There are science festivals in cities across the United States and in Europe, but what makes Atlanta’s festival unique is that it does not belong to a university or a museum—it belongs to the community, according to Jordan Rose, executive co-director of Science ATL, the organization under which the Atlanta Science Festival operates.
Science ATL Inc. is described on its website as “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing people together through the wonder of science. Our mission is to cultivate an equitable community of lifelong learners across metro Atlanta who are connected and inspired by the wonder of science. Through public events like the Atlanta Science Festival, and community-building initiatives like the Georgia Chief Science Officers youth leadership program and the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Professional School Partnership program, we are improving access to STEM/STEAM learning opportunities and building community around science.”
Despite not being an official Emory project, the science festival throughout its history has operated with the support of Emory University. “Science ATL has a longstanding partnership with Emory University, but the festival doesn’t belong to the university; it is the combined effort of many institutions and individuals across the Atlanta area,” Rose said. Recently, Science ATL and Emory University officially agreed to continue their partnership through 2027. Together, the two organizations will work to enhance public engagement with science and broaden access to science among underrepresented groups, Rose said.
Emory was a founding sponsor when Science ATL launched in 2014 and has continued as a major sponsor of the annual science festival. “Through its partnership with Emory, Science ATL has reached more than 300,000 people in metro Atlanta with engaging science learning experiences,” Rose said.
“Emory University has been a key partner since day one,” he continued. “Their leadership in the community has catalyzed our work since 2014 and will now propel us forward as we promote Atlanta-based scientific discoveries, highlight diverse scientists and students, and connect youth and families to science learning opportunities.”
It all started at Emory, Rose explained, noting that he and a few others with Emory connections hatched a plan for a science festival over coffee, then approached university officials all the way to the president seeking support for the event. “They readily agreed,” he recalled. “Over the years, there have been a lot of leadership changes at Emory, but each new leader has enthusiastically supported Science ATL. “
Among Science ATL’s goals is “building a community of lifelong learners who are connected to and inspired by science through two initiatives: science storytelling and public science events,” Rose explained. “We want to show those are underrepresented in the scientific community—women and minority group members—that they can not only be part of the science community but find exciting careers in it. Through the science storytelling project, Science ATL will create content to promote scientific discoveries in Atlanta and highlight Black and Latino voices in STEM,” he said.
“The Science Festival also helps to create a more scientifically literate community. People need to know about science and how it works just to make effective decisions in their personal lives even if it’s never part of their professional lives,” Rose observed.
Science ATL holds monthly public science events enhanced by collaboration with Emory’s faculty and students. New interactive events will include a self-guided Discovery Walk tour of Emory’s campus and other events highlighting the university’s scientific contributions.
Ravi V. Bellamkonda, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Emory University, commented in an announcement of the continuing collaboration, “I am proud of Emory’s role in making Science ATL real and possible. I think all humans are curious by nature. Science gives us one way to be curious about the world, and to explore it using an organized method and approach.
Curious, scientifically informed citizens are critical for us to thrive as a free, democratic society in this technological age.”
To learn more about Science ATL visit scienceatl.org or call (770) 322-4992.