Thursday, August 25, 2011

Welcome and Farewell

Here on the Purdue campus, it’s getting to the end of the first week of classes.  After a summer of languid quiet, there are now tens of thousands of folks that weren’t here just a few days previously.  There are new schedules and new constraints: fewer construction barrels and more busses, but more requirements to be someplace for a meeting that starts right at that time.  Yes, the shifts associated with an academic lifestyle.

We also have some welcoming to do for three new affiliates: Anderson University, Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and Evansville Museum.  You probably know something about them, but here’s a little bit more about how they work within our Consortium:

Anderson University is a private university located in Anderson, IN, between Indianapolis and Muncie.  They have a strong program in Astronomy, and in fact will be hosting the next meeting of the Indiana Astronomy network of student and faculty researchers.  In terms of size (a bit over 2000 students), history, and mix, Anderson is more like our existing affiliates at Evansville, Taylor, and Valparaiso: competitive, highly regarded, undergraduate focused institutions with a strong religious tradition.  We are looking forward to their increasing participation in the astronomy network and their engagement of undergraduates in research in the physical sciences.

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is located near the famous Meridian-Kessler neighborhood of Indianapolis.  They are internationally known as the largest children’s museum in the world, and one of the nation’s top museum tourist attractions  (not just children’s museums, but all museums).  They have a new NASA exhibit underway on aviation and modeling, and will be a strong partner in our informal education activities.

Evansville Museum is located on the banks of the Ohio River in the City of Evansville, at the southern end of Indiana (if you wade in the Ohio, or travel one mile south, you’re in Kentucky).  They are home to the Koch Planetarium, and have been hosting a featured Outreach to Space exhibit (INSGC has been working with Science Central to bring Outreach to Space to venues across Indiana, including some exhibits at the Indiana State Fair).  If you’re down there, check out the Moon Watch on September 3. 

As you can tell, these new affiliates all build on existing partnerships and strengths of INSGC, and represent richness in academic and outreach interactions that I believe is unparalleled in the country.  (According to one presentation, INSGC already has over one third of all outreach affiliates in the national Space Grant network; we are the only state with three Challenger Learning Center affiliates.)  In 2003, we were worried how we would manage on 12 or fewer affiliates; now we’re close to 25, and the major question facing INSGC is how to keep from growing too much.  We have this question because of the success and participation of our affiliates, and an ongoing habit of bold innovations and exciting engagement of NASA materials and experiences.

With all of this hoopla, though, there is one bit of mixed feelings with the coming of this fall.  Ben Weiss, who has been our undergraduate INSGC intern since 2009 (with responsibilities for website, data reporting, longitudinal tracking, Facebook upgrading, and general honesty, integrity, and “what else do you need me to do” approach), has graduated and is moving on.  We just heard a few days ago that Ben has been accepted into the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, fulfilling a long-term dream.  He promises to buzz the INSGC Central office in a high performance jet the first chance he gets.  Good luck, Ben, and be well.  I for one will miss you tremendously.  INSGC owes you more than we can express.

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