Kevin Orangers — newly appointed Deputy Director of Temple University Ambler — took the scenic route to arrive at a career in higher education.
It's a road that included a bachelor's degree in Anthropology, a mentorship under the first graduate student of famed paleoanthropologist Dr. Mary Leakey, archeological digs, a 1700's era glass factory, a 37-foot-long Winnebago/mobile museum, educational outreach visits to the entirety of the New York City School District and "rubbing elbows" with the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson.
"The first opportunity I had to teach students was when I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at Rutgers University. We partnered with an organization in Northern New Jersey that was conducting archeological field work at what was the site of an old Revolutionary War-era glass factory, and they were bringing students and camp groups in," said Orangers, who arrives at Temple with decades of experience in educational engagement and institutional management. "As the saying goes, I didn't know what I didn't know, and I didn't know that I would really enjoy being a science communicator or that I was going to enjoy teaching students and kids."
That experience led Orangers to a nearly 14-year educational road trip overseeing the American Museum of Natural History's Moveable Museum program.
"The Moveable Museum was a 37-foot Winnebago that housed an exhibit and associated curriculum. We as science communicators and educators would drive out to schools throughout the New York City School District to bring in our 'bag of tricks' that included fossils and artifacts as part of a 45-minute classroom presentation and then a 45-minute investigation of the Moveable Museum," he said. "They gave the keys of that program to me, both literally and figuratively, and we took that from one single vehicle to a fleet of four and 12 educators. I might be the only educator — other than school district leadership — that taught in nearly every single New York City elementary and middle school."
What followed were Vice President for Museum Programs and Chief Operating Officer roles at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, Executive Director at the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and, most recently, Director of Educational Engagement & Innovation at Montgomery County Community College.
"My museum experience was phenomenal, but I never thought that it was going to lead to the career path that it did," Orangers said. "It has afforded me an opportunity that brought me to higher education and now to Temple University Ambler. I'm proud of the foundational experience that I've had. It truly was the roadmap for my career."
As Deputy Director of Temple University Ambler, Orangers will manage the campus to ensure efficient and effective campus operations that fully support and serve students, faculty and staff engaged in the academic and research programs offered at the campus.
"We are very excited to welcome Kevin to the Temple Ambler and University College teams. He brings a wealth of knowledge in the institutional and academic fields that I don't think many other people have — he's been in front of the classroom, but he's also developed educational programs from the ground up, overseeing everything from logistics to financing to the physical plant," said Dr. Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Vice Provost for University College and Director of Temple University Ambler. "Most recently, he directed the launch, business and facilities operations and programmatic implementation of the Challenger Learning Center at Montco-Pottstown, which is groundbreaking in its STEM focus for pre-college engagement. We're certain Kevin's rich experiences will be vital to the planning and implementation of future programming and innovative initiatives at Temple Ambler."
According to Orangers, he decided to pursue the Deputy Director position due to "the scope of what the Temple Ambler administration has done with the campus and what the administration would like to do going forward, both in terms of creating opportunities for enrollment and opportunities to bring in community and potential corporate support of those initiatives."
"The Temple T brings with it a lot of cache, regionally, nationally and internationally. I was proud to interview for the position, to meet the entire team and staff and I am truly honored to take on this new role," he said. "I think I've shown the ability to take on projects that needed an innovative eye or an innovative approach throughout my career — whether it's a traveling museum on wheels; or a liberty museum, which can mean a lot of things to a lot of people; or a space museum. It's important to come up with innovative approaches to how people engage with and experience your programs and, most importantly, explore what the outcomes are for the end-user, in this case our students."
At Temple Ambler, the Deputy Director oversees all administrative operations for the campus including budget and financial operations for the Ambler Arboretum and Temple Ambler Field Station; management and planning for the physical plant and outdoor facilities; technology; scheduling; operations and staffing; security and emergency management. The Deputy Director also communicates and coordinates with Ambler Campus staff and other University stakeholders located at the Ambler Campus about campus operations and schedules, campus activities, initiatives and policies.
Temple Ambler, Orangers said, offers "incredible academic and research programs, particularly through the Arboretum and the Field Station."
"I'd like to use what I've learned through my past experience and take an innovative approach to building on what the campus is already doing," he said "I know my first several months are going to be a listening session — what have we done, what do we do really well, what do we want to do that we haven't yet done, and what have we done in the past that we might revive and innovate."
Orangers will additionally be responsible for ensuring campus utilization and development; identifying opportunities for expanded use of the campus by University academic programs and third-party users, particularly those that enhance the campus' teaching, learning and research missions.
"I look forward to understanding the day-to-day operations of Temple Ambler and supporting our departments, our mission, and most importantly our students and faculty. I think collaboration is critical to the success of the campus — my entire career has been defined by collaboration," he said. "I also look forward to building strong relationships with key stakeholders. I think community engagement is something that Temple Ambler is known for, and I think we can continue to build upon that solid foundation."
Temple Ambler, "whether its academic programs, whether it's the Arboretum or the Field Station, or just the grounds themselves, it's a living learning lab," Orangers said.
"To me, there are not a lot of campuses that have that or can support that — we have to think critically about the opportunities that provides us. How do we build on our STEM programs, how do we add new liberal studies and other programs that make full use of the unique resources we have at Temple Ambler?" he said. "Having an arboretum on campus, having a science-based field station conducting research on campus, it's phenomenal. What that affords us is the opportunity not just for academic research but also innovative ways to get regional communities onto the campus through engagement and immersion."
Orangers said he wants individuals coming away from their time on campus — "whether it's a community event or if it's completing their degree — I want them to come away with a learning outcome stating 'That truly prepared me for the rest of my life.'"
"It's big picture thinking, but we're in this business for our students," he said. "We want our students, our alumni, our campus visitors to come back to campus. We need their support, whether that's loving and valuing their own educational experience and having their kids become Temple Owls, giving a small gift or donation to support the next generation of students, or just recommending Temple Ambler to others. That's what the Ambler Campus is all about — we are here for them."