Meet the First Class of Sandbox Fellows

The Sandbox Fellowship is a comprehensive program that supports select Science Sandbox awardees to strengthen their foundations and to become more resilient.

From left to right: jacob adams, Siri Carpenter, Ran Yan, Lucy Madden, Brooke Richie-Babbage and Jack Graham at the Sandbox Fellowship’s Kickoff Retreat.

The Simons Foundation’s Science, Society & Culture division is pleased to kick off the inaugural Sandbox Fellowship, a new program designed to provide capacity-building support for a select cohort of Science Sandbox awardees. Science Sandbox is a grantmaking initiative that provides catalytic support to emerging organizations. The Science Sandbox community comprises a broad set of organizations that bring a community-centered approach to science engagement through informal education, live events, media and more.

We understand that the organizations we support through Science Sandbox are at crucial stages of growth. They need more than just financial support to sustain and eventually expand their impact in the communities they serve. For this reason, we provide a suite of community- and capacity-building initiatives, such as networking opportunities, learning sessions, leadership development and an annual convening, the Science Sandbox Awardee Summit. We focus on providing responsive programming that puts our awardees’ individual and shared needs at the forefront and creates unique opportunities for them to learn from one another.

The Sandbox Fellowship is the latest addition to our capacity-building offerings. Fellows are existing Science Sandbox grantees who have demonstrated a clear, viable model for success and who are preparing their organizations for the next stage of maturity. The first four Sandbox Fellows are jacob adams of STEM to the Future, Siri Carpenter of the Open Notebook, Lucy Madden of Pre-Scientist, Inc., and Ran Yan of the Lewis Latimer Fund, Inc.

Over nine months, fellows will engage in over a dozen expert-led sessions designed to support organizational resilience. The fellowship’s curriculum is designed to help fellows gain strategic clarity, build financial management rigor, grow the capacity of their operations and teams, and embed equity into every aspect of their organization’s design. Fellows also receive mentorship, special access to expert consultants and a discretionary budget to boost their organizations’ capacity.

jacob adams and Brooke Richie-Babbage during a discussion session at the Sandbox Fellowship’s Kickoff Retreat.

Under the direction of community network manager Kelsa Trom and the rest of the Science, Society & Culture team, the Sandbox Fellowship is designed and led by impact strategy consultants Brooke Richie-Babbage and Jack Graham. Both have lived and breathed the challenges of founding and running nonprofit organizations. Their hard-earned lessons are directly informing the fellowship’s curriculum. Richie-Babbage says, “In my 25 years in this sector, I’ve come to understand that all robust, resilient organizations have certain things in common: They’re clear about their strategic vision, and they’re intentional about building both the capacity and the capital necessary to achieve that vision. Our curriculum’s core pillars — clarity, capacity and capital — are how organizations grow and how they last.”

Graham adds that “building a resilient social impact organization is tough. I know because I’ve been there myself many times. Alongside the catalytic funding the Simons Foundation already offers innovative science engagement nonprofits, the Simons Foundation team recognized the need for direct support to help its grantees become more robust. The Sandbox Fellowship is an opportunity for a group of Simons Foundation grantees to get the space, expert support and peer network they need to springboard to the next stage of organizational growth.”

Meet the Fellows

jacob adams is the founder and executive director of STEM to the Future (STTF). Before founding STTF, adams was a Teach for America teacher in New York City, where he was an elementary school educator in Brooklyn and Harlem. adams has over 10 years of experience in education and helps students actualize their true potential as they use their gifts to uplift the community. He was an Essentials Fellow, a Tiny Fellow and a New Normal Fellow of 4.0 School Essentials. adams was also an inaugural fellow of the Black Equity Collective’s Build Cohort and an Annenberg Foundation Alchemy Fellow.

STEM to the Future is altering the way the world addresses the STEM pipeline gap for Black and Latine students through a scalable social justice- and STEAM-based curriculum and critical pedagogy. STTF positions STEAM as an integrated hands-on learning experience that leverages competencies from science, technology, engineering and math alongside the arts to solve complex real-world problems.

Siri Carpenter is an award-winning science journalist and editor whose writing and editorial work has appeared in The New York Times, Science, Discover, Scientific American, bioGraphic, Science News and many other publications. She is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the nonprofit journalism organization the Open Notebook, whose mission is to help science journalists improve their skills. She is also the editor of The Craft of Science Writing and a past president of the National Association of Science Writers (2018–2020). She has a Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Open Notebook (TON) is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to help science journalists improve their skills. TON is guided by two principles: 1) High-quality science journalism is essential to society, and 2) Everyone learns best by practicing the craft as part of a supportive, diverse community of people striving to master their skills. Since 2010, the Open Notebook has published more than 500 articles and a book on the craft of science writing. TON also offers several early-career mentoring programs and has created a series of free online skills courses through its Science Journalism Master Classes series.

Lucy Madden is the founding chief executive officer of Pre-Scientist, Inc. She got involved with Letters to a Pre-Scientist (LPS) in 2012 while teaching seventh-grade science in Durham, North Carolina, as the first teacher other than its founder to host the pen-pal program in her class. She joined the leadership team, hosted LPS for three more years and then left the classroom to pursue the growth of LPS into a nonprofit in 2017. Madden was a middle-school science teacher for five years, and she holds a B.A. from James Madison University and an Ed.M. from Harvard University.

Pre-Scientist, Inc. runs the Letters to a Pre-Scientist (LPS) program. LPS’s mission is to facilitate one-on-one connections to demystify STEM career pathways, humanize STEM professionals and inspire all students to explore a future in STEM. LPS pairs fifth-to-10th-grade students in U.S. low-income communities with a worldwide network of STEM professionals for a yearlong pen-pal program during science class. Students are matched with STEM professionals with expertise that matches their interests. LPS aims to broaden students’ awareness of what STEM professionals look like and do at work and to help them discover their STEM talent and potential.

Ran Yan is the executive director of Lewis Latimer House Museum, where she works to engage diverse audiences through inclusive programs rooted in the legacy of African American inventor and humanist Lewis H. Latimer. In the first three years of her tenure as executive director, Yan more than doubled the museum’s attendance and budget. She has presented her work at various conferences and served on grant panels for the New York State Council on the Arts and the Queens Council on the Arts. Before moving to New York City, Yan studied architecture and preservation at Tongji University in Shanghai and completed her master’s in historic preservation planning at Cornell University. She is a Beijing native and calls New York City her home.

The Lewis H. Latimer Fund, Inc. is a nonprofit organization primarily focused on ensuring that the Lewis Howard Latimer House in Queens, New York, is preserved as a place of historical significance. As the former home of the prominent African American inventor, the house is maintained as a museum and a living reminder of the significant contributions African Americans have made in the fields of science and technology. The fund recognizes Latimer’s scientific contributions and is dedicated to establishing and preserving a permanent exhibition of electrical artifacts connected with his work, as well as Latimer’s art, music, designs, writing and memorabilia.

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