Gatepost Interview: Suzanne Wright – Christa McAuliffe Center science education coordinator

Caroline Gordon / THE GATEPOST

What is your job at FSU? 

Right now, it’s a part-time job. I am the informal science education coordinator here at the Christa McAuliffe Center. 

Where did you work prior to FSU? 

I recently graduated from Framingham State University. I was a history major and I just graduated in May 2019. I’ve only ever interned with the McAuliffe Center. I interned there during my undergraduate career – first as NASA’s Universe of Learning intern, and then, I joined the Moon Landing in Context project. I did spend some time volunteering for the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site – which is his birthplace in Brookline – over this past summer as well. 

What is the most interesting aspect of your job? 

I think the most interesting aspect of my job is that I get to work with STEM professionals, as well as school groups from all over the state. Also, I’ve done some awesome things, like talk to astronauts during a downlink that we had a few years ago. A downlink is essentially just a livestreaming kind of video chat/video conference where you get to ask them questions in real time and get their answers. It is called a downlink because they are obviously up in space and we are down on earth. I have been part of two downlinks now. It’s not that often that you get to speak with astronauts on board the International Space Station. FSU is a Smithsonian affiliate, so as somebody who has studied Newseum studies, having the connections to the Smithsonian is invaluable. 

What is the most challenging aspect of your job? 

That’s a good question. I would say the most challenging aspect of my job is coordinating big projects like Science on State Street, which happens every April, or STEM Week, which happens every October, and coordinating the different activities and school groups that come by to do activities – like I mentioned with those STEM professionals. It’s a lot of communicating and scheduling, almost like an event planner. You must take under all those different organizational aspects – also lots of emails. 

What do you think is the importance of educating people about space? 

I think understanding space and having a perspective of space looking down on earth helps one understand Earth a lot better. If you think about things from a space perspective, Earth doesn’t have any boundaries between people or countries. We all inhabit the same place. I think it’s really important for sharing different perspectives and a shared humanity, but also helps us understand how our world works a lot better.

How has the McAuliffe Center changed since your time interning there as an undergrad? 

We have added new projects – bigger projects. For example, we just concluded The Moon Landing in Context project, which was an 18-month project that I worked on. This one-day symposium on Friday was called, “Sustainable Space, Sustainable Earth, From Ideas to Action.” It had experts in the fields of space technology, bioethics, and global education. It was super interdisciplinary. I think getting involved with projects that are much larger than FSU, getting involved with the Smithsonian and other institutions, we are constantly striving to make larger impacts. 

What made you interested in working for FSU? 

Like I mentioned, I spent my undergraduate career here. As somebody who graduated from FSU – and I also spent time interning here – I definitely knew I wanted to stay. FSU is somewhere I feel very comfortable working, and I love being part of the campus community. I still get to work with professors I had as an undergraduate, and some students, too, that I still know from my time here. I really love being part of the campus community. Working at the McAuliffe Center is a great transition as a job coming out of undergrad as a young professional. 

As you are an FSU graduate, what was your most memorable FSU moment? 

I was part of a lot of awesome opportunities. One that is sticking out is I was an Irish Studies minor, I got to go on a 10-day study abroad trip with Dr. Kelly Matthews from the English department. We spent some time in Derry and Dublin. Then, I took her Irish Literature class. Our class helped her with bringing the American Conference for Irish Studies when she was hosting it in Boston. I was an intern on that project. It gave me a good insight into organizing an academic conference. 

What made you interested in studying history during your time at FSU?

 I was passionate about history and visiting museums since eight grade. I actually did attend a vocational technical high school where I studied business. I was always passionate about volunteering and non-profits. I didn’t know if I wanted to go down the path of non-profit business. I decided after high school that I did not want to pursue a business degree straight up. The next best thing was going with my passion, which was history. By studying history and museum studies, I still get to work for non-profits, but in a way where I get to spread my interests. 

How has FSU changed since you were a freshman? 

In a lot of ways, it has changed for the better. We are reaching out as we acquire more centers on campus, more initiatives that bring together different disciplines. In some ways, kids are less likely to get involved on campus, so that’s disappointing. I would like to see more students get involved. 

What are your future and professional goals? 

To work in museum education. I am passionate about learning that is outside of the classroom. I love teaching, but not in a way where it’s in front of the classroom. I love learning that takes place outside of the classroom, so people can see examples of what they are learning about – whether it is history or science.

What advice do you have for FSU students? 

Follow your passions. Study what you love and what you want to do in life, which might not always be the most practical-seeming or the easiest major, but challenge yourself and really enjoy it. Get involved, join clubs, attend campus events, and make connections with fellow peers and professors. 

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