Elizabeth Babcock
Elizabeth Babcock

As Chief Public Engagement Officer and Roberts-Wilson Dean of Education, Elizabeth C. Babcock, PhD is responsible for creating and implementing public engagement, outreach, and education programs for the California Academy of Sciences—and around the globe through digital initiatives. She seeks to ignite a lifelong curiosity and appreciation for the natural world among all of the audiences who come in contact with the institution.

The first person to fill the Academy’s newly-endowed Dean of Education role, Babcock is responsible for ensuring that the Academy's programs of education, public programs, aquarium exhibits, and planetarium productions remain fresh and engaging for approximately 1.5 million visitors of all ages each year from the Bay Area and around the world. The Academy is home to an aquarium with 38,000 live animals, a planetarium featuring award-winning shows produced by an in-house science visualization team, and compelling natural history exhibits on the evolution and sustainability of life on Earth.

Babcock's team of experience designers develop and deliver a variety of innovative programs within and beyond the museum's walls. Signature programs include the Teacher Institute on Science and Sustainability, the Careers in Science intern program, award-winning planetarium productions, and online courses reaching thousands of learners. Dozens of daily and monthly programs for museum visitors and public lectures offer the public opportunities to dive deeper into critical issues such as sustainability, conservation, and human health on a person-to-person level. Babcock also guides the development of new digital learning initiatives, which allow the Academy to reach audiences beyond the Bay Area through online courses and engage youth in creating their own science stories.

In 2013, Babcock was honored as a White House “Champion of Change” for her leadership in museum and library partnerships. Babcock was also recognized in 2011 as one of the Most Influential Women in Business by the San Francisco Business Times. Before joining the Academy in 2010, she was the Vice President of Education and Library Collections for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. She demonstrated her innovative approach to museum-based education by launching several digital learning initiatives, including “WhyReef” and “Animal Adventures,” virtual world projects for teens and tweens that leveraged museum collections and new technologies to engage these audiences in the topics of ecology and conservation.

Prior to joining the Field Museum in 2002, Babcock worked for Sapient Corporation, where she managed user experience research and design projects in the financial, consumer products, and technology industries. She has also worked in the environmental sector for organizations such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, Chicago Wilderness, and Friends of the Chicago River, where she consulted on and designed community outreach strategies and environmental education programs. Babcock has taught K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and adult students in a range of content areas, including music for special needs students, environmental anthropology, sustainable development, introductory anthropology, and adult literacy. She holds a doctorate and Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from Indiana University, where she studied international migration and Belizean voluntary associations. She also holds bachelor degrees in Psychology and Music Education from Northwestern University.

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