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The Story Collider Names New Executive Director and Establishes Science Communication Fellowship

The Story Collider finds, develops, and shares true personal stories about science, with the goal of revealing that it’s a vibrant part of our lives.



The Story Collider Names New Executive Director and Establishes Science Communication Fellowship

The Story Collider has announced today that its Board of Directors has appointed longtime Artistic Director Erin Barker as Executive Director, effective July 1, 2021. Barker's portfolio will continue to include artistic leadership of the organization, and the team will expand to include its first Managing Director. In addition, the Board has created the new position of Story Collider Science Advisory Fellow to bring a dedicated science seat back to the executive team of the organization for the first time since Barker's Story Collider co-founders, physicists Ben Lillie and Brian Wecht, stepped away from day-to-day management in 2015.

The Board developed this new structure following the August departure of renowned science communicator Liz Neeley, who co-led the organization with Barker from 2015 until August 2020. During Neeley's tenure, The Story Collider experienced an exponential growth of its partnerships, geographic footprint, and global impact, and secured significant multi-year grants to support its work from funders such as The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation. Since November 2020, The Story Collider has been led by Barker and Interim Executive Director Leslie Griesbach Schultz.

The Story Collider is a rare example of an organization that successfully bridges science, the performing arts, and media, and reaches a broad general audience worldwide. As the only enterprise of its kind in the ever-more-relevant field of science communication, The Story Collider finds, develops, and shares true personal stories about science, with the goal of revealing that it's a vibrant part of our lives. Since The Story Collider's founding in 2010, more than 1,800 scientists, journalists, comedians, actors, and others have used its stages and platforms to share stories, including Aparna Nancherla, Wyatt Cenac, Alan Guth, Sean Carroll, Esther Perel, Amy Harmon, Sara Seager, Carl Hart, Jon Ronson, and Frances Colón. As of March 2020, The Story Collider had a regular presence in 14 cities on three continents, in addition to its renowned weekly podcast series and science communication trainings offered throughout the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Story Collider has continued to offer live shows online and launched its first public storytelling workshops.

In addition to enhancing public connections to science and scientists, The Story Collider is dedicated to amplifying the voices of peoples who have historically been underrepresented or shut out of science and its institutions. In the past year, 68% of The Story Collider's storytellers have been women or gender-nonconforming people, and more than 50% have been Black, Indigenous, or People of Color. The Story Collider offers a program specifically for emerging science writers of color, supported by the National Association of Science Writers.

Erin Barker has served as The Story Collider's artistic director since 2016, overseeing curation of the organization's popular podcast and live events. Under her leadership, The Story Collider's programming has grown dramatically, with the number of live events held each year tripling from 2016 to 2019, as the organization expanded to support regular shows in communities that range from Chicago to Vancouver to Wellington, New Zealand. As a storyteller, Barker was the first woman to win The Moth's GrandSLAM storytelling competition twice, and her work has appeared on public radio numerous times, as well as in The Moth's New York Times-bestselling anthology The Moth: 50 True Stories. Trained as a journalist, Erin served as Copy Chief at United Business Media prior to making The Story Collider her full-time focus in 2013.

"I'm honored by the board's decision to appoint me as the new Executive Director of an organization I love so dearly, and with a mission that is so close to my heart," said Erin Barker. "When my cofounder Ben Lillie and I wrote its mission statement a decade ago, we felt strongly that true, personal stories had the power to transform our perceptions of science and who it belongs to. Since then, it's been a privilege to witness the many ways in which this has borne out, through our shows, our podcast, our workshops, and research. I'm so excited to continue to explore these possibilities with our new Science Advisory Fellow and the rest of our team."

The Story Collider's new two-year Science Advisory Fellowship, a rare example of a science fellowship at an arts organization, is intended to complement a Fellow's existing academic work and/or science research appointment. The Fellow will enrich The Story Collider's capacity to maintain and expand its network of scientist and university partners, assist with the development of science communications research directions and collaborations, and help inform the continual improvement of The Story Collider's science communication educational initiatives. The Fellow will also help the Story Collider team facilitate additional inquiry into science topics featured in podcast stories. A nationwide search for this Fellowship has been launched as of today. More information can be found at https://www.storycollider.org/.

"The Story Collider is delighted to welcome Erin Barker in her new capacity as Executive Director. Erin is a visionary leader with deep passion for both the organization and our core values," said Louie Rivers III, Board Chair of The Story Collider. "After extensive consideration at the Board level of the various leadership models we might adopt for our multifaceted arts and science organization, it became clear that Erin's many gifts as a leader and a curator present the optimal combination for our future. We are also excited to establish the unique Science Advisory Fellowship, which will renew and strengthen our commitment to science and science communication at The Story Collider. We thank Liz Neeley for her remarkable work to take The Story Collider to a new level during her tenure, and Leslie Griesbach Schultz for her guidance and counsel as Interim Executive Director."


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