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, VP, Research and Collections & Director of the Dinosaur Institute

In his role as VP of Research and Collections, 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. One of his focuses is science communication—conveying the relevance of and excitement of the staff’s 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. A paleontologist and the Director of the Dinosaur Institute, 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 the world’s authority on the subject.

Chiappe’s research has been published in more than 150 research articles. He is the author of “Walking on Eggs” and the upcoming “Birds of Stone.”

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 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 the NHMLA Next Campaign, Major Gifts, Corporate and Foundation Relations, Membership, and Events and Filming. 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, VP, Marketing and Communications

As the Vice President of Marketing and Communications since 2009, Wornham has led the rebranding, marketing, media and digital initiatives and the guest experience around the New NHMLA—a 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 communications efforts around the refreshing and re-imagining of the world-famous La Brea Tar Pits and 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.

VP, Education

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