Science Sandbox Hosts Second Annual Awardee Summit

More than 50 Science Sandbox grantees convened at the Simons Foundation for the two-day event.

Speakers in front of screen
Arin Sang-Urai for Simons Foundation

Science Sandbox hosted its second annual Awardee Summit on March 30 and 31, 2023 at the Simons Foundation, bringing together folks from our community of active awardees across the United States. Together, they participated in two days of professional and organizational development, roundtable conversations, tons of networking and more.

As the Science Sandbox team learned from our inaugural summit last year, our annual convening is an opportunity to bring together our awardees working to reinforce the idea that science is a part of culture. Over the course of two days, they continued to build community with each other and explored potential avenues for collaboration.

The morning of day one kicked off with an opportunity to come together as a group, reflect on the last year and dive into collective challenges. We started with a conversation on growth paths for organizations at every scale, moderated by Science Sandbox program director John Tracey. Tracey spoke with three grantee panelists, all of whom are at different points in their (quite different) journeys. They discussed their paths as organizations before the conversation opened to all summit attendees. The second session, called “Collaborate Now!,” featured professor Adam Seth Levine of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in conversation with Science Sandbox’s community network manager, Kelsa Trom. They discussed how to approach and foster successful collaborations and how important community building is to that process.

The group split up after lunch, and each awardee went to their pre-selected workshops, where topics included what it means to be a courageous leader, strategies for organizational growth, and how to tackle and appropriately account for feedback. To end the day, we invited STEM-focused philanthropy and foundation leaders to meet our grantees and provide an overview of the funding landscape for science engagement in the US.

people gathered at tables talking
Arin Sang-Urai for Simons Foundation

Day two kicked off with Ivvet Modinou, vice president of the foundation’s Science, Society and Culture division, providing a deep dive on the foundation’s efforts around the 2024 total solar eclipse. An event of cosmic proportions, the eclipse will be viewable across wide swaths of the U.S. — including many areas that have historically been overlooked by major funding (more to come on that — watch this space!). We also invited our collaborators and thought partners from the Rochester Museum and Science Center and NASA for a conversation on the unique opportunity for science engagement the forthcoming eclipse represents. Together, we explored how our community of awardees might prepare for the event and participate in collaborations with new, community-based partners along the path of totality. Following the conversation, the group split into small groups for curated roundtable discussions, and, of course, more networking.

We closed the summit with a vibrant conversation between Molly Webster of RadioLab and Raja Feather-Kelly, renowned dancer and choreographer and artistic director at the feath3r theory. Together, they explored how art and movement can help us express otherwise ineffable feelings — including those brought on by a total solar eclipse.

The summit was an action-packed couple of days. And above all else, it was a joy to bring this vibrant, diverse and passionate group of people together. Science Sandbox believes in the power of community — while each organization is doing incredible work “on their own,” we believe there’s endless value in fostering opportunities for connection and collaboration.

Attendees pose in front of Statue of Liberty
Arin Sang-Urai for Simons Foundation
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