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2012 Election: Paul Knappenberger
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photo of Paul KnappenbergerCandidate Statement:
Paul Knappenberger


Dear fellow Planetarians,

It is an honor for me to be included in such an outstanding group of candidates for the office of President-Elect of IPS. I have been involved with IPS since its inception over 40 years ago, have had the privilege of helping to host three IPS Conferences, and have come to regard many of you not only as professional colleagues, but also as personal friends. IPS has been a constant throughout my career of 44 years, so I would welcome the opportunity to serve the organization that has been an important element in my professional growth.

Over the years of my involvement with IPS, I’ve witnessed its evolution in key areas. I’ve seen our subject matter expand from constellation identification and basic astronomy to cosmology and space exploration. I’ve participated in the transition from analog to digital technologies with ever-greater capabilities, working with many of the outstanding vendors who specialize in supporting our efforts. I’ve watched the needs and expectations of our audiences change as they are exposed to an ever-expanding menu of information sources. Most importantly, I’ve witnessed the transition of the membership from a largely American group to one that is distinctly more international in composition.

My conversations with many of you about issues and opportunities have helped identify the three areas to which I would devote my primary attention and effort if elected:

  1. Strengthening and supporting our international collaborations, especially important now that the growth of our membership includes many countries throughout the world;

  2. Raising the professionalism of our efforts through continuing research on how people learn in informal and immersive environments, and through offering more professional development opportunities to support best practices and current content in our field;

  3. Increasing our audiences and attracting more financial support for our work by raising the awareness and recognition of our unique abilities to educate people of all ages about astronomy and space science in immersive environments. With the urgent need for improved education in science, math, engineering, and technology, we are in a strong position to be leaders in this effort.

I have been actively involved in all three areas, and can apply the lessons I have learned to accomplish these goals for IPS. I also bring the experience that I have gained in leadership positions in other professional organizations. I have served on NASA's Space Science Advisory Committee and chaired its Education and Public Outreach Task Force. I have served as president of the Association of Science-Technology Centers and on the Council of the American Association of Museums. I currently chair the Chicago Council for Science and Technology, and I am the past president of Museums in the Park, a consortium of the ten major museums in Chicago.

I came to the planetarium field from an astronomy research background, having earned a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Virginia in 1968. My first position was as an astronomer with the Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta, where Julius D. W. Staal, the planetarium director, got me involved in the Southeastern Planetarium Association (SEPA) and then IPS. Fernbank hosted the IPS Conference in 1974.

I left Fernbank to become the founding director of the Science Museum of Virginia, where we installed the first digital planetarium, Digistar 1, in 1983. For several years prior to this we transported a small planetarium around Virginia to build awareness and support for the founding of the Science Museum.In 1988 we hosted the IPS Conference in Richmond.

I have been president of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago since 1991. Over the past 21 years we established a research program and a space visualization lab, greatly expanded our educational efforts, and enhanced the museum facility by adding a tilted-dome theater in 1999 and updating the flat-screen Universe Theater into a 3D venue in 2008. Last year we completed the transformation of the 1930 Zeiss Sky Theater into a theater with cutting-edge technologies, including state-of-the-art video projectors, multi-track sound and computer control systems. In addition to our three permanent theaters, Adler educators use inflatable domes for outreach in the Chicago community. We were pleased to be able to host the 2008 IPS Conference in Chicago.

If you select me as IPS President-Elect, I will enjoy working with you in the years ahead to successfully meet the challenges that we face in building a stronger international society.

Paul H. Knappenberger, Jr., Ph.D.


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