Heading up one of San Antonio’s largest, most anticipated projects is not an easy task, but knowing that a local mom is behind the hype is pretty exciting. Vanessa Lacoss Hurd is the Chief Executive Officer of The DoSeum, San Antonio’s Museum for Kids. When I first met Vanessa, she was serving as CEO of the San Antonio Children’s Museum and in the planning stages of The DoSeum. There was no doubt in my mind that she would be perfect to interview for our “I Am a San Antonio Mom” series. She’s one of those moms whom you look at and think, “How does she do it all so well?” Let’s find out!
Tell us about your background and how you got to San Antonio.
My husband and I moved to San Antonio 11 years ago from Boston, where I completed a graduate degree in public policy, with an emphasis on education.
My career started 22 years ago with Teach For America, which brought me to a 7th grade classroom in a low-income area on Houston’s west side. That experience transformed me, and I’ve been dedicated to education reform ever since. After three years in the classroom I returned to Teach For America, this time to head up its operations in Houston as the Executive Director. From there, I pursued my graduate degree, followed by four years working on the state level to help set up programs to certify teachers for high-need positions in areas serving low-income communities.
I started at the San Antonio Children’s Museum in October of 2008. It’s been quite a journey, as we quickly took on the project to build what has become The DoSeum, one of the best museums for kids in the country!
What do you love about San Antonio?
Almost everything! I love San Antonio’s history, traditions, and people. I love how easy it is to live in San Antonio, the happiness and ease with which people interact with one another, and the fact that if you have a good idea—and are willing to work hard to make it happen—the community will support you. And yes, I even love the weather!
What has been the greatest joy of motherhood for you?
Seeing my children begin to grow into themselves. They are each such unique beings in terms of their strengths, dispositions, and spirit. It’s a joy—and a challenge, too—to get to know each of them deeply for who they are and guide them in getting to know themselves.
What has been the greatest challenge in motherhood?
Parenting challenges all of our assumptions about ourselves, starting with the notion that we can clone ourselves! One of my favorite books emphasizes this point in its opening paragraphs, saying that the act of having children isn’t about reproduction, but production. Parenting is, by far, the toughest challenge I’ve taken on—far greater than any professional endeavor. It requires that we bring our very best selves to the table in service of guiding our kids. And when we can’t do that—which is often the case—we need to model humility and contrition to our children so that they recognize our humanity, too.
How do you hope your life influences and/or inspires other women?
My hope for all women is that we continue to grow in our ability to look at decisions around work and career more in terms of shades of gray rather than in black and white. There are so many options for women that allow us to consider multiple pathways at multiple times. Many of us choose to stay at home with kids; many choose to work; many choose a combination of the two, either simultaneously or in a sequenced way. Our challenge is not in deciding whether we love one reality (i.e., mothering or working outside the home) more than the other, but in allowing ourselves to love both things and determine for ourselves how to craft a reality that allows us to engage both of those loves. My hope is that through my work I can be an example to women in how to do that.
Describe your typical weekday.
“Typical” doesn’t exist other than at home, which of course includes making lunches, ferrying kids, and having family breakfasts and dinners!
I tend to start my day at 6:00 A.M., sneaking in an hour of work before the kids get up. I head into the office at 8:30 A.M. after school drop-offs and work until 5:30 P.M. Dinners are sacrosanct in our house, and we spend time together talking about our days. I have three kids under 11, and everyone gets the floor to share the best thing that happened to him/her that day and at least one thing he/she is looking forward to for the remainder of the week. My husband is an incredible partner to me, and we both value our time with the kids at meals and through an elaborate nighttime routine that includes lots of books and lots of “cuddle time” before lights out at 8:30 P.M. We typically close out the day on the couch with our computers open on our laps for two to three hours of work. It’s not glamorous, but it works for us!
If we peeked in your purse right now, what would we find?
My “purse” is actually my work bag because I can’t seem to organize myself into a neat division between personal and professional when it comes to bags! Beyond work papers and a computer, you’ll find a wallet and lipstick…that’s about it!
As a local mom, why are you most excited to see The DoSeum added to San Antonio’s portfolio?
I believe that all kids deserve the best opportunities to learn, thrive, and grow. Children’s museums—and especially those that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math like The DoSeum—serve as “charging stations” that power up kids’ minds and support the important work of schools and other community organizations.
The DoSeum vision has never been just about constructing a beautiful building. Rather, we seek to strengthen the “ecosystem” of learning opportunities for kids, families, and educators by serving as a vital laboratory and connector for people, ideas, and resources committed to kids’ learning. Together, we can support, strengthen, and build agile thinkers and learners our city needs for the future.
What four words best describe you?
Passionate, committed, gullible, inquisitive.
Where would we find you on the weekends?
On the soccer field, at home with the family, or at dinner with friends. I’m also known to sneak in a trip or two to the gym.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
San Antonio favorites:
Date Night: Bliss or Hot Joy
Family-friendly activity: Hiking in Friederich or Eisenhauer Park
Entertainment: Live music
Shopping: The Shops at La Cantera
Relaxation: Spa day
Beverage: Cocktail at Bohanan’s or a beer at The Esquire
Dessert: Crème brulee at Arcade Midtown Kitchen