Job Openings >> Director, Public Engagement
Director, Public Engagement
Title:Director, Public Engagement
Department:Learning & Community


The Director, Public Engagement at Shedd Aquarium will lead a multi-departmental strategy to drive engagement outcomes and guest satisfaction through a comprehensive suite of interpretive programming for approximately 2 million guests visiting Shedd annually.

The director will implement a holistic approach for the delivery of content and messaging in Shedd’s galleries and gardens through a wide range of facilitated engagements, including large-scale presentations, chats, tours, demonstrations, animal encounters, play programs and more. Reporting to the Vice President of Learning & Community, this position will apply best practices in interpretation, informal learning and conservation psychology to advance Shedd’s mission by illuminating and/or deepening connections to aquarium’s collection, exhibitions and stories with the goal of increasing engagement and satisfaction, delivering cognitive & affective outcomes, motivating pro-environmental behavior and nurturing a sense of belonging.

The director will collaborate heavily with guest-facing departments including Animal Care, Guest Relations and Design & Exhibits to develop processes for the development, scheduling and operations, training, facilitation and monitoring of guest-facing programs. Together, teams will implement a dynamic suite of programs across the aquarium grounds that responds to daily modes of operation and guest profiles. The director of public engagement will work closely with the Research & Evaluation department to develop a plan for evaluating learning and engagement outcomes for guest-facing programs.

This position will oversee and expand the public engagement department, responsible for leading program development, facilitation and training to enhance the overall guest experience. As part of the Learning & Community division, the department will directly contribute to Shedd’s youth, family and teen engagement strategies and will build capacity for innovative and interdisciplinary interpretation approaches and strategies across the division.

Essential Duties & Responsibilities include the following. Other duties may be assigned. To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • Demonstrates leadership in accordance to Shedd’s vision, mission and values

Interpretive Planning and Design

  • Leads the collaborative development of key interpretive program strategies to support Centennial Commitment, organizational DEAI plans and other strategic initiatives.
  • Supports multi-department interpretive planning and development; collaborates across teams on content development to ensure alignment on interpretive themes
  • Develops and leads a comprehensive training plan for all guest-facing staff, including Guest Relations, Animal Care, Learning, and other partners, that brings together multiple areas of expertise required to deliver a seamless and joyful experience to guests
  • Provides oversight in the development of an evaluation plan for reaching training, learning and impact goals; builds an approach for the ongoing monitoring of facilitated programs and assessing application of Shedd’s brand principles within programs
  • Owns strategic oversight and development of an interpretive volunteer program, providing direction to HR on recruitment and directly overseeing training, management, recognition, and ongoing assessment of volunteers
  • Works with senior leadership in the Marketing & Experience division to identify priorities for guest-facing engagement
  • Regularly incorporates community stakeholders and guests in planning and piloting efforts; where appropriate, develops and maintains partnerships and opportunities for program collaboration or co-creation; solicit feedback on approaches engagement and approaches to content that nurture a sense of belonging for a diversity of guests and learners
  • Champions a One Shedd approach to the guest experience, encouraging collaboration and teamwork
  • Collaborates with other Learning & Community leaders to further Shedd’s Environmental Education Access Initiative, including through reimagining the field trip experience at Shedd to deepen learning engagement through facilitated programs
  • Maintains an understanding of best practices in the field of interpretation and informal learning, incorporating innovative interpretive strategies to further Shedd goals
  • Help ensure guest needs and perspectives are represented across Shedd in internal planning efforts
  • Represent Shedd at conferences, in publications and as part of community partnerships

Operations Management

  • Collaborates across guest-facing teams to support the development of a dynamic daily program schedule that meets engagement and operational goals and addresses the needs of staff, guests and animals.
  • Supports multi-departmental resource coordination efforts for facilitated programs, including managing animal resources, staff assignments and scheduling, purchasing, and more.
  • Works with other departmental leaders and HR to create opportunities for workforce development and staff retention through tiered trainings, certifications and positions
  • Works closely with Guest Relations to inform the coordination of guest communications.

Departmental Leadership & Collaboration

  • As part the Learning & Community leadership team, develops strategic long-range plans, including annual and multi-year plans and budgets, professional development activities, and evaluation strategies
  • Provides vision and direction to a team of informal educators adept in engaging a diversity of audiences through multiple interpretive methods
  • Oversees hiring, ongoing supervision and performance management of staff, interns and volunteers for a department growing to as many as 25 staff through 2027
  • Develop the department in ways that reflect diversity as a core strength and that utilize public engagement strategies to further the organization’s values and commitment to anti-racism, equity, access, inclusion and belonging.
  • Builds a culture of evaluation where staff engage in reflective practice based on operational and evaluation data, visitor feedback and processes of prototyping, testing and iterating
  • Assesses priorities, creates and executes timelines, meets interim and overall project milestones, brings people together to successfully execute tasks
  • Collaborates with Development and External Affairs and Marketing to support fund development and storytelling for internal and external audiences
  • Fulfill other duties as required


To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.


  • Minimum B.S./B.A. in education, museum studies, science/environmental studies or equivalent experience; advanced degree preferred


  • Minimum of 7 years’ experience in planning, development, implementation and evaluation of interpretive or informal education programming
  • Minimum 7 years acting in a management role in a learning, cultural or conservation organization, including budget responsibility and direct supervision of staff
  • Demonstrated passion for informal free-choice learning and knowledge of both best practices and innovative approaches
  • Significant experience managing complex relationships, people management and team building
  • Demonstrated experience with program evaluation and data management
  • Success building and maintaining effective working relationships, effectively leveraging influence with internal and external stakeholders
  • Experience working with diverse audiences including teens, volunteers, adult professionals, families, students and/or teachers
  • Success developing programmatic engagements using a lens of DEAIJ (diversity, equity, accessibility, inclusion and justice)
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills are required; ability to communicate effectively with professional and general audiences; strong cultural competency required
  • Strong organizational skills and attention to detail and accuracy required
  • Ability to work independently, as well as cooperatively with Shedd staff, guests, and program participants
  • Experience reviewing academic literature and seeking information on current trends.
  • Demonstrated attention to detail, organizational, problem-solving and time management skills
  • Competency with Microsoft Office programs

Shedd Way Charter

As ONE SHEDD, the Learning & Community team is expected to deliver an exceptional experience for other team members, staff, volunteers, and internal and external guests. Each team member should demonstrate the Shedd WAY charter qualities including, but not limited to:

  • Professional appearance
  • Positive body language
  • Seeking learner engagement
  • Listening and responding to others’ needs
  • Taking pride in Shedd
  • Delight in the animals in our care
  • Learning about and respecting those you work with
We strongly encourage people of color, LGBTQ+ community, veterans and active duty military, parents, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from all cultural backgrounds to apply. Shedd Aquarium is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes everyone to our team. If you need a reasonable accommodation at any point in the application or interview process, please let us know. In your application, please feel free to select which pronouns you use (For example – she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs).
This opening is closed and is no longer accepting applications
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