Vice President, Education and Engagement (full - Time, Regular)

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Reporting Relationship

The Vice President, Education and Engagement will report to the Chief Executive Officer

Organization Background

Daniel Cleveland and Oliver Sanford, two professionals living in San Diego in the mid 1870’s were also citizen naturalists.  They envisioned a society focused on the nature around them.  Such natural history societies had gained popularity since 1850 and citizen scientists were gathering their own collections of specimens; Cleveland and Sanford were no exception.  In 1874, the two men spearheaded the effort to bring together a group of interested amateur naturalists into the San Diego Society of Natural History focused on the “study of nature, the acquirement and diffusion of scientific knowledge and the collection and preservation of materials pertaining thereto.”  Then and now, the focus has been the same: to research, conserve and educate.  Today, we continue to be a membership driven society and museum focused on our bi-national region, a wonderfully unique, ecologically bio-diverse area covering Southern California from coast to cactus and Baja California from coast to coast.

The Museum’s collection is composed of more than 8 million research specimens. Today, the Museum interprets the natural world through research, education and exhibits; promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of Southern California and the peninsula of Baja California; and inspires a passion for nature and a sense of personal responsibility for its conservation. The San Diego Natural History Museum is a flagship Museum in Balboa Park, home to 17 cultural institutions, many gardens, and recreational facilities. The Museum has a balanced core operational budget of approximately $11 million with approximately 185 employees and is visited by 400,000 guests per year. It maintains very active programs of research, exhibitions and education (See ). 

Position Description

The Vice President of Engagement and Education provides leadership and creative vision for the development and delivery of education, public programs, exhibitions, citizen science, volunteer programs, and community partnerships to support the strategic direction, growth, and financial stability of the Museum. Reporting to the President and CEO, the Vice President of Engagement and Education collaborates with colleagues across the institution and stakeholders in the binational community to conceptualize, develop, and implement engagement initiatives that are relevant, compelling, and accessible for a diverse audience. This position will champion and cultivate a visitor-centered culture at the Museum and provide the binational public ways to engage in environmental education and science.  As a member of executive management team, he or she works directly with the Board of Directors and relevant committees to develop and implement Museum policy.   

A successful candidate will have both a strategic and hands-on approach to finance, accounting, and operations, be adept at analysis, business planning, forecasting, and be committed to the Museum’s mission.

Responsibilities Include:

  • Vision and Strategy: Shapes a vision and strategy for impactful education and public programs, exhibitions, volunteers, and citizen science that engage the public on both sides of the US/Mexico border with the Museum’s research and collections. Identifies measureable outcomes, success criteria, and planning and assessment tools. Stays current with educational, exhibition, accessibility practices, and scholarship through a network of colleagues in the field, other disciplines, and literature reviews. Participates in executive management leadership team that establishes priorities for the Museum. Raises funds for educational activities.
  • Education and Public Engagement Program Development and Implementation: Oversees and directs the development and implementation of the Museum’s education program to engage students, adults, and Museum visitors on both sides of the US/Mexico border. Program design emphasizes the unique natural history of the Californias, and aims to instill a conservation ethic.  Works closely with schools and out of school learning organizations to design programs that are standards-based and complement school-based learning. Public engagement will support cross-departmental collaboration, outside partnerships, and citizen science to extend and enhance visitor experiences during open hours and after-hours programs.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Works with colleagues across the Museum and Balboa Park to develop and implement key messages, strategies for outreach and promotion, and internal communications.  Promotes high standards of customer service, both internally and toward Museum visitors.   Works with Institutional Advancement colleagues to prioritize and develop funding strategies and proposals for engagement activities, in addition to cultivating funders and donors, and producing proposals. Works with CFO/COO to ensure that fee-based programs are financially sound, and programs meet safety guidelines and museum policies.  Works closely with scientific research staff to share the Museum’s current research and collections with the public in meaningful ways. Communicates engagement strategies to colleagues across the institution.  Works with outside partner organizations, including local school districts, universities and community groups to plan and support programming.
  • Leadership and Staff Development: Direct reports include the Director of Experience Design (exhibitions), Director of Volunteers, and Education Department staff. Builds staff and volunteer skills by sharing new research and models, and through continuing education. Builds excitement and shared sense of program ownership with staff and volunteers through communication, and participation in program and exhibition development.
  • Research and Evaluation: Participates on cross-departmental evaluation committee to evaluate and improve processes, content, communication, staffing, and other issues.
  • Accessibility: Provides leadership to create bilingual exhibitions and materials that comply with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Universal Design to ensure that the Museum is accessible to all visitors, and serves as an advocate for accessibility issues. Establishes good working relationships with community organizations representing underserved communities and people with disabilities.
  • Administration, Budgets, and Reporting: Works with direct reports to develop, plan, and track annual budgets and revenue for engagement areas. Oversees and directs the preparation of reports, conveying metrics, narratives, and/or budget.  Participates actively in planning and budgeting for the Museum.
  • Special Projects: As a member of the executive team, when called upon, will assist with special projects and initiatives. Serve as project leader for key departmental and institutional strategic initiatives.


  • 10+ years of experience managing multiple departments, 3+ years of experience in a lead position as Vice President or executive level
  • 5+ years of experience in a nonprofit environment
  • Demonstrated experience in planning and implementing educational programs in museums.
  • Demonstrated experience with exhibition development and communicating complex concepts to general audiences
  • Proven effectiveness building and leading teams and empowering staff to make decisions
  • Demonstrated experience volunteer management and customer service skills
  • Demonstrated experience in effective oral and written communication, and successful grant writing. 
  • Demonstrated experience developing operating budgets and forecasts for projects and programs.
  • Demonstrated experience in conducting and interpreting evaluation studies, and developments in the field of education, identifying trends and new approaches.
  • Technologically savvy, with experience in using social media for educational purposes.
  • Passion for, or preferably background in natural history, and environmental conservation.
  • Minimum BA, and advanced degree in a relevant field preferable.
  • Ability to speak Spanish preferred but not required.

Personal Characteristics

  • Excellent interpersonal and team skills, extremely collegial
  • Outstanding communication skills, written and oral
  • Demonstrated resourcefulness and good judgment
  • Leads by example
  • Values inclusion, diversity of thought, backgrounds, and perspectives
  • Ability to multi-task while maintaining vigilant attention to details
  • Integrity and ethics beyond reproach
  • Constantly looking to apply best practices


Compensation will include salary and benefits.

Please submit resume, writing sample, cover letter including salary expectation to No phone calls or drop-ins, please.

The Hiring Committee will start reviewing applicants on June 24, 2019.



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