Lauren Kochian is the president of the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology (the MOST). Additionally she serves as president of the Arts and Cultural Leadership Alliance and on the advisory council for Golisano Children’s Hospital. Kochian frequently volunteers her time with organizations that support people with developmental disabilities. She lives in East Syracuse.
Were you born and raised in CNY?
I was born and raised in East Syracuse. I went to Syracuse University for my bachelor’s degree. I did move away for a few years, but then moved back to get my master’s degree and I’ve been here ever since.
Why do you choose to stay and make your home here?
I have a huge family, most everybody is still here, my parents, all of their siblings, my 93-year-old grandma. I’m fortunate, [family] is primarily why I am here, but all the other pieces fell into place, meaning career, my life partner, all of that.
What does your “good life” look like and how does CNY play a role?
My good life is exactly what I have here which is work-life balance. I love my work; it’s very rewarding. I have a 15-minute drive home. I come home to a family where I have a wonderful fiancé and children that go to a wonderful school. It’s an affordable place to live and I can do the things that I enjoy doing outside of work. I consider myself a nature girl, and there’s tons of opportunity for that around here and around the region. Going to shows, being able to do weekend getaways because we’re so close to so many big cities — those are the kinds of things I enjoy doing and they’re really easy to do when you live here.
What do you like most about living here?
My kids are getting a really great education. I love the proximity to city parks, county parks, waterfalls, even the state parks. I love sports, so between Crunch, baseball and SU sports, there’s always something fun to do. I love being able to go to the theater orArts and Cultural Leadership Alliance take a quick trip to the Everson. My family has actually built a lot of tradition around the things that Syracuse has to offer. Every February break we’d go to an SU game. Every holiday season we do the Festival of Trees. It’s just enabled me to create this great family life because of all the things we can do with our children.
What makes CNY different from other places you’ve lived?
The biggest difference is really the people. We really have this extraordinarily, I feel, sophisticated population that lives here. A lot of really smart people, passionate people, very generous. Nearly my entire career I’ve worked for different nonprofits between the MOST, Syracuse Stage and ARC of Onondaga and people are so incredibly generous, and I believe that comes from a real level of sophistication that our community possesses.
How would you spend a day off in the area?
Definitely hit up some of my favorite places to eat. I would probably spend the day outdoors. My ideal would be going to Skaneateles. My parents live on the lake in a very secluded area, so spend the day on the water and along the dirt roads, enjoying nature, fresh air. I would spend the evening, either at a show — I miss all the live concerts at the amphitheater — or a sporting event.
Go-to place to eat?
I love Attilio’s. Great food, great atmosphere. When the weather is nice, I prefer to eat outside, so for me it’s either Lemon Grass or Prime Steakhouse.
First place you take out-of-town friends or family?
The MOST. Certainly we are primarily geared towards kids but there’s a lot of fun things for adults to do, too, and to read and learn about, so I find that people of all ages enjoy spending an afternoon or part of a day there.
Summer, hands down.
Favorite way to take advantage of our beautiful outdoors?
I’d visit my parents or hike at one of the parks. I love to run, go walking. I like to cross-country ski. I’m always looking for places that let people pop a kayak in a lake or a pond.
A place or business you think is underrated or under-discovered?
A park called Poolsbrook. It’s out past Green Lakes and it's got the same kind of great trails that a lot of the parks [have]. It's always pretty slow there. I see a few people walking, I see a couple people fishing. I’ve actually heard that the fishing is great. But I think it's one of those, maybe it's just that far off the beaten path, that people don’t go. But it’s really beautiful.
Favorite memory related to living in CNY?
I have a few. This is probably the toughest question, having spent most of my life here. Having my kids at St. Joe's is probably my numero uno. Getting engaged here last year, watching my kids play sports here. When my dad retired from the county, Joanie Mahoney had one of the county buildings named after him. That was a beautiful dedication; that's one of my favorite family memories. Then, professionally speaking, we brought a permanent dinosaur exhibit to Syracuse at the MOST. People had wanted something like that for so long, so to be able to do that and all of the excitement in the community, that was huge for me, too.
How would you describe CNY in a few words?
As far as the people go, it’s really authentic. And it’s unique. Syracuse is a great example, in a lot of different ways, of old versus new. Lots of exciting emerging technology companies, yet you have the contrast of this phenomenal old architecture and really traditional ways of doing things.
What do you think we take for granted here?
Believe it or not, I think we take the snow for granted. As ridiculous as that sounds because it is such a hassle day to day, I think we forget how awesome it is that we have all of these opportunities for skiing, outdoor sports, just enjoying its beauty. And we’re good at snow; I think we also take that for granted. We’re really good at snow removal. We’re good at dealing with it, so we should just enjoy it a little bit more.
We have some really incredible industry here in town and lots of opportunity for people for jobs. Certainly they’re the kind of jobs where you need a background or training, whether it's engineering or something along those lines, but the fact is there's a lot of opportunity here if we can just get people on those paths. I don’t even think people necessarily know… that there’s tremendous potential for our children to be able to have a good career right here in their hometown. That’s where the MOST comes in. You need to get these kids interested at a certain age. And that's why a lot of [the local manufacturers and tech companies] are huge supporters of the MOST, because they understand how important it is to reach these kids. And not just reach them in school; we can reach them in a different way, we can excite them about science in a different way. Also, we have access to all of them. Every major school district comes through the museum, every small private school, even the homeschoolers. You know, at any one time, one of these major companies could have 100 job openings. And we don't have the have the workforce necessarily to fulfill it, so they recruit from outside of Syracuse… but certainly it would be wonderful if more of those people are born and raised here. We don't want to lose our kids to other cities.
Best way to get to know the area better?
Take a stroll downtown: Hanover Square, Armory Square and everything in between. Ask locals where to eat. I actually think our food scene is underrated. Make sure to hit up all those arts and cultural places. A lot of them are free to get in. Same thing with the county parks and city parks. The parks do a nice job of telling a story about our history. Do a little bit of both and you’d get a good really good sense of the area.
Myth about CNY or Upstate you’d like to dispel?
I don't know how much this is a thing, but I often get a sense that people think that CNY has sort of a small-town mentality. And I mean small town in the sense of unsophisticated, maybe small-minded and that could not be more inaccurate or more of a myth. The size of our town really says not much about us other than the size of our town.
What do you think people outside of CNY should know about living here?
Probably the biggest thing is how affordable it is. Cost of living is really manageable and especially given what you get in return for it. So I think that balance, your return on investment to live here, is extraordinary and you can't say that about a lot of places in our country.
You can live your best life in Central New York too!
View the many job opportunities available today