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Nov 16, 2018

“If we don’t ever fail, then we’re not pushing the envelope.”

Ellen Stofan on Green Connections Radio

When Ellen Stofan stepped off the management track to stay home with her kids and work part-time, she accepted that she was probably derailing her career.  She kept a few toes in the game over the 12 year period, working part-time doing a few interesting research projects that she could do on her own time.

Today, she finds herself the new Director of the famed Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC -- the most visited museum in the United States -- and spearheading its ~$1 billion transformation, as the first woman in this prestigious role. Wait, really?

Listen to this fascinating conversation Dr. Stofan had with Green Connections Radio host Joan Michelson in person at the museum's Udvar-Hazy location by Dulles airport in Virginia.

Hear how she got this job, and:

  • How they design exhibits, choosing between 60,000+ artifacts, 5,500 works of art, 1.75 million photographs, 14,000 videos/films and 12,000+ cubic feet of documents.


  • Redesigning nearly every aspect of the most popular museum – innovating out loud while talking about innovation in aerospace (from WWII pilots being able to see each other, to drones, e.g.)


  • Showing climate change from air and space – how it affects each one of us on the planet -- and is urgent.


  • Why failure is critical to success – "If we don’t ever fail, then we’re not pushing the envelope," Stofan said.


  • Building a career, and advancing in STEM, especially as a woman – including how she went from stay-at-home mom to leading the famed museum (and Chief Scientist at NASA before the museum).


  • Career tips that might surprise you, such as,“Think about who you’re going to be and what you’re going to contribute”.

And so much more!

What’s YOUR favorite exhibit at the Air and Space museum? What suggestions do you have for the renovation? Tweet it to us @joanmichelson or post it on our Facebook Page (and ask to join our new private Facebook group)

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