To celebrate the recent partnership between Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences, the public was given free admission to the museum Oct. 26, during which Mayor Michael Nutter and Drexel President John A. Fry signed the affiliation into effect.
Academy of Natural Sciences CEO George W. Gephart Jr. also participated in signing the affiliation agreement, under which the Academy was renamed as the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.
“It is the perfect marriage of two really great institutions that all of us at some level, whether you’re any young person or those of us who think we are young, can truly benefit,” Nutter said. “This affiliation with Drexel and the Academy will continue to enhance Philadelphia’s reputation as an innovative leader in research, science and education.”
David Velinsky, vice president and director of the Patrick Center for Environmental Research at the Academy, said the senior management of the Academy made the decision to find an affiliate in October of 2010.
“We all thought the sciences was our core: the collections, the environmental research, our biodiversity research,” Velinsky said. “So we focused on finding a science-based partner, and we quickly thought that we should work with an academic-based partner. We thought of one where the synergisms between the two groups could be beneficial in our own minds, and we focused on Drexel.”
On of the primary changes the affiliation will bring includes a new Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Sciences, or BEES, to the Drexel College of Arts and Sciences. BEES will begin offering courses to students in fall 2012.
“The Academy will be a sort of learning lab for a lot of different Drexel programs, and that includes bringing co-op students over here, having some educational groups come here for training,” Velinsky said. “We will definitely be having classes here related to the BEES department.”
According to Velinsky, Academy and Drexel staff have been working closely over the past few months to create a new curriculum for the BEES program. However, while there are no immediate plans to add a new major for Drexel students, the idea is not out of the question.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for both the Academy and Drexel families in developing this relationship between Drexel, which has been around for like over 100 years, with one of the oldest natural history museums in the world,” Velinsky said. “It’s a great opportunity for Philadelphians to see the growth of this Drexel experience, and it helps us at the Academy get our experience out to not just the kids but to young adults and their families, which is what we want to try to do here.”
Fry addressed a group of Academy and Drexel affiliates before signing the partnership agreement into action.
“I know that this affiliation is going to unleash such an incredible impact, not only for the city of Philadelphia, but for the region and the nation. No scientific pursuit is more important today in my mind than environmental research, environmental teaching and environmental policies,” Fry said. “The combined resources of Drexel and the Academy are going to make us together one of the most significant voices on that topic. The educational impact of the Academy’s brilliant scientists and their unmatched collections will become even greater as we bring generations of Drexel students into contact with them, and the research potential of both of our faculties will grow exponentially as we open up deeper collaborations across the natural sciences.”
Drexel and the Academy have a history of working together on various projects. For the past several years, the academy has been housing the remains of a sauropod dinosaur found by Drexel professor Kenneth Lacovara while Drexel and Academy experts work to restore it. In addition, the Drexel co-op program sends students to complete internships under Academy scientists every year.
Maeryn Obley, a graduate student at the Drexel iSchool, was one of the students who took advantage of the free admission to the museum Wednesday.
“I enjoy this museum, but I don’t come here often enough to have membership. I don’t have enough time. I was surprised to hear about [the affiliation,]” Obley said. “Now, I think I will come more often. It’s not so far from campus. In fact, it’s actually a little of a convenience now.”
The newly named Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University will be celebrating its bicentennial over the course of next year and will offer a variety of special exhibits including a three-dimensional dinosaur model exhibit. Drexel students are offered discounts to the museum on a regular basis. For more information about the Academy, visit ansp.org.