Executive Vice President,
Marketing, Guest Experience and Sales
Amy Ritter Cowen oversees Shedd's industry-leading, mission-driven focus to deliver outstanding guest-centric services and experiences through marketing, online communications, brand management, sales operations, audience research and interpretive efforts.
Cowen and her team of 175 staff members are responsible for attracting and cultivating the organization’s more than 2 million guests each year, generating 70 pecent of the aquarium’s annual revenues. She also oversees and manages Shedd’s key internal business partner relationships, such as Sodexo (restaurant retail, catering and events), Event Network (retail gifts), Sharp Shooters (photography) and SimEx-Iwerks (4-D theater experience).
During Cowen's tenure, Shedd has experienced consistent year-over-year revenue growth, improved guest satisfaction and attendance growth, and key highlights include being named Chicago’s most-attended cultural attraction for 17 of the last 23 years, as well as the most-attended aquarium in the U.S. in 2012.
She has a proven track record of developing and promoting successful permanent and special exhibits, including Shedd's Stingray Touch, Jellies, the Abbott Oceanarium, Frogs, Wild Reef and Lizards and the Komodo King, as well as the Museum of Science and Industry’s Titanic. Cowen also has received multiple awards for her work, including an Emmy for an underwater live television broadcast with Fox Television, an IABC Spectra award and multiple awards from the Publicity Club of Chicago for crisis planning and public relations and marketing campaigns.
A Roosevelt University adjunct professor and international speaker on branding and communications issues, she is the immediate past chair of the Marketing/Public Relations Board Committee of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and immediate past chair of the AAM Professional Networks, the 13 standing professional committees of AAM. Cowen also serves as an AAM Museum Assessment Program peer reviewer. She is a trustee at the Ancona School in Chicago and served as chair of the Trustee Selection Committee and vice-chair and secretary of the Executive Committee.
Cowen’s speaking engagements include the National Restaurant Association, American Alliance of Museums, Unicon, Arts Council of England, Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Business, Dow Chemical, Cadillac USA, Association of Science and Technology Centers, American Zoo and Aquarium Association, Midwest Association of Museums, Museum Publishing Conference, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Species Survival Commission and Project Seahorse.
Cowen began her career at Shedd nearly 20 years ago as Manager of Public Relations. She was later named Director of Public Relations. She left Shedd in 1999 to serve as Director of Public Relations at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). She worked there for three years before returning to Shedd in May 2002.