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Friday, March 27, 2009

I *heart* Outreach

As I've mentioned before, in addition to my research, I am the coordinator of two outreach programs.

One of them is a nation-wide general science outreach program, which was actually started at the university I attend now back in the early 1990s. I coordinated the program at my master's university for 1.5 years, and have been doing it here since I moved in August 2005. Sometimes I can't believe I've been doing it for 5.5 years now!

Generally, what I do is set up outreach events with community groups: Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, local museums, the libraries, etc.. Then, I recruit people from our volunteer base to do science activities with the groups. We also do events with local teachers, but my co-coordinator deals with that part. We have about 100 volunteers, so we're pretty busy!

The other outreach program I run is focused on astronomy. This program is my baby - I created it from the ground up in 2006 and have been running it ever since. I designed all the presentations and activities we use, organize all the logistics of scheduling (of events and TAs), advertising the program, contacting group leaders, and write lots of reports to maintain our funding. I also get to do events once a week - in the first two years I was doing it twice a week, but now there is so much administrative work to do that two TAs were hired to do most of the presentations.

Both programs are a lot of work, but I love them...and I love the work. I think I really found my skill set: I have serious super-organizational, time-management, and multitasking skills. I find the work so rewarding, and it has made the last four years much more bearable.

I am going to be really sad not to be involved in the programs in just a few months. In fact, my astronomy program finishes in four weeks, and then I hand it over. It will be so hard to let go of my baby - something that I created - and leave it in someone else's hands. I have to hire someone to take over for me in the other program next month. Even though I won't be done with that program until August 1st, I'm already sad to see it all go.