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Meet Cristina Ullmann, SCFG's Senior Program Director

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

We are very excited to highlight Cristina Ullmann, Science Club for Girls' Senior Program Director. Cristina began working with Science Club for Girls (SCFG) almost 7 years ago as the Materials and Logistics Manager. She has a Master of Science degree in Conservation Biology and, prior to joining SCFG, worked for non-profit land conservation organizations including the Nature Conservancy. Cristina considered becoming a teacher and worked for a few years as a substitute to see if that was the right path for her. She says, "I was thrilled to find Science Club for Girls which combines science and teaching!"

Always ready to help: Cristina filling up her minivan with salt for our chemistry curriculum!

In her role as Senior Program Director, Cristina oversees the planning, coordination, and implementation of all of SCFG's programming. She leads a stellar program team, masterfully manages a massive enrollment process (with over 650 applicants for the most recent semester alone!), trains volunteer mentors, and manages the supply lists for all of our programs. Cristina is always willing to roll up her sleeves and pitch in where help is needed, be it buying up all the salt from area Targets for our chemistry curriculum (see below!), keeping our storerooms organized, or brainstorming creative solutions to programmatic challenges with staff. We hope you will enjoy learning a little bit about Cristina in the following interview!

What keeps you at SCFG and motivated by this work?

I absolutely love working at Science Club for Girls and feel grateful to be part of this incredible community.

My motivation comes from little snippets that I observe when I am visiting the Science Clubs:

  • I love watching the participants in our virtual clubs who are working independently in a collective environment. So often I see their pride when they open their can of play doh or do other tasks that they typically ask an adult to do for them. The encouragement and creativity of the mentors together with the kids’ persistence is remarkable.

  • I also loved overhearing a mentor, who is a college student at Harvard, walking with a young participant. The little girl looked at her and asked, "Are you Ethiopian like me?"

  • Another favorite moment was during our post-club debrief [which takes place after every Science Club] when a Junior Mentor told the mentors that she had the SAT test coming up. They all stopped what they were doing and gave her tips and encouragement.

  • Speaking of the post-club debrief, when I was the Program Manager at Amigos School I often felt like a bartender at the end of a long night. I would literally have to turn out the lights to get the mentors and Junior Mentors to leave the building! They just love networking and encouraging each other. So much of this organization is about building relationships!

Cristina (on left) with Executive Director, Dr. Bonnie Bertolaet.

What is most rewarding about working at SCFG?

It's a family affair! Cristina's husband buying salt at Target.

The most rewarding part of this job is seeing the joy on the face of a participant when they are doing a fun activity. It makes all the planning and shopping for materials worth it!

Last fall our order of salt for our chemistry curriculum for 500 students never arrived so my husband and I spent a Saturday driving to all the Boston area Targets and buying all of their salts! Fun fact: Target is the cheapest place to buy salt!

Please tell us a little bit about your personal background.

I have lived in Cambridge for over 20 years, but I am originally from the Washington, D.C. area. My father worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development and my mother was a high school biology teacher. They both lived the example of using your career to make a difference in the world. In fact, my sisters and I are all either in education or public health.

My father’s job allowed us to travel around the world quite a bit. I was born in Costa Rica and lived in Indonesia in elementary school. My mother’s background in biology and interest in nature meant that the world was our classroom. She never missed an opportunity to appreciate and learn about the animals and plants that we happened upon.

My mother's awe and wonder of nature and her ability to not just teach, but to inspire, is something I draw upon at Science Club for Girls. I enjoy building the programs around capturing the participants’ natural curiosity.

Cristina as a child on a nature walk with her mother and sisters.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

One of my favorite things to do is go hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. A few years ago I finished my goal of hiking the 48 4,000 foot mountains in that area. Now my two teenage daughters are trying to finish their lists so I am doing the hikes again - but this time I don’t have to reach the summit if I don’t feel like it!

You move mountains every day, Cristina! Thank you for your grounded leadership and creative vision that has charted Science Club for Girls through the pandemic and five years of consecutive growth! We are lucky to have you.

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