After returning home from a visit and several interviews for the executive director position at Discovery Center of Idaho (DCI), Janine Boire's 3-year-old daughter went thumbing through a Boise magazine and gleefully exclaimed, "Look mom, it's DCI." Then, after accepting the position at DCI, Boire read a study that listed the center as one of Boise's top three attractions. When she and her husband relocated to Boise from Princeton, New Jersey, they knew they'd made the right decision.
Boire grew up regularly visiting the Pacific Science Center (PSC) in Seattle. In high school, her math teacher talked about internships at PSC and she immediately applied. When she arrived for her interview, she was directed to wait outside a particular office. And so she waited, and waited. Two-and-a-half hours later, a man approached her; after discovering who she was, how she'd been directed to the wrong office and how long she had waited, he instantly proclaimed, "You're hired!" From that internship, Boire went on to wear many hats at PSC—Science Interpreter, Volunteer Coordinator, Science Interpreter Coordinator, Group Marketing Coordinator and Special Events Manager.
After 12 years at PSC, Boire started her own consulting firm. One of her biggest projects was as a planning consultant for the Explora! Science Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She became so involved in launching this new center that she went on to become its first executive director. In one of the poorest states in the country, Boire tripled the capital funding of Explora! (from $4 to $12 million) while serving traditionally underserved populations like women and minorities.
For her work in science education, particularly for the underserved, Boire was awarded the Christian Johnson Endeavor Fellowship to Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. After completing her master's degree in Public Policy, she was asked to stay on as a consultant to the school in planning several new initiatives. Most recently, Boire worked in international development for an organization called Leadership for Environment and Development International (LEAD), which creates global leaders in the realm of sustainable development.
Boire speaks highly of LEAD, but ultimately left her post there to return to her roots in science centers because of her beliefs about change—"The real elements of change happen in the family, not in the workplace. It is in the family that we come to more deeply understand how the world works. After all my experience and travels, I know that there is no better place for learning and discovery than interactive hands-on science centers. And the Discovery Center [of Idaho] is—and I've been through hundreds of them—extraordinary."
Boire says she was attracted to DCI for several reasons including the talented Exhibit Director Bill Molina (who was trained at San Francisco's Exploratorium), the high quality of the expansive volunteer program, the passion of the board and the staff, and the potential she sees for DCI to be "an incubator for world-changing ideas."
So what does Boire have planned for DCI? Well, like all good leaders, she started her tenure in January by doing her homework. DCI recently launched a Listening Campaign to gather information from about 70 individuals from all walks of life. Information collected was used to draft a comprehensive vision for the organization. During this process, Boire had the chance to do one of the things she does best: "listen carefully to a diversity of opinions and perspectives and distill out the commonalities, articulate them and move forward."
Moving forward means making DCI a place for intergenerational learning, not just a children's destination. Helping to ensure DCI retains its visitors is a new adult lecture series. In early April, DCI hosted a team of deep-water archaeologists, Dr. Richard Camilli and Dr. Brendan Foley, both of whom worked with well-known explorer, Dr. Bob Ballard on his research with the Black Sea shipwrecks. Ballard's cutting edge work with robotic technologies—some of whose images were first shown to the public at DCI's lecture attended by an impressive crowd of 75 people—was recently profiled in May 2004's National Geographic.
DCI's next lecture will be presented by two University of Idaho scientists—Dr. Gordon Woods and Dr. Dirk Vanderwall—who last May won the international race to clone the first member of the horse family. Woods and Vanderwall will share their experience in one of the most hotly debated uses of science—cloning—and its implications in the study of disease. The lecture ties into their summer exhibit from the Exploratorium, Traits of Life, which focuses on connecting all living things by outlining several commonalities: reproduction, use of energy, evolution, cells and DNA.
In addition to drawing in adults, Boire is interested in capturing early learners, citing neurological research that tells us most human learning happens before the age of three. She explains that early learners are wonderful scientists and acute observers; they conduct experiments all the time, like repeatedly dropping Cheerios off a highchair to see what happens.
Boire wants to invest in all segments of the community and get Idahoans more invested in DCI. She wants to grow their Good Neighbor program—which provides students that qualify for the free lunch program with free passes to return to DCI with their families (after an initial school field trip). She wants to test and create their own in-house exhibits, drawing upon local resources and talent. One exhibit in the works is focused on rovers and robots and will be based on a partnership with Washington Group, a local, world-renowned engineering company. The advantages of curating in-house are many: money stays local, exhibits are tailored specifically for the space and can be rented out and ultimately re-used at a later date ... perhaps in DCI's new building.
Indeed, Boire and the board have notions of expanding the physical plant, which was originally designed as barracks, not a science museum. She says they love being located in Julia Davis Park and that any expansion will be green, sustainable and well-integrated into the park.
Clearly, Boire has her work cut out for her and it all seems possible given her experience, dedication and enthusiasm. In addition to adult programming, curating in-house exhibits and expanding audiences, DCI plans to get back on the First Thursday circuit, expand hours on Mondays, launch a teen internship program, strengthen ties with teachers and solidify community partnerships with Boise State, corporations and other nonprofits, like the proposed Children's Museum.
Boire intends to make DCI both world-class and essentially Idaho. She has a profound understanding of what draws people to science museums, of the excitement of discovery at all ages and the fact that science, in its purest form, is just organized curiosity. Mark Solon, president of the DCI Board and Managing Partner of Highway 12 Ventures, Idaho's largest venture capital firm says this about Boire: "Second to Janine's experience and vision is her passion. Whether it's fundraising or community involvement or working with the staff and board, she's passionate. If I had CEOs like Janine at all of my companies, I'd have an incredibly easy job."