Bell Museum + Planetarium names new executive director

Denise Young

Denise Young will assume her new role at the Bell Museum on September 12.

A veteran university-based museum and planetarium administrator will become executive director of the Bell Museum + Planetarium at the University of Minnesota this fall.

Denise Young, director of education and planning for the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will assume her new role at the Bell on September 12. She will oversee programs, research and facilities at a crucial time in the Bell Museum’s 144-year history, as it prepares to move to a new, state‐of‐the‐art facility with improved exhibits space, a versatile 120‐seat planetarium/digital theater and expanded educational areas on the university’s St. Paul campus. The new building will open in 2018.

“I am honored to have been selected to lead the Bell Museum + Planetarium at this transformative time in its history,” said Young. “The Bell already provides unique value to the state and university, and I look forward to building on the legacy of excellent programs, exhibits, and research as we seek to inspire future generations about the importance of nature and science to our lives.”

In Chapel Hill, Young established the education department and assembled a large, diverse team to provide science education experiences to early childhood through adult audiences. During her tenure, science center visitation has nearly doubled to 150,000 and philanthropic support has increased exponentially. Young also co-founded the North Carolina Science Festival, a multi-day celebration showcasing the educational, cultural and financial impact of science across the state.

She’s also a clinical assistant professor in the department of Learning Sciences and Psychological Studies at the University of North Carolina School of Education, and has been a lead classroom educator and gifted education specialist at an inner city integrated arts magnet school and a science-focused elementary public school adjacent to Duke University. She holds an Ed.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in curriculum and instruction, M.S.A. in school administration/educational leadership and B.A. in early childhood education.

The Bell is part of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. “We are embarking on a grand adventure into a new vision for the Bell Museum + Planetarium,” said Brian Buhr, dean of the college. “Denise’s success at developing award-winning science education and community outreach programs at a university museum and planetarium wonderfully positions her to lead opportunities in education, research and outreach that will bring our important work into the world.“

The Bell Museum of Natural History was established in 1872 as the official natural history museum for the state of Minnesota and includes world‐class collections and award‐winning public programming. In 2011, the Bell Museum was joined by the Minnesota Planetarium Society in a historic merger that expanded the capacity and range of educational experiences for youth and adults. When the new Bell Museum + Planetarium opens in St. Paul, it will showcase University of Minnesota research and discovery. The museum’s exhibits and public programming will foster scientific literacy for all ages and will serve as a vital gateway to the university for the larger community.    

Media Contacts

Lacey Nygard
University Public Relations
Public Relations
Becky Beyers
Public Relations
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities