Director of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center Todd Boyette was recently appointed president of the Association of Science Museum Directors. Staff writer Harris Wheless spoke to him about his work as director of the Morehead Planetarium and his feelings about his new appointment.
THE DAILY TAR HEEL: What about this job as planetarium director have you enjoyed, and what changes or improvements have you worked to implement?
TODD BOYETTE: I enjoy a lot related to this job. Probably what I enjoy the most is being on a university campus. This is the third science center that I’ve directed. It’s the first one that I’ve led that’s been on a university campus. I love the work that we do with faculty. I love working with the students because we have over 100 students that work here on a regular basis each year.
I like the academic environment, I like the energy and the fact that Morehead is an iconic institution in the state ... Now, in terms of the things that have happened under my leadership, I’ll point to two major ones ... We launched the North Carolina Science Festival in 2010 and it was the first statewide science festival in the country and last year we had over 3,800 participants ... The other was the conversion of our planetarium system from an analog projector system to a digital system. We did that about six years ago.
DTH: What will your role be as the new president?
TB: Well, the (Association of Science Museum Directors), it exists to support science museums and science centers by supporting the leadership in those organizations. And so, my job as president will be to lead that membership organization.
We have a few things that we have to deal with — we just changed our mission statement to be more encompassing ... Membership recruitment is another thing I will take on as president. I want to make sure certainly that the leaders of the leading science museums and science centers in the U.S. and Canada are all participants because we benefit from each other.
If we have directors that are not in the membership and we think should be involved, then I want to make sure that they know about this organization and they know they should be a part of it.
DTH: What about this new job excites you?
TB: Well, I believe in the work that science museums and science centers do. I’ve been in this field, in leadership positions, for 20 years and I think that the role that science museums and science centers play in the communities that they serve is irreplaceable and invaluable.
And there is such a national conversation about STEM education. People in this country understand that STEM education is critically important ... And I just want to make sure that science museums and science centers are not forgotten and not left out of those conversations, because a lot of times when people think about STEM education they think about the science education or the math education that happens in the schools.
Well, that’s absolutely critically important, but what is at least as important is what happens outside the schools. We spend 95 percent of our lives outside of school. And that’s the role that science museums and science centers play... And as president of (the Association of Science Museum Directors) one of the things I’m excited about is making sure that voice is heard — that people remember the importance of science museums and science centers in our world, in our education ecosystem.
When we talk about STEM education systems, remember the Morehead Planetarium, remember the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, and remember those places because they play a critical role in educating the populace.