Latin Alum Breaks Through ‘Fictitious Glass Ceiling,’ Becomes President of Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum


Erin Amico ’01 outside of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Latin alum Erin Amico ‘01 has recently been appointed as the president and CEO of Chicago’s Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Her new position is the culmination of an unconventional journey pursuing her passions through Latin, college, and a variety of jobs. As a child, Ms. Amico aspired to be a zoologist. “I had a love of animals that stayed with me to this day, and one of my heroes was the primatologist and sustainability activist Dr. Jane Goodall,” she said.

While attending Latin’s Upper School, Ms. Amico enjoyed English class the most. “I loved understanding narrative, character development, tensions, and the arc of a story,” she said. “Those elements relate very closely to what became my predominant professional field: marketing.”

After graduating from Latin, Ms. Amico studied at Northwestern University and at the University of Cambridge. She always had a deep love of learning, especially about other cultures. She caught the “travel bug” and subsequently went into International Studies.

Her interest stemmed in part from her belief that everyone, regardless of race, background, ethnicity, or language, shares the same fundamental motivations. “My empathy for other communities and natural curiosity was fueled no doubt by the things I learned at Latin and through experiences like Project Week,” she said.

Crystal Marshall ‘01, one of Ms. Amico’s peers at Latin, described her as an achiever. “She has never allowed a fictitious glass ceiling to prevent her from pursuing something that she has envisioned,” Ms. Marshall said. “She doesn’t believe in staying in her lane. She creates new lanes all the time. Whether it’s writing a children’s book, thriving at elite luxury brands such as Tiffany & Co., or becoming the first Black CEO of [her] Chicago museum, Erin dreams big and puts action behind those dreams. Since our teen years at Latin, she has always encouraged me to do the same and continues to do so even in adulthood.”

At Northwestern, Ms. Amico knew she wanted to explore a career in marketing, and after reaching out to her professional and personal networks, she received some valuable advice: If you want to go into marketing, you should start with media planning. You will get experience in the creative, strategic, analytical, sales, client, and agency side. Using this newfound knowledge, Ms. Amico got her first job as a media planner for the media agency Starcom Worldwide.

After graduating from college, Ms. Amico paved her own trail. She worked in luxury goods at Tiffany, managing, as she said, “everything from diamonds to databases. I eventually found my niche working with brands with incredible existing equity or values of some sort that were on the cusp of transformation.”

Ms. Amico recognizes the enormous opportunities the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum holds for children in Chicago. As the oldest public museum in the city, the Notebaert offers one of the largest amounts of hands-on hours of STEM education among all of Chicago’s museums. It also performs extensive conservation work and runs camps in the summer for kids under 13.

The Notebaert also has a new arrangement with Latin’s Lower School. Facilitated by Lower School science teacher Dawn McCafferty alongside Notebaert Museum educator Yukako Kawakatsu, the Urban Nature Partnership focuses on fostering social-emotional well-being through nature.

Ms. McCafferty said, “It’s important to know and understand the natural world around us, because we are more likely to step up and protect something that we notice, appreciate, recognize and understand. I hope these units will get students thinking about the natural world that’s right here, all around us.”

Ms. McCafferty also touched on the Notebaert’s relationship to the city, saying, “We’re the Latin School of Chicago, after all, so partnering with a Chicago institution located in Lincoln Park is a natural connection for us.”

Ms. Amico added, “Nature-based education has the unique power to integrate science education, social and emotional learning, joy, connection, critical thinking, culture, history, math, the arts, identity building, literacy, a sense of place, and much more!”

Lower School Director Bliss Tobin, who also helped to facilitate the partnership, said, “Nature-based learning, or learning about the earth and our environment academically, teaches [our students about] systems, life cycles, adaptations, and eco-systems, among other concepts. By engaging young children in the awe of the natural world, we instill a sense of stewardship for our natural surroundings.”

Ms. Amico added, “As an alumna of Latin, where my daughters now attend, I have a passion for bringing the awe and wonder created by our city’s museums and the power of the incredible natural world in Chicago to a community I value so deeply.”

As a parent, Ms. Amico also understands the importance of balance. Something will always take the majority of your time, so it is important to use your time efficiently. “I think it’s more of a seesaw where things ebb and flow based on the demands of the day.”

Ms. Amico advises students to “be brave enough to follow your passions and wise enough to work for it. Success in any field takes a combination of relentless preparation and determination.”