AZA News Releases

AZA Program for Potential Future Executives of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums Begins Third Year

Silver Spring, MD – According to preliminary results from research, it is estimated that there will be approximately 20 zoo or aquarium director openings ‎per year for the next 10 years at facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Knowing this, the AZA is proactively working to educate and train the next generation of leaders of AZA-accredited zoological facilities through the Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP). Entering the third year of this program, AZA has announced the 2016 class, which consists of the following 10 individuals:

Brian Aucone, Senior Vice President for Animal Care & Conservation, Denver Zoo

Rich Bergl, Curator of Conservation & Research, North Carolina Zoological Park

Jon Brangan, Deputy Director, Brevard Zoo

Norah Fletchall, Supervising VP of Operations, Indianapolis Zoo

Richard Glover, Chief Marketing Officer, Texas State Aquarium

Sean Greene, VP of Guest Experience, Dallas Zoo

Doug Lund, Assistant Director, Utah's Hogle Zoo

Julianne Passarelli, Exhibits and Collections Curator, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Scott Terrell, Animal Operations Director, Animal Care, Health, and Science,Disney's Animal Kingdom

Allison Tuttle, DVM, Diplomate ACZM, VP of Biological Programs, Mystic Aquarium

“Participants in the Executive Leadership Development Program are recognized within the AZA community for their extensive knowledge and experience, dedication, ambition, and great promise in their leadership abilities,” said AZA Executive Director Kris Vehrs. “Through this rigorous, custom-designed program, they will have the opportunity to further develop skills necessary to meet the challenges of sustaining a viable aquarium and zoo operation that benefits the animals in their care, their local communities, and global wildlife conservation initiatives.”

The goal of the ELDP is to impart the Zoo & Aquarium Executive Director Competencies, which are the behaviors, knowledge and skills needed to be most effective in this role. The competency model developed for this program emphasizes three tiers of competencies and includes:

Executive Leadership Behaviors, which defines the heart and values of an effective leader and their leadership approach to Inspire, Model, Challenge, Enable, and Encourage others to deliver on the mission of their facility. This 360-degree assessment of Leadership Behaviors was created by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner and is included in their book, “The Leadership Challenge, Fourth Edition.” The book is considered to be the gold standard for research-based leadership and the premier resource on becoming a leader. 

Executive Focus, which defines the skills and knowledge an executive needs to possess in order to sustain a viable facility and includes Animal Welfare/Conservation Development, Board/Committee Development, Business Acumen, Business Development, People Management/Development, and Planning.

Executive Oversight for Zoo/Aquarium Operations, which defines the skills and knowledge needed to provide executive oversight for each operational area reporting to the Zoo/Aquarium Executive Director. This includes Animal Care, Communications, Conservation/ Science, Design/ Exhibit, Education Programs, Events, Finance, Government/Legal Affairs, Guest Services, Human Resources, Marketing, Member/Donor Management, Public/Community Relations, Safety, and Security.A variety of experience-based learning methods will be used to develop the key competencies for the zoo/aquarium Executive Director role. Participants will benefit from leader and mentor relationships and build competency through relevant learning opportunities.  These experience-based development methods will include forming action teams to address real and complex issues; having dialogues with current executive leadership to transfer institutional knowledge and lessons learned along the way; and creating a customized individual development plan.The development of this custom program, which launched in 2014, was a collaborative effort between the AZA Board of Directors, top executive consultants, and many current zoo and aquarium executives. The kick-off session for the 2016 class program began on January 11, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona, with many other development events being planned throughout the year.The executive development of identified senior leaders will be an ongoing effort by AZA, and a new ELDP group will be selected each fall for participation in the program the following year.

 About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and seven other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit

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