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SSA Group + Canopy Strategic Partners Research Initiative

Advancing Diverse Leadership Development in the Zoological & Aquarium Community

Canopy Strategic Partners and SSA Group announce a new partnership: a research project to identify opportunities and potential barriers to leadership advancement within zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Canopy Strategic Partners and SSA Group are committed to advancing leadership development in the zoological and aquarium community, recognizing that inclusive, diverse organizations achieve superior outcomes for everyone, and allow these organizations to achieve their critical conservation missions.

This research initiative is a critical step forward in leadership development in terms of diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) in the cultural attraction industry.

“Our findings should help our field develop data-driven actions for this important work,” said Kathy Wagner, Canopy Strategic Partners. 

The project officially kicked off in November 2022, the survey launch December 15, 2022, and results are expected in early 2023.

SSA Group and Canopy Strategic Partners have partnered with Dr. Kyle Lundby of Global Aspect Human Capital Advisors to conduct this research. Dr. Lundby is an industrial/organizational psychologist with extensive experience in conducting survey research within the AZA community as well as in the corporate world.

To date, we have only anecdotal findings and leadership “stories” in these areas. This survey will identify barriers to leadership advancement by indexing employee wellbeing and employee engagement, yielding scientific data that will allow the community to move forward on systemic issues facing these communities in a strategic and thoughtful way. The hope is that this research will ultimately be used to develop strategic actions in the AZA zoo and aquarium community.

Canopy Strategic Partners and SSA Group would like to thank the supporters of this project, including Verdis Group, Behavioral Essentials, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Saint Louis Zoo, Detroit Zoological Society, and Global Aspect Human Capital Advisors, as well as the AZA Board of Directors and numerous AZA leaders who provided valuable support and expert guidance during the development of this project.

Canopy Strategic Partners

Canopy Strategic Partners is a full-service planning and consulting firm dedicated to helping mission-driven organizations, including zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, conservation organizations, and other public green spaces, create a better future for the planet. Growth Happens Here. To learn more visit:


Kathy Wagner

Senior Advisor, Canopy Strategic Partners


SSA Group

SSA Group partners with cultural attractions across the United States to maximize their mission and streamline the guest experience across integrated food services, retail, and admissions. With focuses like sustainability, technology, and DEAI, SSA is driving what’s next for the cultural attraction industry, supporting our partners’ missions and producing value for 50+ years.

Built by families, for families, SSA is a family-owned business headquartered in Denver, CO. To learn more visit:


Shannon Fitzgerald

CBO, SSA Group