Effective Leadership: Foundation & Development 

Hosted by Birmingham Zoo 
Birmingham, AL
November 6-11, 2023

Effective Leadership: Foundation & Development focuses on building foundations for effective leadership while supporting the front line, or individuals who want to elevate into a leadership role, or individuals who want to grow within their leadership role. The course topics span the following subjects: 

  • Developing Your Authentic Leadership Style 
  • Cultivating Strong Teams 
  • Leading through Influence 
  • Building Better Processes 
  • Supporting Staff as People 
  • Organizational Operations 
  • Growing Your Expertise & Experience 
Course Topics
  • Taking Care of Yourself and Your Team

  • Tools for Self-Assessments

  • Your Personal Leadership Style

  • Transitioning to a Successful Team Leader

  • Effective Communication

  • Change Management & Resilience 

  • Using Your Influence

  • Personnel Management 

  • Forward Thinking 

  • Individual Development Plan 

  • Celebrate Your Team 

  • Understanding Culture 

  • DEAI 

  • Your Impact on Your Organization and Your Guests 

  • Governance & Accountability 

  • Value of AZA Accreditation & Regulation 

  • Pathways to Professional Involvement 

  • Animal Wellbeing & Trends 

  • Hot Topics 


 - Students pick up name badges ~5:30 PM
 - Welcome reception 5:30-7:00 PM 
 - Course meets for opening session/class 7:00-8:30 PM 

- Class meets all day

- Class meets through mid-afternoon
- Course ends late afternoon

Attendance is required for course participants for the duration of the course until the evening of the last day. As a result, individuals generally depart the following day, Sunday. Attendees will receive a detailed schedule for their course after their registration is confirmed. 


Christina Dembiec, Director of Education - Memphis Zoo
Chris Gentile, Executive Director - Western North Carolina Nature Center
Kenton Kerns, Assistant Curator - Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Laura Martina, Founder/CEO - Lead By Co.
Amy Rutherford, Vice President of Education - Birmingham Zoo

Is This Course Right For You?

Zoo and aquarium staff leaders across all departments, including animal programs, education, guest services, volunteer management, marketing, development and public relations will benefit from participation in this course.


As a science-based organization, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums encourages all registrants, instructors, speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and staff attending AZA meetings, courses and events to be up-to-date with vaccinations of all kinds, including COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.

Registrants are required to agree to the Attendee Liability Waiver and Assumption of Risk Policy (below) upon registering, agreeing to comply with any state or local mask mandates in place for indoor events until further notice. If no mask mandate is in place, attendees are encouraged to wear masks if they wish, but not required.


Attendee assumes all risks and accepts sole responsibility for any injury (including, but not limited to, personal injury, disability, and death), illness, damage, loss, claim, liability, or expense, of any kind, that attendee may experience or incur in connection with attending the EVENT. Attendee hereby releases, covenants not to sue, discharges, and holds harmless ASSOCIATION, its employees, agents, and representatives, of and from any such claims, including all liabilities, claims, actions, damages, costs, or expenses of any kind arising out of or relating thereto.

Specifically relating to the global COVID-19 pandemic, attendee acknowledges the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 and voluntarily assumes the risk of exposure or infection by attending the EVENT, and that such exposure or infection may result in personal injury, illness, disability, and/or death to attendee. Attendee understands that the risk of becoming exposed to or infected by COVID-19 at the EVENT may result from the actions, omissions, or negligence of others who may attend the event or their families, colleagues, or others with whom they may have contact. Accordingly, attendee understands and agrees that this release includes any claims based on the actions, omissions, or negligence of ASSOCIATION, its employees, agents, and representatives, whether a COVID-19 infection occurs before, during, or after participation in the EVENT.

In addition to all other rules and regulations relating to the attendee’s attendance at the EVENT, attendee agrees to comply with all COVID-related procedures that may be implemented by ASSOCIATION and EVENT VENUE, including, but not limited to, mask-wearing and social distancing requirements and restrictions on certain activities that carry higher COVID-related risk, in order to protect as much as possible, the health and safety of all EVENT attendees.

Travel & Accomodations

Air Travel
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) is the closest airport. 

More information coming soon.

Please wait until you are admitted into the course before making your reservations. You will receive an email containing detailed information once you are admitted.


The registration fees below cover course tuition. Other expenses include hotel, travel, and meals. Registration prices are subject to change each year. 

AZA Accredited / Certified Institutions*
Early Bird Rate:
Deadline 12 weeks prior to course start date
$1125 with Individual AZA Membership 
$1325 without Individual AZA Membership

Regular Rate: Deadline 4 weeks prior to course start date
$1325 with Individual AZA Membership 
$1525 without Individual AZA Membership

*This pricing is for anyone currently employed at an AZA accredited/certified institution.
Individual Membership must be Professional Affiliate or Professional Fellow to qualify.

Non-AZA Institutions*
Early Bird Rate:
Deadline 12 weeks prior to course start date
$1325 with Individual AZA Membership

Regular Rate: Deadline 4 weeks prior to course start date
$1525 with Individual AZA Membership

*This pricing is for anyone who is not currently employed at an AZA accredited/certified institution.
Individual Membership 
must be Professional Associate to qualify.

Registration prices are subject to change.

For information regarding our registration and refund policies, please visit our Professional Development Course Policies page. Accepted forms of payment for registration are by credit card, check, or purchase order. 

To register with a credit card
You may now register and pay online with a credit card. After logging in, choose "Professional Development" from the menu on the left. Next, click on the title of the event for which you would like to register. Finally, choose "Event Registration" from the options at the top and complete the registration process. You will receive an acceptance email or waitlist email once acceptance decisions are made. 

To register with a check or purchase order
Please email your request to register, specifying the course and the name of whom you would like to register, to the Professional Development Coordinator.
Checks sent for course payment will be cashed immediately upon receipt as per standard business practices. Cashing your check does not indicate that you have been accepted into a course. You will receive an acceptance email or a waitlist email once acceptance decisions are made. If you are not admitted into the course from the waitlist, a full refund will be promptly issued.

*Prices are subject to change

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