Each year, the Shedd Aquarium hosts a number of spectacular events ranging from members only gatherings to highly successful fundraising galas. Yet, beneath the seamless and seemingly effortless presentation of these events, there is a small group of dedicated staff behind the scene, responsible for making everything to the last detail, come together. One of those people is Katrina Law (nee Clark), the Director of Donor Relations and Special Events at Shedd Aquarium.
SocialifeChicago went behind the scenes with Katie, a native of Lake Bluff IL, to get a look at a day in her work life. Though the job title has its prestige, the day to day tasks is more than a handful.
SLC: What did you study in college?
KL: I had a double major and studied Journalism and Art/Art History at the University of Iowa and I was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.
SLC: Tell us a little bit about your PR background?
KL: When I was in school, I thought I wanted to go in to public relations. After a couple of internships, I realized that my heart was in event planning and started looking for roles that would allow me to explore this career. Starting out, I was an intern at Golin Harris (a fantastic PR firm) and in the PR office at Neiman Marcus. Both were great experiences and eventually led me to what I am doing now.
SLC: What led you to take this position at the Shedd aquarium?
KL: I wanted to plan events and I knew that non-profits threw fundraising events to raise money. I started applying for jobs at Chicago museums and cultural institutions and after a lot of networking and informational interviews, I landed at Shedd.
SLC: Who is part of your team?
KL: I work within the Development Department at Shedd and have a team of three: myself, Morgan Loughery (our event coordinator) and an intern.
A typical day for Katie begins with her commute to the South Loop, she grabs a coffee and walks over to Museum Campus. At 9:05 her work kicks off with a full team meeting of daily updates, then meetings, meetings, meetings, check email, respond to emails, return phone calls, take 20 minutes to eat lunch. She then takes one or two hours to work on a project, a few more meetings, and before the end of the day, I try to close out emails from that day and write out tasks for the next day.
At around the time most people are leaving the office, her day is still going. Katie was due at a meeting with a member of the animal coordinating team, a department that’s an integral part of their event planning process. Throughout this brief yet busy meeting, there were over 13 events planned for the next 6 months, all requiring the help of the Shedd’s star attractions (their animals).
The last meeting for the evening was on planning for Shedd aquarium’s annual fundraising gala, which raised a whopping $1.6 million last year and will take place June 20 this year is already underway. The night’s meeting included a full house of Shedd staff, the gala co-chairs (Julie & Jim O’Connor Jr and Katie & Brent Gledhill) as well as personnel from the catering company. Even though last years gala was incredibly successful, all involved are excited to build upon last year’s momentum and fundraising goal. With this year’s theme of Metamorphosis, the food committee and co-chairs suggest food that would interpret the transformative theme while being sustainable (which we applaud!). As all of this discussion was going on, Katie was diligently taking notes as she would be following up on deliverables and future planning meetings.
A day that started bright and early was still going and there was one last reception to attend. Though there are days Katie takes work home with her, some evenings when she doesn’t have to stay late at the Shedd, she will try to get a workout in and eat dinner.
“I’m a night-owl, so I don’t mind working at night.”
SLC: What are the perks of working at such a world class establishment?
KL: Shedd is so well loved. Many of the people that I work with are volunteers who donate their time, ideas and talents to raise money for the organization. It is amazing to see how much people care about the Aquarium and I love working alongside them to put on world-class events.
SLC: Have you ever taken on an intern?
KL: Yes! I’ve worked with and managed 15 interns during my time at Shedd. We’ve been able to hire three of them in to various positions at Shedd. I love working with interns because they help with our work load and we get to teach some of what we do. It’s a win-win!
SLC: What is one advice that you’ve received that’s helped your through challenging times?
KL: Every day may not be good, but there is good in every day.
SLC: Tell us your 5 favorite things(book, vacation spots, restaurant, gym class, etc)
KL: 1. Einstein’s hazelnut coffee
3. My 17 month calendar
4. Green City Market
5. The oyster bar at Shaw’s crab house
SLC: If you could have your pick, who would you choose to be your mentor and why?
KL: Great question – I would probably choose Matt Lauer from the Today Show. Beyond the fact that I just love the Today Show, I have so much respect for Matt. He can talk to anyone with confidence, has been all over the world and has had an amazing career. I’d love the opportunity to meet him one day.
Given that they just announced the new Amphibians exhibit leaping into Shedd in May and preparation for their gala season is already underway, though, I imagine Katie’s 17 month calendar will be put to good use.