Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Awards presented for Business Practice, Individual Leadership, and Visitor Experience

Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Awards

The Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) has presented its Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Awards to three additional member organizations and one individual in three categories. The virtual awards ceremony, which was incorporated into the program for #ASTCvirtual, completes a process that began with the presentation of awards in two other categories—Community Science and Resilience—at the ASTC 2022 Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Leading Edge Awards are presented to ASTC members and their teams in recognition of extraordinary accomplishments that enhance the performance of their organizations while also significantly advancing and inspiring the entire field. The 2022 awards honor some of the most innovative and impactful work of ASTC-member organizations over the past three years. Because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards have not been presented since 2019.

Award for Business Practice

The Business Practice category recognizes outstanding accomplishments in the administration and financial sustainability of ASTC-member organizations. This includes—but is not limited to—revenue generation, marketing, public relations, fundraising, human resources, operations, and partnerships.

Museum of the Future
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Museum of the Future

The Museum of the Future is honored for its attention to recruiting, training, and rewarding an exceptional staff. On the recruiting side, the museum made interviews globally accessible and masked certain attributes to focus on skill-based assessment. Then the museum established an extensive, five-day collaborative training process for all guest-facing staff, which emphasized cultural understanding and cross-cultural learning. The museum has also committed to ongoing staff development and engagement that are designed to be broadly inclusive, to foster personal and cultural connections among the diverse staff, and to reinforce museum values. These efforts include fun team-building activities and a series of monthly incentives, which are largely based on recognition from visitors.

Several people on stage at the Museum of the Future
Staff at the Museum of the Future accept their Leading Edge Award from Dubai.

Award for Individual Leadership

The Individual Leadership category recognizes extraordinary accomplishments in a leadership role for the individual’s organization and/or the field as a whole. This includes—but is not limited to—leadership in developing and applying new ideas and/or enhancing best practices. The award recognizes leadership, regardless of professional position or supervisory status.

Peg Filliez
Volunteer, University of Nebraska State Museum
Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
University of Nebraska State Museum

This year, the ASTC Awards Committee felt that it was impossible to select just one staff member, given what all of us have been through the past few years and the leadership so many have shown. But there was one nominee who really stood out. This individual is not a CEO or even staff at the museum, but a superlative volunteer for the University of Nebraska State Museum. Peg Filliez began as a volunteer in 2017 after retiring from elsewhere in the university. As a skilled administrator in her prior professional career, Peg brought those insights to her volunteer work, helping document, rewrite, and streamline processes in several departments. For example, she took the initiative to document the practices of the education department when many of its staff were furloughed. In short, Peg was part of the essential glue that allowed the museum to weather the challenges of the pandemic.

Several individuals at the University of Nebraska State Museum to present award
Peg Filliez (center) being honored with the Leading Edge Award at the University of Nebraska State Museum.

Awards for Visitor Experience

The Visitor Experience category recognizes outstanding accomplishments in the visitor experience, which includes—but is not limited to—exhibitions, education programs, technology applications, theater and film programming, visitor services, research, and evaluation. This year, there were two awards for Visitor Experience.

Discovery Lab
Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
Discovery Lab

Discovery Lab in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is recognized for a deep partnership with Tulsa Public Schools, leading to the museum housing the school system’s official STEAM Center, providing classroom space, educators, and curriculum to every student in pre-K through fifth grade each year. The STEAM Center was being developed at the same time that Discovery Lab was planning its new building. Rather than two separate facilities, what if the STEAM Center was a part of the new Discovery Lab building? With help from an architecture firm that was working with both parties, they worked through all the challenges, including transportation, storage, and lunch. They’ve been able to work through all of those questions and served nearly 7,000 students in just their first four months. Each of those students participated in a lab activity led by a Discovery Lab educator and the opportunity to follow their own curiosity through the exhibits.

Discovery Lab staff on a Zoom
Representatives from Discovery Lab accept the Leading Edge Award virtually. Chip Lindsey (top left), board chair Stephanie Stump (bottom left); Alex Waetjen (bottom right).
San Francisco, California, United States

The Exploratorium is recognized for their Striving for Trans-Inclusion and Anti-Racism in Science learning—or STARS—program, which is intended to expand inclusion, belonging, and relevance in informal science learning with a focus on addressing inequities based on gender, sexuality, and race. STARS builds on existing Exploratorium activities in a way that centers excluded identities in STEAM and education, including trans and queer people and people from historically excluded racial backgrounds. The STARS cohort works with other Exploratorium teams to produce educational content for visitors focused on inclusion and access and to train facilitators to engage with visitors online and in-person. This past year, the STARS program worked to incorporate principles of anti-racism and gender inclusion as the Exploratorium restarted its school field trip program. They’re prototyping efforts to offer free field trips as part of building long-term relationships with selected schools. The STARS program is also working with Exploratorium Explainers to provide professional development and career exposure on STEAM and educator pathways, inclusive language for working with museum visitors, confidence building, and much more.

Representatives from the Exploratorium accept the Leading Edge Award virtually. Akiko Minaga (top right); Sal Alper (bottom).

About the awards

The awards are named in honor of Roy L. Shafer, a former ASTC board chair who served as President and CEO of the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio. After his death, the ASTC Board of Directors named the Leading Edge Awards for Shafer in tribute to his progressive thinking, dynamic leadership, and devotion to our profession.

Recipients of the Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Awards are selected by the ASTC Awards Committee, made up of staff from ASTC-member organizations around the world. Serving on the committee this year are co-chairs Jonah Cohen of McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama, and Sam Dean of Scott Family Amazeum in Bentonville, Arkansas, and the following members: Katie Anderson of U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama; Toph Bryant of Kentucky Science Center in Louisville; Irena Cieślińska of Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland; Andrea Durham of Saint Louis Science Center in Missouri; Pody Gay from Museum of Discovery in Little Rock, Arkansas; Robin Gose of MOXI The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation in Santa Barbara, California; Maribel Ibarra from Sietecolores Ideas Interactivas in Mexico City, Mexico; Ali Jackson from Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York; Megan Ramer from Connecticut Science Center in Hartford; Tifferney White from Discovery Place in Charlotte, North Carolina; and Darryl Williams from The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Committee members were not involved in the evaluation or discussion of nominations involving their own institutions.

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