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New director begins work leading Ithaca’s Sciencenter

By Eric Reinhardt


The Sciencenter in Ithaca has selected Michelle Kortenaar as the organization’s new executive director, replacing Dean Briere in that role. (PHOTO CREDIT: SCIENCENTER)

ITHACA — Ithaca’s Sciencenter is closing out 2019 with a new executive director, who started work in her new role Nov. 22. 

The Sciencenter’s board of trustees selected Michelle Kortenaar to replace Dean Briere, who “has decided not to renew his contract” to serve in the same role, the Sciencenter announced. 

Briere’s decision followed “several months of careful deliberation,” the organization noted. 

He has agreed to serve in a consulting capacity to help with the transition for the Sciencenter’s new leadership.

 “I am honored to have served the Sciencenter and the Ithaca community for the past three years,” said Briere. “And I am thrilled that the board of trustees has chosen Michelle to succeed me. Her background and experience in education, exhibits, guest services, and development uniquely qualify her to lead the Sciencenter forward as it cultivates a broad community of curious, confident, critical thinkers.”

The Sciencenter is located in Ithaca. (PHOTO CREDIT: SCIENCENTER)

Kortenaar has worked at the Sciencenter since 2010, serving as director of education; senior director of engagement and learning, and most recently as VP of strategic development. 

“I am humbled and excited to be assuming leadership of the talented team at the Sciencenter,” Kortenaar added in the announcement. “Together we will engage our community by making science accessible to all. I am grateful to Dean for his generosity and look forward to guiding the Sciencenter in new directions while continuing to build on the strategic goals developed under his able leadership.”

About Kortenaar

Kortenaar has led the Sciencenter’s work on a number of federal grants, including the Collaborative for Early Science Learning. 

She is currently the principal investigator of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded grant. The funding creates opportunities for the Sciencenter to partner with Cornell University to engage public audiences in current NSF-funded STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) research. 

Kortenaar serves on the extended leadership team of the National Informal STEM Education Network, the Sciencenter said. 

She spearheaded the Sciencenter’s partnership with many local institutions including Tompkins County Head Start. In addition, she’s also published in the field and often speaks at national conferences about informal science education and national partnerships.

Kortenaar has degrees in both science and education, the Sciencenter said. 

Her career began as a physics and biology teacher in Toronto, Ontario and in West Orange, New Jersey. She served as chair of the math and science departments at her last school. 

Kortenaar was later recruited as the founding director of a multi-department science center at a large summer camp in Milford, Pennsylvania.