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Dear IPS Member,

As you are aware, 2016 is an election year for the IPS. Beginning on 1 October, we shall all be voting for the next IPS President-Elect, Secretary and Treasurer, who will hold those positions during 2017-18. The President-Elect will be President in 2019-20 and Past President in 2021-22.

Please vote via the IPS 2016 Electronic Ballot

The candidates, in alphabetical order, are:

  1. President-Elect:
    • Jack Dunn, Retired Planetarian, South Carolina, USA
    • Levent Gurdemir, University of Texas at Arlington Planetarium, Texas, USA
    • Lee Ann Hennig, Thomas Jefferson High School Planetarium, Virginia, USA
    • Mark SubbaRao, Adler Planetarium, Chicago, USA
  2. Secretary:
    • Patty Seaton, Howard B. Owens Science Centre and Planetarium, Maryland, USA
    • Rachel Thompson, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Texas, USA
  3. Treasurer:
    • Ann Bragg, Anderson Hancock Planetarium, Ohio, USA/li>
Candidate statements are below.


Martin George

Chair, IPS Elections Committee


PRESIDENT-ELECT: Jack Dunn - Lee Ann Hennig - Levent Gurdemir - Mark SubbaRao

SECRETARY: Patty Seaton - Rachel Thompson


photo of Jack Dunn


Jack Dunn

I’m very honored to be nominated as IPS President-Elect. Part of that honor is simply being named as a nominee to an office held by many outstanding planetarians I’ve known as leaders in our profession.

Historically, I was there at the Conference of American Planetarium Educators in 1970 and saw the beginnings of our society. I was one of the founders of the Great Plains Planetarium Association and glad it was accepted into IPS, which helped planetarians in the central plains of the United States.

IPS president Jim Hooks brought me into being involved more in IPS and I met new friends from all over the world. I enjoyed working with this amazing group while on and off IPS council for many years. I was involved in committees, from copyright to technology. The main point of my region and IPS was to help planetariums because we always seemed to operate on limited budgets and with limited staff compared to some other media. Yet planetariums had a far greater reach in their impact and IPS was there to encourage this.

Just as the planetarium world has evolved with the introduction of digital projection, IPS also faces the need for evolution. We have many new artists, producers, and visualization specialists entering the medium, while at the same time there is still the need for teaching science and reaching audiences with an appreciation of the cosmos.

My thought about IPS is that it must serve all sizes of domes and continue to encourage the effective use of those domes in all parts of the world. I said at the Warsaw conference that I love the historical perspective and experience I have gained by being a planetarian since the late 1960s. But, at the same time, I look forward to all the amazing possibilities that are now

being realized in those domes.

IPS has a role to support the future in sharing experience and knowledge among planetarians who, even with the advent of the internet, can still be isolated. It is from attending regional and IPS conferences and through the contacts I made that I learned most of my knowledge of how to try and run an effective planetarium. We need to continue to reach all the domes we can, and welcome all those new persons coming into our profession.

So, I appreciate my years of history, but I also want to look forward and grow our IPS universe.

PRESIDENT-ELECT: Jack Dunn - Lee Ann Hennig - Levent Gurdemir - Mark SubbaRao

SECRETARY: Patty Seaton - Rachel Thompson


photo of PERSON


Lee Ann Henning

At Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, USA, I teach a year-long astronomy course to juniors/seniors, a senior-level course in astronomy and astrophysics research lab, and offer planetarium presentations to K-12 schools in my region of the school district.

Besides my experience in IPS, I am a long-time member of IPS Affiliate Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society, for which I have held the offices of Secretary, President, Board Member, and Education Committee Chair.

Goal/Vision as president-elect: As a teacher and a planetarium director I have tried to live by Christa McAuliffe’s words, “I touch the future…I teach.” I hope that I bring that same spirit to IPS in my work with colleagues and the promise of Vision 2020. In our profession we learn from each other. Our interactions provide us with opportunities to learn new techniques, exchange ideas, and gain fresh insight from newer members. It is also our responsibility to pass on those lessons we have learned and to share our experiences - to be mentors. Everyone has a contribution to make to our profession.

Whether our universe is in a portable, small, midsize, or large facility– each of us has a role to play. Our differences should not be a barrier, but, rather, our diversity makes us stronger. The respect and support for each other in this special community is vital to our growth and effectiveness.

Along with the other officers and Council, I will work diligently to move our organization forward in a cooperative and concerted effort. We will focus on the Vision 2020 Initiative to make our organization stronger and more relevant to all of our members, regardless of the size of the facility, the type of projector, or how long you have been in the profession. Members need to know and experience tangible benefits from being part of IPS other than just the core expectations (conference, journal, website, etc.). I will work to ensure the continuity of basic functions of our organization and will also incorporate additional services identified by the membership and by Vision 2020 recommendations.

Working with colleagues from all over the world has brought a perspective that enriches and humbles a person. I will strive to continue the positive efforts of the past Officer/Council teams. I will respect and follow our rules of governance and will deal with all issues in a constructive manner. In order for IPS to reach our potential and serve our membership, we must work as a team. We must focus on the goals of strengthening our organization and nurturing our diversity. There is room for all of us in this endeavor. Embracing the wonderful tools that technology offers us will enhance our abilities, but we must also maintain and support our traditional philosophies. Serving our membership in this journey is the most important part of our vision. That will be our top priority as we move together into the future.

PRESIDENT-ELECT: Jack Dunn - Lee Ann Hennig - Levent Gurdemir - Mark SubbaRao

SECRETARY: Patty Seaton - Rachel Thompson


photo of Levent Gurdemir


Levent Gurdemir

First off, I am truly honored to receive this nomination. This is such a prestigious and challenging position. Thank you to those who nominated me and supported my nomination.

I am the director of the Planetarium at the University of Texas at Arlington, located at the center of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. I am also the current president of SWAP (Southwestern Association of Planetariums). I previously served as SWAP president between 2010-2012 before I was re-elected this year. I have been proud member of IPS for ten years.

IPS is the only global planetarium organization that connects us around the world and therefore it is instrumental for our community. Beyond organizing very successful conferences, IPS has been providing valuable resources through its website and the journal Planetarian. Here is what I would like to contribute if I am the successful candidate:

Recruit new and young members, especially those from developing countries. There are countries in which IPS has no membership. A large number of small US planetariums also have not joined IPS. Young members will be instrumental to shape future of IPS as stated in the 2020 vision of the organization.

Improve and foster use of social media between the members of our community. Better connected members will make IPS even stronger.

Improve communication with regional organizations, especially those outside US. We need to encourage, engage, and help them to organize local events. We should also reach out and recruit new members from local organizations, such as astronomy clubs and observatories.

Partner up with agencies such as NASA, NSF, ESO, etc. to disseminate mini-grants to our community. I am also a member of NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium, which disseminates such grants.

Foster and support STEM-related activities and develop outreach programs. Such activities in developing countries should be our top priority. The future is in STEM.

Develop an online IPS Library. All the resources and materials IPS has been disseminating will be organized and archived under a new online IPS library. The library will be the major resource for the professionals in our community. It will host training aids, how-to guides, current standards, educational content, royalty-free content, and more.

Improve the online IPS Database. Data are a critical part of decision making, and help us to see what is working and what is not. Implementation of a new online database will host lots of useful information, such as attendance/usage statistics, survey results, etc. Based on these data, it will be easier to forecast success.

Adopt a multi-lingual IPS. IPS is a global organization. However, the IPS website and its resources are only available in English. I would like to see the IPS website and all its resources be available in native language of every IPS member.

Let’s make IPS even better!

PRESIDENT-ELECT: Jack Dunn - Lee Ann Hennig - Levent Gurdemir - Mark SubbaRao

SECRETARY: Patty Seaton - Rachel Thompson


photo of Mark SubbaRao


Mark SubbaRao

I am running for IPS President to help shape the future of the planetarium, this wonderful medium which can inspire the public like nothing else. The global community of planetarians is warm, collaborative, and innovative, and I am running for IPS President to help grow and nurture it. We are facing critical times for both our organization and our field as a whole. Immersive technology will soon be commonplace, the science we present is evolving faster than ever, and the technology we use is changing constantly. I believe that with forward-thinking vision and action we can not only thrive but prosper in this future. We have an opportunity to dramatically increase both our impact and the number of people we reach around the world—we only need to seize it.

In recent years I have taken an active role in the IPS. Which includes:

  • Serving on the Vision2020 planning team, which is tasked with developing a strategy for how to best grow, strengthen and modernize the IPS;
  • Chairing the IPS’s Science and Data Visualization Task Force, which is tasked with preparing the planetarium community for the upcoming big data era;
  • Serving on the IPS 2016 Conference Program Organizing Committee; and
  • Writing a regular column, “Data to Dome,” in Planetarian.

On the Vision2020 team I am responsible for Goal #2, “Strengthen ties with the professional scientific community in the field of astronomy and other space sciences to bring current research and discoveries to our audiences.” During the Warsaw conference I reported on recent successes in this regard, which include:

  • Developing a framework for a joint working group between IPS and the International Astronomical Union’s Commission C2 (Communicating Astronomy with the Public).
  • Representing the planetarium community during the American Astronomical Society’s decision process regarding the stewardship of the Worldwide Telescope project.
  • Working with the European Southern Observatory on the D2D “data to dome” platform that will enable content discovery, distribution, and sharing across different planetarium platforms.

If elected, I will focus on building a more active organization and expanding professional development opportunities. We will support research that demonstrates how effective the planetarium is. We will institute organizational changes to make IPS more nimble and responsive. We will increase revenues by growing memberships and seeking new sources of funding, such as government and foundational grants.

Another key focus would be building our global community by supporting planetarium development in emerging communities. In particular, I see incredible potential in Africa to leapfrog technologies and build a network of low-cost, but cutting-edge, planetariums.

My institution, the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois USA, is fully supportive of these efforts. The Adler is committed to providing me the time and resources that I will need to serve as IPS President. This support is part of new strategy for our institution, which seeks lend our expertise and resources to assist smaller institutions, and share content through global domecasts.

I am committed to serving IPS to the best of my ability and humbly request your support.

PRESIDENT-ELECT: Jack Dunn - Lee Ann Hennig - Levent Gurdemir - Mark SubbaRao

SECRETARY: Patty Seaton - Rachel Thompson


photo of Patty Seaton


Patty Seaton

Hi! I’m Patty Seaton, the planetarium specialist at the Howard B. Owens Science Center for Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland, USA. We have a large dome (almost 17m) that seats 170, but our primary mission is to serve students, often limiting class size to 60 so we can do live, interactive programming with them.

I’ve been at Owens for 16 years full time, but a total of 25 years part-time and as a volunteer. My mentor, Fred Stutz, encouraged me to become actively involved in the planetarium community. So I did. I hosted my first regional conference in 2003 for the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society. As a host, I interacted with the entire Executive Board for many months prior to the actual conference. They encouraged me to run for office, and so I ran for, and was elected, President-Elect, and began my first 6-year term on the Board.

I helped orchestrate the 2007 “Triple Conjunction” conference sponsored by three US regions, but attended by delegates from all seven US regions. I wanted to continue the work that had begun under my leadership, so I ran for President-Elect again, and was elected to a second consecutive term. By now I had gained much experience as to how an organization ran. I enjoyed helping make decisions on policy with the goal of benefitting every member of the organization.

One of the most important roles I had, which I didn’t fully appreciate until I did it, was to serve as

the Affiliate Representative to IPS Council. I attended my first Council meeting at my first IPS conference in 2012. Upon meeting delegates from other Affiliates from literally all around the world, I was immediately humbled and felt privileged. Privileged to serve such an organization, and to help make decisions that would impact and benefit planetarians all over the world. It was a demanding, rewarding, experience.

My world started out so small. One planetarium. Then one region. One nation. And finally – the whole world was literally opened to me. What a joy to meet up with delegates from other organizations, other countries, who do the same thing I do. To realize that what we do is valued, is appreciated, is something that gets lost as we fade back into the reality of our day-to-day jobs, often small cogs in the larger wheel of our respective organizations. I value this experience so much that I desire to serve this organization in whatever capacity I can. It is a privilege and honor to do so.

And so, I respectfully offer myself as a candidate for Secretary. If elected, I will continue to work to serve for the benefit of the members of IPS, and through you all, your respective organizations. The world is bigger than just one institution! IPS brings the world so much closer. It’s a joy to be a member. And a joy to serve.

PRESIDENT-ELECT: Jack Dunn - Lee Ann Hennig - Levent Gurdemir - Mark SubbaRao

SECRETARY: Patty Seaton - Rachel Thompson


photo of Rachel Thompson


Rachel Thompson

Thank you for considering me as a candidate to the office of the International Planetarium Society Secretary. With joy I accept the honor and am pleased to have this opportunity to share my planetarium experiences with you.

Planetarium programs inspire and open students of all ages to a dream world. What stands out most about the IPS is an addictive passion the organization fosters. At each of three IPS conferences I have attended, every individual’s perspective enriches the group, empowering growth as educators, entertainers, poets, programmers, scientists, and storytellers.

My planetarian journey began in 2004 at the University of North Texas (in Denton, Texas). As an education student, I was an assistant in the astronomy observatory and planetarium laboratory programs where art, science, and education were blended into one. I loved teaching those programs! One day the program director stopped in for my show and asked if I had considered a career in the planetarium. With this encouragement and a little time, I was soon working fulltime at that very same program for an incredible team. Their great care and investment in university students leads many to careers in astronomy, education, and physics.

After graduating, I taught high school to earn a teaching certificate. The brief hiatus from planetariums was memorable; ask me at the next conference! This work led me to the newly-renovated Noble Planetarium in Ft. Worth, Texas. The staff there is just as incredible, encouraging participation with the regional “local group” of planetarians and the Southwestern Association of Planetariums (SWAP). After working at the Noble, I moved to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, where educators impart love of learning through scientific inquiry.

I am an active participant in the international planetarium community. In 2011 SWAP elected me to serve as Affiliate Representative to IPS, where I have participated with Council for five years and the Education Committee for two. This summer SWAP redrafted its bylaws. Along with several other planetarians and the help of the Great Plains Planetarium Association, I helped facilitate this process, after which I was elected as secretary/treasurer of SWAP. In the upcoming months I am assisting with the electronic archival of SWAP’s transcripts of annual meetings.

As a candidate for IPS Secretary, I offer: experience at IPS Council and as an elected officer in SWAP, perspective from employment at several types of planetarium institutions, joy found in being both a science educator and a student, and passion that this unique environment is worth preserving, promoting, and expanding to be more than an addition to the educational experience, but instead vital to the effort of bringing the awe and wonder of space to every person.

PRESIDENT-ELECT: Jack Dunn - Lee Ann Hennig - Levent Gurdemir - Mark SubbaRao

SECRETARY: Patty Seaton - Rachel Thompson


photo of PERSON


Ann Bragg

I am honored to be nominated to continue in the office of IPS Treasurer. Despite the additional work that holding an International Planetarium Society office entails, I have enjoyed participating in IPS in a deeper way. Although I am a member of many professional societies, including the American Astronomical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers, I have found IPS to be the most helpful to me, not just in terms of operating my planetarium, but also in shaping my view of education, informing my teaching, and expanding my professional contacts. I am therefore pleased to have the opportunity to continue contributing to an organization that has been extremely important to my professional life.

My path into the planetarium field was not direct. I began my post-secondary education intending to become an astronomy researcher, earning a bachelor’s in physics and both a master’s and a PhD in astronomy. Towards the end of my doctoral program, I concluded that I was primarily interested in education and teaching, which eventually lead to my becoming both the planetarium director and an assistant professor of physics at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio. Three years ago, I was promoted to associate professor. I have taught physics and astronomy courses at all levels, interacting with both general education students and physics majors.

I believe that my experience in the dome has improved the quality of my teaching; presenting astronomy to the general public keeps one honest about what an audience will and will not understand! Perhaps as a result, I have twice received the college’s Outstanding Faculty Award, which is given by the Student Senate to one faculty member each year at graduation. I have also been active with service to the college. I recently served a two-year term on our Faculty Council and I also co-chaired a committee involved in writing Marietta College’s most recent institutional accreditation report.

The most exciting aspect of my time as treasurer has been Vision 2020. As an officer, I have participated in some lively days with IPS Council dedicated to Vision 2020 during our 2015 and 2016 Council meetings. I believe that the future of IPS promises increased resources and opportunities for its members to enhance their skills as planetarians in collaboration with others. I look forward to continued participation in this process to improve the society for the good of all of its present and future members.

That said, some of the most essential duties of a treasurer are far less exciting. I have worked to maintain the financial integrity of the International Planetarium Society through timely and accurate record-keeping, bill payment, and tax filing, through ensuring that IPS funds are spent appropriately and in accordance with our by-laws, and through working with accountants on a review of our 2015 finances. In a second term, I would continue to be a good steward of

IPS resources while helping to grow IPS membership through Vision 2020.

Election history: 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 (special election), 2016.

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