Director, University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

Job Description

How to Apply

The search firm Kittleman & Associates is managing the search for this position. To apply, submit a current resume and cover letter to BOTH Kittleman & Associates (link below) and the University of Michigan. The cover letter is an opportunity to showcase your passion for the University of Michigan's Museum of Natural History's vision and mission and your organizational expertise in current or prior roles and is required for consideration.

Step 1: Submit your application to the University of Michigan online through the `Apply Now - button at the top of this page

Step 2: Submit your application to Kittleman online here (click the apply button at the bottom of the page)


The University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts seeks applications for an inspiring and collaborative leader with a passion for science, education, equity, and inclusion to lead the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. The director will be charged with maximizing the impact of a spectacular new museum facility at one of the world's preeminent public research universities and outstanding liberal arts colleges.

Position:  Director, Museum of Natural History
Reports to:  Associate Dean, Division of Undergraduate Education, 
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Location:  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Campus

Mission:  The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History transforms hearts and minds by promoting understanding of the natural world, our place in it, and our impact on it. We bring campus and community together in participatory and inclusive learning experiences to explore the processes of science and to address urgent global and local challenges.

Vision:  A world in which people understand the interconnectedness of all life and the responsibility we have to sustain it.

This is an exciting time for the U-M Museum of Natural History. With a stunning new facility, strong relationships with faculty, students, and the public, and a critical mission to encourage the public understanding of science and our rapidly changing natural world, UMMNH is ready to embark on a new strategic planning process to chart its future under the leadership of a new director. The University of Michigan is one of the world's leading public research universities, and our community works at the forefront of research, teaching, and innovation. With deep roots that stretch back to the founding of the university and international visibility, UMMNH has an opportunity to lead the science museum community in innovative practices to communicate and support the research and teaching activities of universities around the world.

The Museum Director is responsible for delivering on UMMNH's mission by working with staff and collaborative partners to advance programming, exhibits, and facilities objectives. The Director will also work with donors, community partners, and university colleagues to ensure the financial sustainability of UMMNH and to build strategic alliances to achieve the museum's goals.

This full-time Professional and Administrative position works closely with the museum's staff, advisory board, and College of Literature, Science, and the Arts leadership to increase the quality and reach of the museum's campus and public programs. Though still in a start-up phase of expanding its revenue-generating activities and understanding the expenses associated with the new facility, UMMNH's operating budget was $2M in FY23, which ended June 30, 2023 (facilities expenses are not included). UMMNH earns or raises approximately half of its annual budget through a wide range of revenue-generating activities (program fees, development, museum store, grant funds, etc.).  UMMNH has 15 full-time and three part-time regular staff positions in addition to 60-70 student docent employees. The position is accountable for the leadership of mission, goals, and operations.

Diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and accessibility will continue to be an essential priority for the museum. All U-M units have been asked to develop new unit DEI plans to support the University of Michigan's forthcoming DEI 2.0 efforts. UMMNH has made important strides in expanding access to the museum, but has more work to do in diversifying its staff in terms of race and ethnicity. This will be an important priority for the next director.

The next director will follow the current director who is retiring after 23 years in the position. The new director will inherit a creative and hard-working team of staff who are passionate about the museum and its mission.  

New Facility: In 2018, UMMNH left the much-beloved 90-year old Ruthven Museums Building and moved next door into the award-winning new Biological Sciences Building (BSB). In the BSB, the museum is integrated with laboratories and teaching spaces of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. With all new exhibits and programs and a state-of-the-art Planetarium & Dome Theater, the new museum delights and engages both new and long-time visitors. UMMNH's 45,000 square feet feel much larger, as the public museum winds through the BSB's 312,000 square feet, providing access to the two light-filled five-story atria, with opportunities to look into the research areas of the building.

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the museum's in-person visitation for 16 months, driving the museum to develop a robust online presence. Now fully reopened, UMMNH drew more than 150,000 guests in the most recently completed fiscal year.

Strategic Direction: UMMNH has made great strides in strategically connecting the museum more closely to the University and LSA's research and teaching missions, in addition to its long-standing public outreach mission. The new museum puts scientific research on display, through windows onto real working labs as well as hands-on labs for the public, and regularly changing exhibits highlighting current U-M research.  UMMNH has developed a robust program supporting faculty NSF research proposals through Broader Impacts activities, and offers a competitive Science Communication Fellows Program for faculty, PhD students, and postdocs. Science Communication training activities have expanded to serve undergraduates and high school students, including a formal Science Communication course. Expansion of these partnerships with research is an important goal for the coming years.

The museum welcomes more than two thousand U-M students in classes each year, and emphasizes undergraduate engagement through special programming. Over 60+ years, the museum's Student Docent Program has supported thousands of students through paid work experiences at the museum. Some of these students describe the experience as being transformative, and many have become generous donors to the museum later in life.

History and Campus Connections: The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History traces its origins back nearly two centuries to the founding of the State of Michigan and U-M's Ann Arbor campus in 1837. In its initial session, the state legislature called for the establishment at U-M of a Cabinet of Natural History. By the 1840s, natural history collections were on display for the benefit of both students and the public. As such, the displays constituted the first public museum in the state.

The 1881 University Museum Building was constructed to house the growing collections, which soon exceeded that space. Through the advocacy of Alexander Grant Ruthven, curator of herpetology and director of the University Museum, a new University Museums Building was built, opening in 1928. In the 1950s, the building was renamed in Ruthven's honor.

Under Ruthven's leadership, the University Museum was divided into separate disciplinary research collections. This configuration has continued to the present day, with four separate research museums, not open to the public:  Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, the University of Michigan Herbarium, the Museum of Paleontology, and the Museum of Zoology. These world-class natural science research collections, numbering close to 20M objects, are now housed at the Research Museums Center.

In 1956, the increasingly vigorous work around the public displays and related educational activities led to the creation of the public-facing 'Exhibit Museum, renamed the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History (UMMNH) in 2011. UMMNH is administratively separate from the research museums, which have academic leadership. There is frequent collaboration within the cluster of natural science museums. With no curators of its own, UMMNH benefits from the expertise of the research museums' curators and collections managers, and borrows objects for display, providing a window onto collections-based research for the benefit of students and the public. UMMNH houses and cares for a collection of about 6,500 specimens, artifacts, and models, roughly half for educational purposes, and half for display.

UMMNH and the research museums are units in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. UMMNH is part of the Division of Undergraduate Education. The research museums are housed in the departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Anthropology. 

Why Work at Michigan?

Being part of something greater, of serving a larger mission of discovery and care that's the heart of what drives people to work at Michigan. In some way, great or small, every person here helps to advance this world-class institution. It's adding a purpose to your profession. Work at Michigan and become a victor for the greater good.

Learn more about the University of Michigan

A great place to work

A great university is made so by its faculty and staff, and Michigan is recognized as one of the best universities to work for in the country. The Michigan culture is known for engaging faculty and staff in all facets of the university to create a workplace that is vibrant and stimulating.

The Chronicle of Higher Education consistently places U-M in its "Great Colleges to Work For" survey. In particular, the university earns high marks for strong relations between faculty and administrators, a collaborative system of governance, strong pay and benefits, and a healthy work-life balance.

Learn more about working at Michigan (University HR Portal)


Leadership and Strategy

  • Articulate a vision for UMMNH that fulfills its mission and provides clear institutional goals;
  • Together with staff and the UMMNH advisory board, and with the input and approval of College of LSA leadership, develop and lead the implementation of a strategic plan to build attendance and membership, grow financial support, and increase the impact of UMMNH;
  • Lead and champion efforts with internal and external stakeholders to improve diversity, equity, access, and inclusion, making UMMNH a place where all feel welcome and that they belong; 
  • Be a visible leader at the college, university, community, regional, and national levels who will represent the museum and build support for the institution and science education;
  • Actively inform and engage the advisory board and LSA-UGED leadership regarding issues of strategic importance to the operations and strategy of UMMNH, to reinforce institutional strength; and
  • Create and foster strategic partnerships and collaborations between UMMNH and units and individuals within and outside the University.

Fundraising and Advocacy

  • Collaborate on fundraising efforts needed to maintain a high standard of operation and facilitate the strategic plan to maintain organizational sustainability;
  • Ensure the engagement of a broader set of constituents to meet the needs of diverse, underserved, or underrepresented communities;
  • Be the public voice of UMMNH, effectively representing the organization to increase visibility and grow support for programs and operations;
  • Work in partnership with the UMMNH Assistant Director for Development and LSA Advancement to engage in fundraising efforts and events to grow major donor support;
  • Develop and maintain key relationships with local, regional, state, and federal foundations and other granting agencies; and
  • Engage advisory board members in strategic activities that will support advocacy efforts.

Internal Leadership

  • Oversee the museum's operations and programs ensuring progress toward strategic goals while maintaining consistency with its mission;
  • Implement the strategic plan including an effective communications and fundraising strategy to grow awareness and support of UMMNH;
  • Oversee the development of revenue streams and programmatic budgets, business operations, financial planning, and marketing plans that contribute to the financial sustainability of the overall unit;
  • Engage with University of Michigan leaders, researchers, and scholars to ensure that the impact of the University is strongly represented in the museum, and that U-M and LSA leadership are aware of UMMNH's value and contributions to the mission and vision of U-M and LSA;
  • Recruit, nurture, and challenge a highly-qualified and motivated professional staff;
  • Foster innovation, open communication, and transparency;
  • Ensure the ongoing development of organizational policies and practices; and
  • Develop robust and visitor-centric programming that builds the UMMNH brand and invites engagement with University partners.

Operational Management

  • Work with staff to ensure a culture of operational excellence throughout the unit including adopting procedures and technologies that increase the effectiveness of the unit;
  • Continue the work to refine an appropriate staffing structure for the new museum;
  • Ensure retention of quality personnel through effective communication, performance feedback, professional development, and recognition;
  • Ensure that the strategic plan is executed with a sustainable operational plan;
  • Set assessable benchmarks to ensure that the organization is achieving its goals;  and
  • Ensure strong operational systems sources are used effectively, valuable data are collected, efficiencies are gained, and a balanced budget is maintained.

Required Qualifications*

  • Graduate studies in a relevant field, e.g. biology, environmental science, earth science, business administration, space science, nonprofit management, or education. Advanced degree preferred (Masters and/or Ph.D.) or combination of equivalent education and experience in museum/cultural collections management;
  • Museum and/or cultural institution leadership experience;
  • A deep appreciation for and strong commitment to education, academic research, public understanding of science and research, and public engagement
  • 5-10 year of relevant experience in leading and managing complex organizations with a public outreach/education and/or science mission;
  • Experience managing staff with a proven record of hiring, supervising, evaluating, mentoring, and retaining high performing staff;
  • Experience building successful partnerships with diverse organizations;
  • Demonstrated understanding, appreciation, and respect for individuals of diversity, including people of color, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and people of different ages;
  • A strong commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, access and accessibility, and a commitment to empowering and valuing the contributions of others;
  • Experience in providing visionary leadership including the collaborative development of strategic plans, complex budgeting and business planning;
  • Experience as an advocate; able to translate complex ideas for diverse audiences including institutional leaders, faculty, staff, students, donors, and external stakeholders;
  • Knowledge of grant management including the development and maintenance of key relationships with local, regional, state, and federal foundations and other granting agencies;
  • Proven success with fundraising efforts, including with individuals, corporations, and foundations;
  • A track record of success building lasting positive organizational culture and leading change;
  • Excellent communication skills, both spoken and written.

Desired Qualifications*

  • Experience in a research institution or similar organization and an understanding of research activities as an element of the core mission; 
  • Formal educational experience in the sciences;
  • Demonstrated interest in promoting the major disciplines served by natural history museums and planetariums;
  • Experience with grant management including the development and maintenance of key relationships with local, regional, state, and federal foundations and other granting agencies;
  • Prior experience as a principal investigator (PI) on scientific research on federal, non-federal and/or foundational science-oriented grants; 
  • Experience and knowledge of audience development, visitor experience and/or brand development;
  • Sound understanding of and advocacy for the importance of academic and public aspects of natural history museums and planetariums in a research university setting;
  • Demonstrated understanding of the use of new / emerging / immersive technologies for science communication.

Additional Information

The salary range for this posting is $125,000-$135,000.

For more detailed information on this position and the Museum of Natural History please refer to Kittleman's detailed position description guide here. The posting will remain open through the end date. Applicants are encouraged to submit their materials as soon as possible to ensure full consideration.

As one of the world's great liberal arts colleges, LSA pushes the boundaries of what is understood about the human experience and the natural world, and we foster the next generation of rigorous and empathetic thinkers, creators, and contributors to the state of Michigan, the nation, and the world.
To learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion in LSA, please visit lsa.umich.edu/lsa/dei.
To learn more about LSA's Mission, Vision, and Values, please visit lsa.umich.edu/strategicvision.

Background Screening

The University of Michigan conducts background checks on all job candidates upon acceptance of a contingent offer and may use a third party administrator to conduct background checks.  Background checks are performed in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Application Deadline

Job openings are posted for a minimum of seven calendar days.  The review and selection process may begin as early as the eighth day after posting. This opening may be removed from posting boards and filled anytime after the minimum posting period has ended.

U-M EEO/AA Statement

The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

*Please mention you saw this ad on PhdJobs.*

Apply Now

Be Seen By Recruiters at the Best Institutions

Create a FREE Profile to be Seen!

Want to stand

Phd Hiring Begins Here.®