This month PE welcomes new Board Chair Dr. Judy Lubin. Judy has served on the PE Board since 2013, with notable contributions to the Development and Finance Committees. With a PhD and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, she works as an independent consultant helping mission-driven organizations implement their visions. In addition to her work on the Board, Judy has also been spotted sharing her passion for amateur rocketry with the girls in Sisters4Science.

Can you tell us what inspired you to get involved with PE?
When I joined the board, I was captivated by PE’s mission and approach to education. I have long been an advocate for bringing hands-on education into the schools, because I understand how life-changing education can be when the curriculum truly engages the students, and when teachers can connect to the students and help connect the students to the material. PE’s emphasis on real science with real scientists ensures that it provides meaningful experiences to every student it touches.

What is your vision for PE in the future? For the next year? The next five years?
PE has long been a thought leader in STEM education, operating at the center of a community of science educators, practitioners, and learners. We have recently taken on an exciting new opportunity to expand our role as thought leader and community-builder with the STEM Ecosystem initiative. Working with our partners in the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative, we will be one of 27 communities around the country working to build a robust ecosystem of opportunities for young people. It is a really exciting chance to bring together leaders from the business world, government, and non-profits to find ways to maximize the benefits of STEM programs. Five years from now, I expect that PE will be a leader in Chicago’s STEM education community, reaching underserved populations in every corner of the city and revitalizing the local and national STEM pipeline with its graduates. As a part of our movement towards this vision, we will be working over the next year to enhance the connection that the adult members of our community – STEM professionals, facilitators, volunteers, supporters – have to the students and to the mission.

What is your relationship to STEM?
My first love in the STEM area is mathematics. For a career, I applied math not to the physical sciences but to the social sciences. My PhD is in economics, with emphasis on an area of applied mathematics called game theory. More recently, I have been doing hands-on science as a hobby since 2008, when I discovered high-power amateur rocketry. Hands-on science of any sort teaches about the physical world, such as physics and aerodynamics in the case of rocketry. But even more importantly, it teaches important life skills like resiliency, persistence, and how to motivate oneself solely on the basis of the sense of achievement felt when hundreds of hours of hard work finally get put to a real-world test. In addition to building and launching my own rockets, I have been very involved in rocketry education through an organization called Rockets for Schools and by mentoring the Northwestern University rocket team. As a woman involved in science and mathematics for almost 30 years, I am convinced that women and minorities today still face too many boundaries in the STEM fields, boundaries that don’t need to be there. I love knowing that my work with PE is helping to remove those boundaries.

In addition to serving on the board you have also brought your expertise with rockets into programs. What is it like to interact with PE youth as a STEM professional? Does that experience inform your work as board chair?

Showing off her rocket to the Funston Sisters

Showing off her rocket to the Funston Sisters

Being in the classroom with curious, motived learners is always rewarding. I have been particularly impressed by the girls’ sense of thoughtfulness, curiosity, and ability to focus. Listening to the girls reflect on what they learned at the end of the sessions I have attended, I could tell that I had made an impact when they showed me that they understood some very complicated concepts in rocket propulsion. More importantly, they showed themselves that they could be anything they choose – even rocket scientists!

Going through the trainings that PE provides for visiting STEM professionals has also helped me to improve my skills in science education. The training showed me that PE values its STEM professionals and wants their experiences to be just as meaningful as the students’. Because of this experience, one of my goals for my first year as board chair is to bring to other groups the strong connection to the mission that our STEM professionals have.

What is the best way for people to get involved with PE?
The best way for people to get involved is to donate time and money. As a volunteer myself, I cannot say enough about how wonderful the experience of working with these young people is, and I hope more and more STEM professionals will share their passion with them.

On the fundraising side of things, this year we are launching our Annual Fund campaign. As a part of that campaign, we have an exciting matching opportunity! We are partnering with a family foundation that has pledged to match gifts of $2,500 and above, up to $25,000. Our goal is to raise $50,000 by the end of the year. Of course I would be thrilled to talk to anyone who thinks they might be interested in joining us.

Any last thoughts?
Just that there are so many exciting things going on. I am looking forward to expanding the PE family. This is going to be a great year for Project Exploration!


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