Learning about Learning Partners

« Back to Enrich




AZA Learning Partners:  Expanding Professional Development Opportunities for Zoos and Aquariums

By Nette Pletcher, Director of Conservation Education &
Amy Rutherford, Professional Development Program Manager, AZA

When the AZA Professional Development Committee set about designing a Certificate Program, it quickly became apparent that there were a great number of topic areas that could be covered. Animal husbandry alone is a diverse field, but zoo and aquarium professionals specialize in a variety of areas such as guest services, education, exhibit design, communication, and volunteer management to name a few.  To meet the needs of such a diverse group of professionals, AZA needed to build on its existing set of courses and expand the training opportunities available to members. 

One of the most beneficial aspects of participating in professional development opportunities like AZA’s classroom-based trainings is the incredible network of professional contacts one creates.  Knowing there are others who share the same challenges and making connections beyond one’s own institution is incredibly valuable. Likewise, making connections and sharing best practices with others in similar fields can also contribute to professional development in unique and valuable ways. 

There are many like-minded organizations that zoo and aquarium professionals already engage with in addition to AZA, and many of these also provide high quality opportunities. For the past year, AZA has been reaching out to these organizations and individuals to work together in promoting and recognizing the value of all of the professional development opportunities available to advance the zoo and aquarium profession.Many of these groups have been invited to become officially recognized as AZA Learning Partners. Select training programs offered by an AZA Learning Partner can then be recognized as electives in the AZA Professional Development Certificate Program.

Each Learning Partner agrees to communicate with AZA staff about professional development opportunities that are relevant to AZA members and to verify successful completion of their trainings.  In return, they receive the official AZA Learning Partner logo for use on their materials and cross-promotion of their trainings within the AZA community.  Groups that have already signed memorandums of understanding with AZA to become recognized as an AZA Learning Partner include:

AZA’s Professional Development Certificate Program organizes the numerous training opportunities offered through AZA and its Learning Partners into concentrations based around various specialties or topic areas. In order to earn a certificate in a particular concentration, a participant must complete two required AZA core courses related to the specific certificate concentration, as well as several related electives chosen from a list of approved Learning Partner offerings.  Electives include a range of opportunities,from online webinars to hands-on workshops to classroom-based courses.    

In each future issue of Enrich, one of AZA’s Learning Partners will be featured.  We look forward to sharing highlights from their programs and encouraging AZA members toparticipate in these exciting training opportunties, that also fulfill the requirements for a Professional Development Certificate! 

One of the goals of the AZA Professional Development Certificate Program is to help zoo and aquarium professionals gain skills for success by expanding the professional development training opportunities available.  AZA Learning Partners help us achieve this goal.  If you know of a professional organization offering training that would be valuable to AZA members, please email your suggestion to azatraining@aza.org.