Bell Museum names new director

Susan Weller was named the new director for the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Bell Museum of Natural History, making her the first woman to hold the position in the museumâÄôs 136-year history. Weller, who came to the University as a research associate in 1993 and began working at the Bell Museum in 1995, was named the director Nov. 10 but had been serving as the interim director for the museum since July. A 13-year veteran of the UniversityâÄôs entomology department, Weller said she is excited about her new position and the challenges it will bring. She said she looks forward to helping the Bell Museum âÄúfulfill its mission to preserve the biological diversity of Minnesota and educate Minnesota citizens about natural resources.âÄù WellerâÄôs appointment comes at a crucial time for the Bell Museum as the University is seeking funding to build a new museum on the St. Paul campus. A new facility would allow the Bell Museum to be more effective, Weller said. âÄúWe would be the gateway to environmental education at the St. Paul campus, a window of the UniversityâÄôs research to the world,âÄù she said. Weller said she sees herself as a cheerleader helping promote the cause for the new Bell Museum and she said she will do whatever she can to help secure funding for the new facility. WellerâÄôs vision for the Bell Museum also includes increasing the museumâÄôs outreach programs. âÄúIâÄôm passionate about getting science to students of all ages,âÄù she said. Shrinking school budgets have made it harder for students to visit the museum, Weller said, but the museum staff is working hard to get foundation funding to make sure students can still experience science. âÄúIf the students canâÄôt come to the Bell,âÄù she said, âÄúweâÄôll bring the museum to them.âÄù Allen Levine, dean of the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences , said he chose Weller to head the Bell Museum because âÄúshe is really passionate about educating people about science and she loves the Bell Museum for what it does.âÄù He described Weller as a âÄúfirst-rate scientistâÄù who works well with other scientists, students and the community. Levine said he was comfortable making Weller the permanent director because she had shown great administrative abilities during a previous stint serving as the interim director for the Department of Entomology. Scott Lanyon , WellerâÄôs predecessor at the Bell Museum, called the directorship âÄúone of the tougher jobs at the University.âÄù He compared the job to conducting an orchestra, saying the director must work with a variety of different groups and is responsible for managing many independent functions within the Bell Museum. Lanyon said part of the reason he felt comfortable leaving the Bell Museum to focus more on teaching and research was because he knew Weller would be a quality replacement. âÄúSusan is passionate about making current science accessible to the public,âÄù Lanyon said. âÄúI think Susan is a great leader who can help guide the museum and build consensus.âÄù Andrew Simons , a curator at the Bell Museum who has worked with Weller for the past 10 years, said he thinks Weller will make a good director because of her enthusiasm. Simons said Weller has worked hard throughout her time at the Bell Museum to bring science to students of all ages, all while balancing a teaching career and a family.