Meet Ivel Gontan

Full Name: Ivel Gontan

Where do you work: Fleet Science Center

What is your job title: Community Programs Senior Manager

What does your average day in the museum look like: Chaos. Haha! It’s a nutty gig, always changing. I am behind a computer a lot; writing emails to community parters, arranging science workshops for girls, doing lots of tying up of loose ends and keeping multiple folks informed about what goes on. When I am not behind the computer I could be out doing a site visit with a community partner, attending a town hall on education, or having lunch with local businesses and hearing a California senator talk about the housing crisis. All things that happened in the last few weeks

What (project, initiative, etc.) are you currently working on right now for your museum: I run two programs and oversee a third. One of them is focused on getting girls excited about the sciences by involving them in weekly workshops on a variety of themes, from calling the international space station to dissecting sheep brains to understand Alzheimer’s, we do it all! The other one is a career and technology fair that middle school students attend to learn more about their options locally for these kinds of careers. And the last one I oversee is community programs that connects local community centers like libraries and schools to local scientists to create programs for free.

What is your educational background: I have a Masters in Museum Studies with a Focus on Education. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy and Anthropology.

What led you to the museum field: I really wanted to make a difference for youth who are slighted by the formal education system. Especially Latinas, in fact, I wrote my masters thesis on successful strategies for engaging Latona girls in STEM programs. I feel like we have a unique in with kids, an opportunity to spark curiosity that might inspire kids to reach for more.

What are your earliest memories in a museum: I remember going on a field trip to the Miami Science Museum. I stole a mood ring... shhh, don’t tell. :)

Any obstacles you've had to overcome to get to where you are now in the field: Hmm. I am sure I have, but I have such a positive outlook on life that it feels like to me, this is the way things had to turn out. I have a strong work ethic and have had some key opportunities in life. Once I decided I believed in myself, every thing else was irrelevant.

How did you overcome these obstacles: Perseverance and dating people who could provide some leverage economically. That last bit hasn’t always been the case, but in the beginning I was lucky. Now I am in crippling debt. Ha!

What has been your proudest moment with regard to where you are in your career and the work you do in the field: Every moment is my proudest moment. My career has catapulted in the last five years, now I am in a place where I am really focusing on work life balance and that has been one of the biggest challenges.

What advice would you give a student thinking about entering the field: Do it because you love it, all other reasons will leave you falling short of a satisfying life and cheating yourself. Also, base your practice in research, it’s good for you!

What book/source/link would you recommend to learn more about the kind of work you do: Oí! I have tons of resources! Lemme choose one: there is a lot of good stuff in there including more info on culturally responsive research.

What's next for you in your career: Simmering down! I have a new mantra at work: Do A Good Job. Not a great job, not the best job, just a good job. We’ll see how that goes!

What is your favorite museum to go to other than your own and why: I just moved to SoCal, but I really love going to art musesums. They were my first love of museums but I didn’t think they suited my personality and I felt like I could make a bigger difference with science museums. Top three: NYMOMA, OMCA, and The Met.

Karen VidángosComment