Colleen Walker’s path to becoming the next CEO of Dallas’s Perot Museum of Science and Nature is a little unusual. She’s a former Miss Colorado, and she studied architectural engineering in college before getting her MBA from Harvard. Fresh off seven years of running the Girl Scouts of North Texas, she talks with KERA’s vice president of news, Rick Holter, about the Perot challenge, which she’ll take up in June.
…on her thoughts on the Perot’s building as a former architectural engineer…
[The Perot Museum] is not only an architectural wonder, but it’s also an engineering masterpiece. The pièce de résistance, if you will, was the escalator. It’s the signature piece to the museum in terms of how people experience it. If you go around to museums around the world, most people spend their time on the first or second floor, and so how would you get people to the top and let them work their way down and explore? It was the escalator, and I think it has doubled or tripled the time people spend in museums.
…on what it takes to excite kids towards math and science:
You have to take the problems out of the book and put them into the real world. So it’s making a connection between what they’re learning to what they can do, and that’s the hardest part. I think you really have to ask the child, ‘what are you interested in?’ so they’ll know to a certain extent, but they have narrow parameters because it’s what they know, what they’re exposed to, so you have to broaden those horizons in a really profound way and then you have to make explicit connections. You can excite kids, but if they don’t know what to do with that excitement, then I don’t think you’ve pushed the envelope as far as it can go.
…on what she looks forward to playing with in the museum:
Maybe, if I would be allowed to, to bring my two kids, a sleeping bag, we unzip it, we fold it out, and we look at the stars from a place in the museum that we’ve never been able to see them before…that would be pretty cool.