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Celebrate Shark Week with Discovery Place and JCSU Alumna Tifferney White

Tifferney White ’94

CHARLOTTE, N.C. / July 26, 2022 – JCSU Alumna Tifferney White ’94 knows the perfect way families can sink their teeth into all things Shark Week: a trip to Discovery Place Science to view the Unseen Oceans exhibit. 

The exhibit, which will be on display through Sept. 18, gives families the opportunity not only to see a few live shark specimens, but also get an up-close experience with some of the world’s largest sea creatures. 

“We are really excited about this exhibit,” said White, who serves as chief learning officer for two of the Discovery museums. “It looks great, but also has a lot of content and is very relevant to this time of year, since it’s all about oceans. You’re going see things that are typically unseen, and we can’t wait for you to see them.” 

White is no stranger to uncharted waters. In 2007, she was recruited by Las Vegas’ Discovery Children’s Museum to improve it. At the time, attendance was low, and there was no real visitor experience, not to mention that several exhibits were broken and simply not engaging. 

By 2015, a brand-new, state-of-the-art museum opened, and White was named CEO of the Las Vegas museum. In 2018, the Association of Art Museum Directors estimated that only 4 percent of the museums in the U.S. were led by women, making White a stand-out in the field. 

She was later recruited by Discovery to come back to the Charlotte area to work at the larger organization at an executive level, which she says allowed her to be closer to her family on the East Coast. 

“No day is the same for me, that is why I enjoy my job so much,” said White. “But my favorite part about my job is the opportunity to share STEM in a way that is accessible and relevant to all. I see the value in knowledge and understanding of STEM, and believe that is an equalizer. No matter who you are, what background you have, science is all around you and your life and decision-making can be more intentional when you are science literate.” 

White earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and a Bachelor of Arts degree. She said she honed a strong work ethic and learned to persevere to reach her goals in her time at JCSU. 

She aspired to go to medical school to become a psychiatrist and thought Discovery Place would be a pit stop on the way to a successful medical career. 

But she said the children she served in her first-ever role were a deciding factor in her decision to stay at Discovery. 

“My first role was going into underserved project areas and doing hands-on science with children in an effort to spark an interest that may encourage them to go into STEM careers,” she said. “I saw myself in these children and I often thought, ‘what if this is their only opportunity to touch a snack, to see a chemical reaction, to learn about stars in the night sky, to see a real human heart?’” 

Although it took several years for White to let go of her dream to become the first doctor in her family, she knew the call to teach children STEM made a bigger impact.

“It is difficult to be what you can’t see,” she said. “I am honored to be a first-generation college student and a Black woman in STEM. I am proud to allow students to see and be encouraged that they can do the same.” 

In her role, White has created and implemented Discovery’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility strategy, and also helps with the organization’s Youth Development Program. 

“The program allows students to engage in STEM and with the museum to build critical personal and professional skills that will support their post-high school aspirations,” she said. 

Benefits of the program include an opportunity to be immersed in STEM, college and career readiness preparation, development of a strong social capital network and cultivation of long-term relationships with industry professionals and fellow students. 

As a part of the program, the students volunteer in various areas of the museum, and also have access to a creator lab that includes a wood-shop area as well as a host of 3D printers. 

This program allows White to continue to leave a mark on the students and STEM leaders of tomorrow. 

For more information on Discovery Place Science’s Unseen Oceans exhibit, visit science.discoveryplace.org/explore/exhibitions/unseen-oceans.

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