Jeff Swanagan Memorial Scholarship

The Jeff Swanagan Memorial Scholarship is sponsored by Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This award may be applied to any of the AZA Professional Development Courses.

The late Jeff Swanagan was the executive director of the Columbus Zoo. His career was shaped by his experience as an educator, where he saw how deeply people were affected when they were connected to the wonders of nature. Jeff had an unwavering belief that zoos and aquariums are about people as much as they are about animals. He knew that people visit zoos not just to see animals, but to spend time together. Jeff saw endless potential-both to touch the lives of people and to save the lives of animals. To capture this idea he coined the phrase, "touch the heart to teach the mind." Simply getting people into the Zoo wasn't enough; he wanted to inspire and engage them, to get them invested in each other, animals, and conservation. Jeff knew that without inspiring people, without touching their hearts, you cannot teach their minds nor hope to make the world a better place.

This scholarship is offered in memory of Jeff and promotes his philosophy: "touch the heart to teach the mind."

Scholarship Application

2024 application coming soon. Click here for an example of the 2023 application.  Full submission information is included in the application. Only one scholarship application may be submitted per individual per year. Members at international AZA institutions are welcome to apply. Applications are evaluated and recipients are chosen by the AZA Professional Development Committee. You must be an individual member at an AZA-accredited or certified facility to apply. 

Application Timeline 
  • 2024 Scholarship Applications open in Summer 2023
  • Applicants will be notified of their application status in Fall 2023
  • All scholarships must be used for Professional Development courses in 2024

Application Materials:

  • Scholarship Application Form
  • Two (2) Letters of Reference
  • Resume 

Please note: If you do not receive the award and plan to take the course anyway, the scholarship application does not represent a reserved space in an AZA course. To secure a space in a course you must submit a complete registration, and pay the tuition in full. If you receive the award, your full tuition payment will be refunded.  

Detailed Award Coverage

  • Course registration (full)
  • Round-trip airfare from the award recipient’s point of origin to the destination city (up to $700)
  • Round-trip airport shuttle ground transportation (full)
  • Hotel/lodging throughout the duration of the course (based on double occupancy rate)
  • A stipend to cover meals and incidentals.

Any questions, contact the Professional Development Program at 

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