Saturday, April 20, 2024

AZA welcomes its newest Executive Leadership Development Program cohort

Nine aquarium and zoo professionals have been selected for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums‘ (AZA) Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP), which is now in its ninth year. The ELDP develops executive competencies and leadership in individuals who demonstrate the ability and interest to advance to the role of Director at an AZA-accredited facility in the next five years.

Following an extensive candidate selection process, AZA announced the 2023 AZA ELDP cohort:

  • Dr. Stephanie Allard, SVP/Chief Animal Welfare Officer – National Aquarium
  • Adam Huston, Director, Guest Experience – Toronto Zoo
  • Liz Larsen, Vice President of Programs – Utah’s Hogle Zoo
  • Utpal Passi, Deputy Director, Operations – Oregon Zoo
  • Mellissa Reed, Chief Business Officer & SVP – Akron Zoological Park
  • Lisa Smith, Interim President and CEO/Chief Zoological Officer – Buffalo Zoo
  • Theresa Wilson, Manager – ZooAmerica
  • Andy Wood, Chief Operating Officer – The Florida Aquarium
  • Dr. Anna Young, Director of Education Engagement – The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

“When this program began nearly a decade ago, the goal was to develop the next generation of leaders capable of shaping a bright future for our profession,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “The results speak for themselves. Of the 83 ELDP graduates, three-fourths have advanced inside or outside their organization. This includes 27 graduates who now serve in a Director or CEO role and four who currently serve on the AZA Board of Directors. I look forward to seeing how these nine new professionals will help lead and shape our community in the future!”

AZA also announced the renaming of the program to the Ted A. Beattie Executive Leadership Development Program. Beattie was widely known as a champion of professional development within the AZA Community and is credited as one of the founders of the ELDP.

Ashe added, “We were all saddened to learn of Ted’s passing. A committed advocate for professional development, he saw the potential impact ELDP could have on the zoological community. He envisioned it as a path to recognize, support and advance the next generation of global zoo and aquarium community leaders. I would say his vision is being realized.”

The kick-off session for the 2023 class program was held virtually in December. The first in-person work session was at the AZA Directors’ Policy Conference on January 23 and 24.

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