Working at the museum has provided her the opportunity to pursue a variety of roles — from initiating conservation projects, to conducting primary scientific research, to curating exhibitions such as “Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture.” She also co-founded the Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners
, a global initiative at the Center that provides free teaching modules and other resources to environmental educators in more than a dozen countries. And she has served as an advisor for doctoral students at Columbia University, where she received the Graduate Student Advisory Council Faculty Mentoring Award in 2012.
“She really is a humble, down-to-earth sort of person at the same time that she is this remarkable leader,” Richard said. “But it’s this kind of leadership that is inclusive and thoughtful and catalyzing rather than imposing a vision on people.”
When asked what she is most proud of her many accomplishments, Sterling answered, without hesitation, “My students.”
“I invest an incredible amount of time in thinking about and understanding and recognizing the strengths and areas for growth in my students,” she said. “And for the first many decades of my career I probably did less than other academics might have done in terms of publishing and I put more of my energy into the next generation all over the world. They are doing amazing things and I just love that.”
er most recent doctoral student, Rae Wynn-Grant
’10 M.E.Sc., now a postdoctoral fellow at the museum, says Sterling looks at a student’s potential and then goes above and beyond to help the student succeed.
“She was really hard on me a lot of the time to the point that I definitely felt pushed to perform really well,” Wynn-Grant said. “But at the same time, she has this ability to balance that role with being very caring and really taking the time to not just get to know
me on a personal level, but to support
me on a personal level.”
Wynn-Grant also says that Sterling is extremely involved — and sometimes the only person in a leadership position — in promoting racial and ethnic diversity in science.