UCLA Grand Challenges and Michelle Popowitz recognized in opening keynote on moonshot thinking at 2019 ASTC Conference

September 23, 2019

Jenn Gustetic (Program Executive for NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program) recognized UCLA Grand Challenges and Michelle Popowitz, JD, MPH (UCLA Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research & Executive Director for UCLA Grand Challenges) during her opening keynote entitled “Moonshots for Science Engagement” at the 2019 Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Annual Conference on September 21, 2019.

Gustetic, an experienced innovator and policy entrepreneur, shared examples of “moonshots” including how people and organizations in the government, private, and philanthropic sectors, as well as research institutions, science centers, and museums are pursuing Grand Challenges. She also discussed how NASA uses cross-sector collaboration to advance its own daring projects. 

Gustetic emphasized how “Grand challenges can be led from anywhere within an organization…” and how they are “ …an ideal strategy for the intrapreneur.” In doing so, she highlighted how Michelle Popowitz galvanized campus efforts to create UCLA Grand Challenges by asking one simple question:  How can UCLA serve a greater role in solving problems relevant to LA and beyond? Doing so led to the creation of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge and Depression Grand Challenge, thus solidifying UCLA as the first university to develop a campus-wide, SMART goal-oriented Grand Challenge program.

Jenn Gustetic, Program Executive for NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program, (pictured above right) recognized UCLA Grand Challenges and Michelle Popowitz (pictured above left) during an opening keynote at the 2019 Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Annual Conference. (Photo Credit: ASTC 2019)

Gustetic praised Popowitz for her intrepreneurial efforts and highlighted how Michelle, recognizing UCLA as a leader in the Grand Challenge space, convened a Community of Practice for University-Led Grand Challenges that now has greater than 25 universities across the country. The Community of Practice aims to provide peer support to leaders of university Grand Challenge programs, and accelerate the adoption of Grand Challenge approaches at more universities supported by cross-sector partnerships.

Following the keynote, Cristin Dorgelo, ASTC President and CEO, joined Gustetic on stage for a brief Q&A and revisited the example provided with Michelle Popowitz and UCLA Grand Challenges. Gustetic shared advice about how others may take similar action in starting conversations at their organization in order to explore Grand Challenges as a tool never used before.

Watch the ASTC 2019 opening keynote from 12:37-16:30.

The conference was hosted by the Ontario Science Centre and provided an opportunity to explore strategies, operations, programs, technologies, partnerships, and new approaches that will advance the science center and museum industry.