Space Center Houston welcomes Mary Baerg as its new chief operating officer, joining the nonprofit science and space exploration learning center’s senior leadership team. Baerg is responsible for the center operations, including exhibits, finance, education, facilities, safety and security and guest operations. Baerg has more than 25 years of combined experience in the museum, communications field and the space industry. She specializes in guest and team engagement and program strategy.
Baerg joins Space Center Houston just as the center welcomes its newest exhibit, a flown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which arrived last week – adding to the nonprofit’s ongoing commitment to engage the public to be a part of the NASA mission.
“Mary is a vital addition to our executive leadership team,” said William T. Harris, the nonprofit’s president and CEO. “Her leadership will be instrumental to the center’s success and to achieve our vision to be the world’s leading science and space exploration learning center. With her extensive experience in both the space and museum industries, paired with her passion to create awe-inspiring experiences, Mary is uniquely qualified to support the center in our commitment to inspire the next generation of explorers.”
Baerg was previously the chief experience officer for the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas. For the Perot Museum, Baerg designed an onsite engagement framework to elevate the culture from transactional to relational experiences with a focus on innovative guest engagement. She directed vision for new programs, guided community engagement and grew education programs.
“I am thrilled to embark on this exciting next chapter and support Space Center Houston’s continuous advancement to spark curiosity in all of our guests, including the next generation of explorers,” said Baerg, Space Center Houston’s chief operating officer. “We have a unique opportunity to create transformative and inclusive experiences and play an important role helping to shape the future workforce to be empowered in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). I am eager to contribute to the center’s next phase of innovation tied with a culture dedicated to achieving engagement and operational excellence.”
Her extensive museum experience includes the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where she served in multiple roles including director of guest experience operations, director of guest relations, associate director of marketing and communications and oversaw youth education programs. She directed key guest experience projects during a time when the museum was transforming 60 percent of its public space and adding an outdoor learning laboratory. She also played a pivotal role in overseeing the guest experience at the Natural History Museum’s sister museum, The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum and the Great Lakes Science Center.
With proven leadership and strategy experience in the space industry, Baerg served as duty lead for the Mars Public Engagement team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). She directed daily operations for nationwide education and outreach efforts for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program and served as a key strategist for museum collaborations, a nationwide loan program, teacher professional development and informal education projects.
Baerg earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from California State University, Fullerton. Her previous board service includes board president for the Child Educational Center in La Canada, California.
Baerg arrives just as the center’s growth trajectory is rocketing to new heights like never before. The science and space exploration learning center is in its final stages of a master interpretive plan for future exhibits, is projected for another record-breaking year in attendance while celebrating the Apollo 13 mission’s 50th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of continuous habitation on the International Space Station.