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Dana Murphy



Current position: 

Vice President, Learning and Community Engagement

Current facility:

Lincoln Park Zoo

Year zoo career began:

Dana Murphy grew up in Oak Park IL, a near-west suburb of Chicago. Her love of nature was fostered by summers spent at her grandparents’ cabin on the Fox River in northern Illinois. She pursued her love of life science by enrolling in a pre-med course of study at the University of Illinois at Urbana but quickly made the switch to Ecology, Ethology and Evolution after getting hooked during her first introductory Ecology course.

Facing a dismal job market in her field upon graduation, Dana worked as a Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization Technologist at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago. During her three-year tenure, she took classes at night to earn her Secondary Education science teaching certificate. Dana taught General Science and Biology at the predominantly African-American Proviso East High School in Maywood, IL for six years. It was there that she began her professional path of working to increase representation of students of color in the STEM fields.

Upon the birth of her second child, Dana made the choice to leave the paid workforce and enrolled in the docent training course at Brookfield Zoo. This volunteer role eventually grew into part-time work as an exhibit interpretation coordinator and, eventually, full-time as Conservation Career Development manager. In this role, she developed opportunities for diverse groups of teens, interns and community members to be involved in conservation action.

Currently, she serves as Vice-President of Learning and Community Engagement at Lincoln Park Zoo. In this role, she provides strategic leadership and guidance to advance the zoo’s vision through the planning, development, and implementation of innovative educational programs and partnerships. Before joining the team at Lincoln Park Zoo, Dana served as Vice President for Learning and Guest Engagement at Denver Zoo. She has also led education programs at Friends of the Chicago River in addition to the aforementioned work at Brookfield Zoo.

Dana has extensive experience in science education with a focus on informal conservation education. Her expertise lies in program and exhibit development aimed to enhance learners’ conceptual understanding and to promote positive conservation attitudes and action. She is skillful in designing participatory curricula and programs to "demystify" and provide equitable access to science.

Dana has served as chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Diversity Committee and as a coach for AZA’s Executive Leadership Development Programs Diversity Action Learning Team. She is currently a member of the AZA Professional Development Committee. She co-chairs Lincoln Park Zoo’s “Take Action with Us” initiative and serves as a senior staff liaison for staff DEAI teams, the Board of Trustees Diversity Task Force and the Zoo Programs Board Committee.

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