Hometown: Quincy, Ill.
Family: My husband, Mark Bateman.
Occupation: Executive director, Children’s Museum of Illinois.
Education: I graduated from University of Illinois at Champaign with a bachelor of science degree in agricultural and environmental education and communication.
My “I’d rather be …” bumper sticker would read: “I’d rather be On Vacation!” My husband and I love to travel. Feet in the sand or boots in the snow. Getting away for a bit helps restore your mental health!
Hobbies/interests: I enjoy golfing, boating, interior design, biking, Illini sports and spending time with our family and friends. Weekend trips to St. Louis should also be on the list. So much to do so close to home!
My first job: When I was 12, I started teaching piano lessons, worked on my family’s dairy farm and baby-sat for families in my neighborhood. I’ve always enjoyed working and the responsibilities that came with it. And the cash was nice, too.
Why I do what I do: I love leading an organization that plays an important role in its community and in the quality of life of others. The museum is a place everyone can enjoy.
Personal approaches to challenges: I look at the big picture first. Figure out what you really need to focus on and what you don’t need to worry about. Taking that approach cuts out a lot of the stress. I feel that too many people focus in on the small stuff that, in the end, either works itself out or didn’t really matter to begin with.
Community involvement: I currently serve on the board of directors of Rotary Club 180 and the Women of Excellence Committee. I’ve also served on various fundraising committees for the Children’s Museum of Illinois, and Corks & Forks and Brew Ha Ha for the Decatur Area Arts Council. I co-chaired the American Heart Association Heart Walk in 2012, and participated in fundraisers for Project Success’s Rockin’ Back to School and the American Diabetes Association, and served as a campaign cabinet member for United Way of Decatur and Mid-Illinois. I enjoy helping where I can.
For those people who live under a rock, tell us a little about the Children’s Museum of Illinois.
It’s the happiest place in Central Illinois! We’re a hands-on, interactive museum for kids, and for the kid in all of us. We offer workshops that focus on arts and sciences, and host field trips, birthday and company parties, and special events year round. We also offer summer camps and are a host site for Decatur Public Schools’ summer enrichment program.
Children’s Museum of Illinois is a fantastic place for families to reconnect. Today’s families are always on the go and nothing is more fun than seeing them come in and spend a few hours of quality time together laughing and playing.
What does the museum director do?
Like every small business, the director wears many hats. I oversee general management and operation of the museum, as well as working with our staff to develop programming for workshops, camps and special events. Fundraising and community outreach also are important responsibilities of my position.
Unlike most small businesses though, if I’m having a stressful day behind my desk, I can walk 40 feet into the gallery and decompress at the paint wall or bubble table. Your day can really turn around fast when an enthusiastic child ropes you into her world of imagination and brings you a special delivery of princess ballerina shoes from our post office exhibit.
What attracted you to the job?
Who wouldn’t want to work in a castle? Seriously though, I love working with the community, with children, in leadership roles and event planning. It combines all of the aspects of previous jobs that I’ve enjoyed the most. If you would have asked me what my dream job was, I couldn’t have answered it until now.
You became director in October. Has there been a particular area of focus during these initial months?
We have a few initial areas of focus that I feel has made a noticeable difference. We’re focusing on our marketing efforts. We’re fortunate to be in the age of social media where visitors can “check in” and share pages and link to our sites. Word of mouth has worked in the past, but we’re adding more and more events and making sure others know about them is very important.
We’re also focusing on adding value to our visitors’ experience at the museum. One small way we’re doing this is by celebrating those days on the calendar that may seem insignificant, but that can be a learning experience for the kids. We’ll have festive activities for those days coming up such as Groundhog’s Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of spring. Most of these activities will be free with paid admission and we’ll put them on our calendar and Facebook so our guests can check out what’s coming up.
Have you made any changes or have plans to make any changes early on?
I plan to involve more local businesses and organizations in museum functions. Central Illinois is full of fantastic people and businesses that have a natural fit with many aspects of the museum, whether it’s a special event or potentially an exhibit that could be built to educate children about industry we have in our own backyard. Partnering with others, where it makes sense, will benefit everyone involved.
Anything new on the horizon?
We’ll be giving our summer camps a makeover and adding new themes and educational opportunities. This fall we’ll offer a museum on wheels program where we can bring our workshops to classrooms in the area. Funding for school field trips is being cut more and more each year, so if they can’t come to us, we’ll go to them.
Our Family Science Sundays also are new this year. We partner with Richland Community College and January’s workshop, covering forensic science, was a big hit. These will be held the second Sunday of each month and we hope that families will join us to experience fun science.
We also have a few other exciting things in the works, so keep your fingers crossed and your eyes open. We’ll make the announcements in due time.