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Our latest Spotlight on Alumni features Scott Pattison, who graduated from the MS in Science Education program and is now in the Free-Choice Learning Ph.D. program.
What attracted you to this program?
Around 2008, I was working at OMSI as a program and exhibit developer when I learned about the online science education master’s program at OSU. At that point, I thought it would be a great professional development opportunity to get my master’s while I was at OMSI and gain a deeper understanding of the science education literature behind my work. During the program, I became extremely interested in evaluation and research, partly because of the lack of studies in the field of informal science education. Around 2010, I transferred to the evaluation & visitor studies division at OMSI and made the decision to go into the PhD program. It was a transition from wanting to be a more knowledgeable practitioner to wanting to conduct research and evaluation studies to inform practice.
What is your educational background (undergrad, master's, etc...)?
I have a BS in Environmental Science from the University of Oregon and an MS in Science Education from OSU.
Describe some of previous/current work experience?
While I was at the University of Oregon, I started volunteering for the Natural History Museum. When I finished my BS, I moved to Portland and because of a connection at the museum, started working in visitor services at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Honestly, at that point, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. However, working at OMSI opened my eyes to the world of science education and I’ve had a chance to work my way through several departments. I spent about two years as a museum educator and five years as a program and exhibit developer before moving to the evaluation & visitor studies division. Currently, I’m a “research & evaluation strategist” at OMSI. I help the organization acquire new funding and grant projects and lead and oversee educational research and evaluation studies at OMSI and with partner organizations around the country.
Here are some links to information about a few of the projects I’m working on:
How did you get interested in this field of study?
I’ve always been interested in science and both my parents are teachers, so there was the foundation of an interest in the two areas. During undergraduate, I did my thesis with a professor studying plant genetics and restoration ecology. It was an amazing experience but I really felt like I’d had enough of research at the end of it. When I got to OMSI, however, I realized that I could combine my interests in science and education in the study of how people engage with and learn about science throughout their lives. I’ve also always been interested in issues of equity and social justice and these are certainly front and center in the field of science education.
What do you enjoy or find most beneficial /helpful about/in this program?
The professors I’ve worked with have been amazing, including John Falk, Lynn Dierking, and Shawn Rowe. These are real leaders in the field and it’s been an honor to learn from them. Science education, and especially informal science education, is a field that draws from many of the social sciences, such as sociology, psychology, and anthropology. I’ve appreciated the way that the program has brought in many perspectives and literatures from these different areas and given us the space to explore how we might apply them to our own work. It’s also been amazing to be in the program and work as a professional researcher and evaluator at the same time. I’m constantly able to apply what I learn in the program to my work and use my work experience to frame and understand what we are studying in the classroom.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 32 and live with my wonderful wife in Portland, Oregon. Work and school pretty much dominate my life right now but in the few spare minutes available, I like soccer, hiking, backpacking, and playing the piano and accordion. My wife and I are also slowly building an art studio in our backyard— the one summer job that has dragged out over the last three years.