Museum Leadership | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

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Museum Leadership

Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director

Dr. Bettison-Varga arrived at the Natural History Family of Museums in October 2015. She oversees NHMLA in Exposition Park, the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum in Hancock Park, and the William S. Hart Museum in Newhall. Her immediate goals include advancing the outreach and education around urban nature and citizen science, as well as the re-imagining of the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, where visitors can make connections between Ice Age Los Angeles 50,000 years ago, and climate change today.

A geologist who received her PhD from the University of California, Davis, Dr. Bettison-Varga served six years as President and W.M. Keck Foundation Presidential Chair at Scripps College in Claremont, California. There, she enhanced the visibility of the college, implemented policies to foster greater transparency and community engagement, initiated strategic planning for diversity and sustainability, and inaugurated a comprehensive capital campaign.

Dawn McDivitt, Chief Deputy Director

McDivitt is responsible for NHMLA Operations, Security and General Museum Services, and Capital Project Management, and is the chief liaison with the County of Los Angeles CEO’s Office and Board of Supervisors. She also serves as Administrator of the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum and the William S. Hart Museum.

Prior to joining the Museum in 2014, McDivitt worked for the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office Capital Projects/Debt Management Division. In her 24 years as a County employee, she has worked on most of the high profile projects undertaken by the County’s cultural institutions, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, Grand Park, and the Grand Avenue Project. 

Dr. Luis M. Chiappe, Senior VP, Research and Collections and Director of the Dinosaur Institute

As the head of NHMLA's Research and Collections Department, which he assumed in 2012, Dr. Chiappe oversees the research programs of more than 25 PhD scientists and the vast biological, geological, and cultural collections of NHMLA. A vertebrate paleontologist and the Director of the Dinosaur Institute, Dr. Chiappe has conducted extensive research on the evolution of dinosaurs, from their reproductive behavior to their evolutionary connection with birds. He is considered to be one of the world's authorities on the subject. One other important focus of his is science communication, conveying the relevance of NHMLA's scientists' discoveries to the media, the public, and Museum visitors.

Chiappe's commitment to public communication is reflected in the Museum's Jane G. Pisano Dinosaur Hall, an award-winning permanent exhibition that he curated about the nature of science and the lives of dinosaurs, as well as in his many popular books and articles. Chiappe¹s research has been published in more than 170 scholarly articles. He is the author of Walking on Eggs, Glorified Dinosaurs, and Birds of Stone. He is also a J. S. Guggenheim Fellow, a Humboldt Awardee, and a professor at the University of Southern California.

Gretchen Humbert, Chief Financial Officer

Humbert brings more than 20 years of experience in strategic planning and financial operations to NHMLA. As CFO, she is responsible for managing the Museum’s accounting, finance and analysis functions as well as overseeing IT. Humbert works directly with the Board of Trustees on the Budget, Audit, and Investment Committees.

Before joining the Museum as CFO and Treasurer in 2014, Humbert spent two years as CFO at rent.com and ten years as CFO of Genex, a full-service digital agency. 

Tom Jacobson, Senior VP, Advancement

Jacobson joined NHMLA in 2001 and has been the Senior Vice President of Advancement since 2007. He oversees Institutional Giving, Major Gifts, Membership, and fundraising for capital and special projects. He works closely with members of the Board of Trustees and staffs the Advancement Committee of the Board. 

Prior to coming to NHMLA Jacobson spent 15 years at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where he held a number of fundraising positions, most recently Director of Development. He is also an award-winning playwright.

Cynthia Wornham, Senior VP, Strategic Engagement

As the Senior Vice President of Strategic Engagement, Cynthia Wornham is responsible for advancing the institution's strategic framework and goals through the development of collaborative initiatives, partnerships, and alliances to build brand equity and broaden audiences. Since joining NHMLA in 2009 as Vice President for Marketing and Communications, Wornham has led the re-branding, marketing, media, and digital initiatives and the guest experience around the New NHMLA's ten-year transformation that includes new gardens, galleries, and exhibits of mammals, dinosaurs and Southern California's natural and cultural history. She has also led branding and communications efforts around the refreshing and re-imagining of the world-famous La Brea Tar Pits Museum, which is overseen by NHMLA.

Wornham has over 20 years of experience directing dynamic integrated strategic communications, marketing, and digital campaigns for high-profile organizations involved in film, entertainment, arts, architecture, education, and the natural world, including the Getty Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Sundance Film Festival.

Nooshin Nathan, Chief Talent Officer

As Chief Talent Officer, Nooshin Nathan is responsible for developing, and managing strategic and culturally pertinent human resource policies and programs.  She supports and guides management and staff to cultivate, recommend and implement mission-aligned HR objectives, policies and practices for the Museum that fosters a culture of highly engaged staff.   She serves as a member of the Executive Team and partners with the President and leadership on employee relations, staff development, recruiting, compensation, and benefits administration. 
 
Prior to joining NHMLA, Nathan worked as the Vice President of Human Resources for JM Eagle. She has over 15 years of experience and overall responsibility for developing, planning and executing full scope innovative strategies, best practices and programs for Corporate Human Resources that aligned with functional organizational objectives at a high level perspective.

Gretchen Baker, VP, Exhibitions

Baker, who joined NHMLA as Vice President of Exhibitions in 2017, is responsible for guiding the development of a robust program of exhibition experiences that are collections-focused and grounded in inspiring storytelling and innovative media. In her position, she oversees a diverse program of permanent, traveling, and rotating exhibits. She also manages the Museum’s living collections, such as NHMLA’s Nature Gardens and live animal programs. With the recent installation of The Story of P-22, the famous mountain lion in Griffith Park, she has taken a fresh approach to exhibit development, involving digital content in creating dynamic forms of engagement. Baker brings to her new position 18 years of multidisciplinary experience spanning scientific research, exhibition design, programs, and business development. Most recently, she was Deputy Director of Exhibitions at The Field Museum, Chicago, where she co-directed more than 60 exhibitions, including ones that broke attendance records.

Su Oh, VP, Education and Programs

As the Vice President of Education and Programs, Oh is responsible for increasing the Museum’s presence and influence in Southern California and developing new relationships with institutions and educational organizations in the region that engage the community in impactful lifelong learning relationships. At NHMLA since 2007, most recently as Director of Education and Programs, Oh shaped and spearheaded educational and entertaining events during the Museum’s dynamic transformation into an indoor-outdoor museum. She oversaw the redesign of the award-winning Mobile Museum: An Ocean Experience, and transformed the performing arts, interpretation and training, volunteers, and school visits programs. In her new role, she will continue to oversee the Museum’s signature events, including sold-out First Fridays seasons, Summer Nights in the Garden, Dino Fest, L.A. Nature Fest, and Bug Fair—more than 100 programs a year.