. (See pages 29–35 of the 2016 Year in Review issue; contact our publications department to order back issues of the print edition.) Thank you, as well, for sharing with us the many stories about how ASTC grant funds have helped you inspire your visitors, test new creative ideas, and deepen relationships with other leaders of science and education in your communities. And thank you for joining your colleagues throughout the world in celebrating our first annual International Science Center and Science Museum Day. (See A Worldwide Celebration: International Science Center and Science Museum Day.) We look forward to similar celebrations in every year to come.

And I want to offer a special thanks to all for letting us know, now as never before, how much you value ASTC’s important role as your collective voice, advocating for our field. ASTC leadership has deliberated extensively concerning recent decisions of governments, notably in the United States, that challenge the critical importance of science in society today. In turn, ASTC leadership has issued statements that reaffirm the principles and practices of our field, while aggressively challenging proposed reductions or elimination of resources for science and for our roles as informal science educators. (See the ASTC website.) ASTC respects the diverse views within our membership about how best to express these concerns locally, but the association will be a consistent, strong advocate for programs and resources of those federal agencies that support our missions.

It is easy to be disheartened when our missions to excite young people are challenged. And yet inspiration can be found in unexpected places. I have written in past editions of Dimensions magazine about a new initiative that we have undertaken in the ASTC office to explore and learn about diverse cultures. Recently the ASTC team had the opportunity for an extraordinary glimpse into the lives of global refugees through an audiovisual connection from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., to several camps for refugees and displaced people in Europe and Iraq. The dire circumstances of the people in these camps cannot be overstated. Still, when we asked (through interpreters) about the hopes and dreams of the young people present, we were enormously heartened to hear them speak about futures as doctors, engineers, teachers, inventors, and other interests that are completely consistent with the aspirations of young people around us in our centers and museums every day. According to the UN Population Fund, there are 1.8 billion youth in the world today, with 89% of them in developing countries—and the number is growing. It will take all of our efforts, and resources commensurate with the task, to keep their dreams alive and help those dreams become realities.

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