by Jessica Santascoy

When I left San Francisco for New York City, I knew I wanted to stay in astronomy communication. I wanted to work with people who were bold and unafraid to take strategic risks, while being inclusive and far-thinking. I'd fallen in love with amateur astronomy, and I am one of the few women of color working in astro communication. I feel strongly that more people of color need to participate in astronomy outreach and develop programs, if we want to attract minorities and underserved groups in the sciences, and in astronomy in particular.

Mike Simmons, the founder and president of AWB interviewed me, and said the position was mine, but I was hesitant. I'd met Mike while I was working on the NASA Night Sky Network. I had talked with Thilina Heenatigala, the publicity coordinator at AWB, about astronomy in developing countries, and I'd read a blog entry on how he had spent his birthday one year doing astro activities at an orphanage in Sri Lanka. Even though I knew both Mike and Thilina, who was AWB? I was being hired less than two months before GAM2013. Was that enough time? What was the work atmosphere like? Would there be unnecessary meetings (my pet peeve) and an endless cycle of chaos?

I took the plunge and said yes to the position, although it wasn't exactly what I had in mind. I mainly want to work on strategy, and this was project management - a traffic cop position. But, I could get to know Mike and the staff better and stay in astronomy communication.

I'm glad I accepted. There were moments that were chaotic, but, we managed to get through them with minor scrapes. Mike listens to his staff with great respect, and there are no false hierarchies. When we meet, we laugh - a lot - and we work hard, too. That kind of work ethic is great for morale, and it makes the chaos seem trivial.

Working remotely from different places in the world is exciting and refreshing, and a main feature of working for AWB. The perspectives vary, depending on the city in which we are living and where we have lived. So, I'd argue for a diverse staff working out of diverse places, especially if you are strategizing for the future. Having people in different cities can give you a pulse on local issues that you would never know about without varying perspectives.

I've been amazed at how people from all over the world contribute time, energy, and resources for this giant astronomy outreach project called GAM. AWB runs on a shoestring budget, with only five paid staff members, and with dozens of volunteer coordinators we've never met from different countries. Internally, the organization is global and inclusive, and externally, AWB is bringing people together.

Wishing you clear skies from Harlem, NYC!


mcu jssJessica Santascoy is the GAM2013 Manager. She's an amateur astronomer, and helped organize The Ring of Fire Road Trip to see a partial eclipse of the Sun in Mount Shasta, California with the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers. She's a space curator and a digital content strategist. Find her @jessicasuzette Stargazing Mariachi.


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