CEO Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum
Salt Lake City, Utah
Maria grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, earned a BA in History and Political Science from the University of Houston and has completed a Masters program in Public Administration (MPA) at the University of Utah. In addition Maria speaks fluent Spanish.
Her first job after graduation was at the Spanish Missions in San Antonio, Texas as a Texas Ranger. The Spanish built a series of missions in Texas that eventually went into California. “I did historical work and interpretations of the exhibits in those Spanish Missions.”
“I always loved history and still love history to this day and I always knew that I wanted to work in a historical museum. I love museums!”
In 1992 Maria moved to Salt Lake City where her husband, an Urban Planner, took a job. Having volunteered for the United Way in Texas, she was hired by the United Way in SLC to be in charge of community building activities and education. Next Maria was recruited to work for the Salt Lake City School District as Executive Director of the Annenberg Institute. It’s mission was to introduce school reform into Salt Lake City, which has a diverse and burgeoning school population.
During this time Maria was also on the Board of Directors of the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum in SLC. They asked her to become the interim CEO and after 6 months she was hired to be the full time CEO. She directs a staff of 50 people plus volunteers.
Maria considers fund raising to be her first and foremost job. She says, “You must be able to correctly assess the value-add of your organization and be able to confidently communicate this to people who have the financial means to help. On a weekly basis I must make at least 20 calls, set up interviews and create funding proposals for foundations and corporations. To be effective I have to do a lot of research and understand my audience’s goals.”
Maria feels her undergraduate work has been helpful in comprehending for non-profit education while her masters has been useful in handling non-profit management.
Her biggest work related challenge is keeping a long term perspective while dealing with near term needs and obligations. “This is especially difficult with the current economic pressures. The ‘…the bar is higher today…’ and a lot of your success depends on your work ethic.”
The most rewarding and enjoyable aspect of Maria’s career is when someone says, “I like what you presented.” This is validated when they are able to make a monetary commitment to the Museum. Also rewarding is creating social events where people get appreciation and are recognized for the good work they have done.
Maria thinks the keys to her success in this field are flexibility and the ability to relate the museum’s brand to the discovery, imagination and connection of children to the global world.
When Maria has free time, she loves getting out. She enjoys hiking, biking, skiing and snowboarding. She is an avid reader of mysteries, historical books and books by Latin American authors (who present a different philosophy of life).