ASTC’s Community Science Dialogue & Deliberation Fellowship Program is focused on nurturing a corps of science engagement professionals as they partner with community organizations to address community priorities. Ten Fellows, each based at an ASTC-member science and technology center or museum, are working collaboratively with community partners to implement a community discussion event to address a local issue at the intersection of science, technology, society, and policy.  

This program is a part of ASTC’s Community Science Initiative, which aims to build the capacity of ASTC-member institutions to address community priorities through community science. This fellowship is supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. 

What is Dialogue & Deliberation?

Dialogue & Deliberation is a set of approaches that can help community members identify or refine priorities and make decisions about important issues. Dialogue allows people to share their perspectives on a topic and deliberation provides an opportunity to examine options and make actionable decisions. These techniques are effective when applied to a wide range of topics that impact communities, including issues related to science and technology. Dialogue & Deliberation on science-related topics takes an expansive view to examine societal impacts, community values, and public policy decisions that can inform—and be informed by—science. 

The goal of Dialogue & Deliberation events is to empower community members to produce recommendations that are then acted upon by scientific experts, policymakers, and community members in collaboration with one another. Learn more about Dialogue & Deliberation approaches to Community Science in our toolkit

About the Fellowship Program

Fellows and their home institutions are working with community partners, such as neighborhood associations, faith-based organizations, or government agencies. During a 12-month training program, Fellows and community partners are learning skills for maintaining an equitable partnership, as well as key elements of dialogue-based programming like identifying a topic, designing community meetings, facilitating conversations, measuring the success of programs, and maintaining ongoing engagement. 

As part of the program, Fellows and their community partners are co-developing and hosting a Dialogue & Deliberation event that addresses a community priority at the intersection of science and society. After the event, Fellows and their community partners will reflect on the success of their program with help from a third-party evaluator who will assess the impact of their program and capture the lessons learned from it. 

Meet the Fellows

Alyssa Johnson
Ithaca Sciencenter

Alyssa is an Education Program Coordinator at the Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York, where she uses community science and outreach to bring science off the shelf and into the community. Her goal is to inspire curiosity and confidence around STEM through accessible youth and family programming. With a background in environmental science and science outreach—and having worked with Geoscientist-in-the-Parks, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in research laboratories at Baylor University and the University of Colorado, Boulder—she uses her experience to create and deliver STEM programming for learners in the Ithaca community and nationwide. As a Fellow, Alyssa is excited to learn from community partners and work with them to achieve their goals through inclusive design, thoughtful engagement, and support of a dialogue and deliberation program that inspires new ideas and welcomes all perspectives. 

Aya Yamamoto
California Academy of Sciences

Aya’s first experiences connecting with nature occurred in the vibrant community gardens of East Harlem and at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. She will never forget harvesting peppers for the first time, or seeing evolutionary trees unfold on museum walls. These glimmers of human connection to the natural world illuminated more than ecological systems–they showed her that she was a part of these systems and they a part of her. She had found a long-lost home she never knew she had. These moments sparked a lifelong commitment to interweaving culture with ecology and increasing access to nature for those typically excluded from outdoor recreation by social, economic, and political barriers. She is a Public Programs Specialist at the California Academy of Sciences and an active member of the Academy’s Indigenous Solidarity subcommittee. Previously, Aya served as a main organizer for the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign and has worked to build community and schoolyard gardens in New York and California.   

Claire Dorsett
Great Lakes Science Center 

Claire is the Associate Director of Strategic Content at Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio. She believes that learning can—and should!—take place anywhere and everywhere, and strives to shape scalable, immersive, and inspiring learning environments both within her museum and throughout the broader community. Prior to entering the museum world, Claire spent three years acquiring and editing children’s books—many of them STEM-related—for Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers in New York City. Over the course of the last four years, she has drawn upon narrative storytelling techniques to develop three 7,000-square-foot original special exhibitions on topics ranging from adhesives to automobiles. Currently, she is leading the content design for a STEM- and manufacturing-themed park and playground in a downtown Cleveland neighborhood. Claire received a National Informal STEM Education Network Sustainability Fellowship in 2019. In 2020, she led the implementation of an IF/THEN® Gender Equity Grant from ASTC to increase diverse representation in the science center’s content. She is also a lead organizer of ASTC’s Rethink, Reframe, Reopen discussion series, which has seen participation from hundreds of museum professionals around the world. Claire infatuated by science and spends her spare time soaking up as much new knowledge as she can.

Claudia Martinez Gray
International Museum of Art & Science

Claudia is the Director of Education at the International Museum of Art & Science in McAllen, Texas, where she began as a volunteer gallery guide back in 2017. After a visit to Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in high school, she became enthralled by the museum experience and has been an avid museumgoer ever since. Claudia’s interest in science blossomed after she learned how to use a telescope as an adult! She is a Certified Interpretive Guide and also serves on the Board of the Informal Science Education Association of Texas. In her free time, she enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles and watching heist movies. Through this fellowship, Claudia looks forward to gaining a better understanding of how to create meaningful, authentic collaborations with local communities.

David Valentine
Science Museum of Minnesota

Born in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada and raised in the Pacific Northwest, David is a writer, woodcarver, and musician, and conversationalist who specializes in internal culture change. He serves as the Community Engagement Specialist at the Science Museum of Minnesota in Minneapolis. David has worked with several museums and cultural institutions throughout his career and his current focus is on power sharing, dialogue, and collaboration with communities. He seeks to subvert white supremacist culture in the organizations he works for and aims to create fertile ground to grow genuine relationships. David has founded, chaired, and been a member of several committees focused on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility, including the Seattle Cultural Accessibility Consortium, the Seattle Center Racial Equity Cohort, and MASS Action’s Anti-Racism Community of Practice. He also has significant experience leading and working with cooperative screenwriting groups, musical collaborations, and community organizations. His work revolves around addressing or recovering from racial disparities and injustices in our society and shifting personal perspectives and behaviors, and is in continuous development. 

Eron Damercy
Rochester Museum and Science Center

Eron is a Rochester, New York, native and a passionate student of the history, ethnology, and ecology of the region. As School and Teacher Program Coordinator at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, Eron mixes teaching, administration, and curriculum development to help the museum refine its educational offerings to suit the needs of today’s learners. They also designed and managed the museum’s Curiosity Club program, a unique childcare and tutoring service offered in response to the increased need for affordable care opportunities during the pandemic. Outside of the Museum, Eron is an active part of Rochester’s food justice and housing justice communities—working with the Flower City Pickers, the REACH shelter, Food not Bombs and more—and works to raise vaccine confidence among their neighbors, especially members of communities who have been historically harmed and exploited by medical institutions. As an informal educator, Eron works to ignite curiosity in all learners, empower them with tools and strategies that will help them further their own growth, and to call attention to the power of critical thinking, logic, and inquiry to ameliorate ecological and social challenges. Through this fellowship program, they hope to deepen their knowledge of community needs and priorities, and to position the Rochester Museum and Science Center as an accessible, welcoming resource to serve those needs.

Ian Reed
Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) – Tampa

Ian is the Manager for Youth and Academic Programs at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, Florida. Born and raised in Tampa, Ian loves the South Florida community. He has worked at MOSI for 20 years and studied physics and interdisciplinary social science at the University of South Florida. Ian is celebrating eight years of marriage with his wife Tracy and, in his spare time, Ian loves reading about history and politics.

Kristan Uhlenbrock
Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Kristan is a communicator, scientist, and policy expert. As the Director for the Institute for Science and Policy, a project of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, her objective is to ensure science has a respected role in public discourse and policymaking. Kristan spent almost a decade in Washington, DC, in the nonprofit, think tank, and government sectors engaging in a range of Earth science and policy challenges. Kristan loves to give back through leadership and volunteer roles, including as a mentor for the Morgridge Acceleration Program and the Promoting Geoscience Research, Education, and Success Program. She serves on the Board for the Science Writers Association of the Rocky Mountains and the Environmental Sustainability Committee for the American Meteorological Society, among other leadership positions. In her free time, Kristan enjoys escaping to the outdoors, writing, and enjoying good food and drink with friends.

Sam Tayag
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Sam brings their experience as a nurse, grassroots environmental justice advocate, artist, and caregiver, along with their family’s Indigenous cultural teachings, to their role as a Community Science Coordinator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. They are interested in understanding and supporting human-nature relationships, particularly for the most systemically marginalized members of our community and the wildlife most impacted by human activity. As a California Naturalist, they study the urban-wildlife interface, wildfire burn scars, and stigmatized species like coyotes, rattlesnakes, household insects, and poison oak. Sam is invested in how access to nature and environmental justice empowers individuals and communities and improves mental, physical, and social health. Their ultimate aim in community science is to decolonize the hierarchical and isolating ways in which dominant culture presents the natural sciences. They seek to elevate the ways of knowing they grew up with to create accessible, artistic, comprehensive, dynamic, and equitable spaces where wonder and function coexist with the curiosity and real-world needs of communities.

Wallis Boram
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center

Wallis has always been passionate about science and the natural world and can remember rooting around in her backyard in search of worms, lizards, and fossils as a child. This passion led her to move from her home in Seattle, Washington to the Hudson Valley in New York for college where she received her degree in biology with a focus on ecology. Her senior thesis was a research study investigating the effects of invasive jumping worms on hardwood deciduous forests in the Northeast. In October of 2020, Wallis moved again, this time to Concord, New Hampshire where she took on the role of Education Specialist at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. There, she works with high school students around the state to create traveling museum exhibits that focus on human physiology in space and planetary geology. Through her work in informal education, Wallis wants to make science accessible—and fun!—for people of all ages and backgrounds. Wallis enjoys hiking and backpacking, doing creative art projects, and spending time with her cat Gromit. 

Previous Fellows

Mirka Zapletal
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center

Mirka was a high school social studies teacher in New Hampshire and Vermont for seven years. After a transformative experience helping with conservation research, Mirka returned to school to pursue graduate studies and is currently working on a PhD in biology and evolutionary ecology. Field work has taken Mirka to locations as diverse as New Hampshire farm pastures, the Bolivian rain forest, the Mongolian steppe, and more. Previously, Mirka was the Public Outreach Coordinator for the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act, a Federal program working mainly on the Louisiana coast to restore and maintain coastal wetlands in the face of rising sea levels and other human-mediated impacts. Mirka is now back in New Hampshire as the Director of Education at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, where she focuses on helping students and the general public feel that science is accessible and engaging. Along with her husband, kids, and two dogs, Mirka enjoys getting outside in all seasons, baking, and learning about dinosaurs. Mirka believes that having the chance to directly participate in science can change a life (it certainly changed hers!) so she strives to provide access to that opportunity for everyone.

Project contact

If you have any questions about the ASTC Community Science Dialogue & Deliberation Fellowship, please email Naomi Wallace, Manager of Impact Initiatives.

Fellowship Resource Partners

Thank you to our wonderful Resource Partners who helped with the design of the Fellowship curriculum, gave talks, and supported our Fellows.

• Courtney Breese, Executive Director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)
• Nicholas Felts, Research Associate, Kettering Foundation
• Nicole Hewitt-Cabral, Founder and CEO, Community Action Strategies LLC
• Rebecca Reilly, Teen and Adult Engagement Assistant Manager, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
• Kathryn Semmens, Science Director, Nurture Nature Center
David Sittenfeld, Manager of Forums and National Collaborations, Museum of Science, Boston

Our partners 

Support for this fellowship program is provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. 

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