Monday, April 16, 2018
“I’m a very social person,” says Robin Gose, the newly appointed president and CEO of MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation. “I’m very passionate about what I do.”
Her words ring very true to me after just a few exchanges over lunch at Louie’s. She radiates comfort, openness, and an innate curiosity about whomever she’s conversing with. A few days later, while attending a board meeting of the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization, I see her navigating the room with confidence and genuine warmth.
“When I was quite young, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she reflects. “Science in school was so boring.” But she recalls attending an overnight school trip in 5th grade that included team building and engaging science activities and immersed her in nature. That struck a chord, and from that moment, her passions crystallized.
Robin decided that she wanted to make science fun for young learners “to promote their social, cognitive, and emotional development.” She values providing authentic learning experiences for children to explore the world around them, with an emphasis on making science accessible to children from diverse backgrounds.
Her father was a geophysicist who worked at NASA. “My foundational love of science came from him and the love of being outdoors,” she tells me. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a degree in geography and environmental resource management. “I didn’t want to go into scientific research like my dad,” she explains, “but I wanted to learn about environmental issues and how humans can make an impact.”
For a while, she considered joining the Peace Corps “because I wanted to change the world.” Instead, she started to become interested in more regional issues. “Your local environment needs support too,” she says.
She began her career at the Austin Nature & Science Center, and then moved to Los Angeles, working at the California Science Center and then teaching K-5 science at an independent school. During this time, she earned her doctorate in educational leadership at UCLA, where her academic research focused on English-language learners’ experiences in science classrooms. She returned to Austin to be the director of education at The Thinkery, formerly the Austin Children’s Museum. There, she cultivated the evolving institution’s pedagogical vision and oversaw all programming, exhibits, and facilities.
In November, Robin, her husband, and their two children moved to Santa Barbara for the MOXI position. A month into the job, Robin had to close the doors during the Thomas Fire for the safety of the museum's staff and patrons. “My husband and I moved here for we were looking for a family-friendly environment and strong sense of community,” she says. “We got to experience that for ourselves during our local crisis.” MOXI eventually opened its doors to some of the affected Montecito schools.
Robin is excited to lead MOXI into the future. She’s drawn to the passion and commitment that got the place built and going, and the value that the community places in the museum. “‘Innovation’ is in the name of the museum,” she says. “It’s a hybrid that looks different from other well-respected museums. It incorporates a new way to think about teaching and learning science. There’s a traditional way to teach science that it’s okay, but not accessible to everyone. If you present science in an exciting way, it engages and inspires young minds.” Robin’s goals are to emphasize diversity, inclusiveness, and accessibility.
Robin Gose answers the Proust Questionnaire.
Who do you most admire?
It’s difficult to choose just one person, as I admire many different people for different reasons. However, I have always greatly admired Jane Goodall, and she continues to amaze me today with her seemingly endless energy and relentless passion for environmental conservation. She broke a lot of new ground, as a woman, as a scientist, and now as an advocate for education and animal rights.
What is your greatest fear?
That I won’t get to see and experience as many parts of the world as I would like. I am fascinated by the diversity of human culture as well as the natural beauty of the world. I have been fortunate to be able to travel some, but there are so many more places still on my bucket list.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
At this particular stage in my life, I think it’s, “Mommy needs a minute.”
What do you like most about your job?
I love being part of a place that connects people to the world of science, curiosity, and discovery. At MOXI, I get to connect people and ideas to the “big picture” and ultimately have a positive impact on thousands of minds.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Watching my children play at the beach while I listen to the ocean waves intermingled with their laughter.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I love really good cocktails. My friends tease me that I never order from the happy hour menu — but that’s because if the drink I want is full price, then I’m going to order it!
What is your current state of mind?
I am present. I am taking note of, and appreciating, the small joys in life as well as the big. I have many blessings in my life for which I am grateful, and I make time each day to acknowledge and appreciate those blessings.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Authenticity. When someone is real — in their passions, their opinions, the way they present themselves to the world — those are people with whom I can connect even when we don’t necessarily share the same opinions.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Well, the counter to authenticity, in my mind, is game playing. I appreciate straight shooters and I just don’t have the time or interest to play mind games.
What do you most value in friends?
My closest friends share my outlook of being present. We can enjoy each others’ company when doing something grandiose, like a vacation or an adventure, just as much as we enjoy getting coffee and walking along the beach.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I really enjoy puns. You know how everyone talks about dad jokes? I think I’ve been making dad jokes for years. I enjoy humor and I’m not afraid to use it.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Song writing. I love to sing, but I’ve always sung other people’s songs. I’ve written lyrics before but never original melodies. They all end up sounding like something I’ve heard before.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I had more natural athletic ability, so I could pick up new sports and activities more quickly.
Where would you most like to live?
I’m pretty pleased that we have landed here in Santa Barbara, sincerely. But as I mentioned I have a bit of the travel bug in me, so I can see my retirement years living somewhere overseas so I would have easier access to parts of the world I haven’t yet seen.
What is your most treasured possession?
My two beautiful children, Owen and Phoebe. They are my greatest joy. I love them deeply and fiercely, even when they need me at 3 a.m.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My husband, Chris. He is witty but also finds humor in the mundane. There is no one else I would rather have by my side.
What is your motto?
I tend to be a positive person, so any number of “always look on the bright side” or similar mantras would be suitable. I also remind myself often to just breathe. This helps with mindfulness and being present.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I would say I greatly admire, and find kinship with, Teddy Roosevelt’s passion for the outdoors and how he integrated this passion into his political life. He used his position to make some very visionary decisions to protect forests and animals so that future generations could appreciate the natural beauty of our country. This resonates with me as someone whose personal passion has become my profession as well. Museums like MOXI are setting a new stage for learning science and sparking innovation that will have long-term effects on future generations.
On what occasion do you lie?
When my kids ask me if there is any more ice cream left in the freezer. The answer is no, there never is. It’s all gone, and no we can’t possibly go to the grocery store at this moment.