Maureen P. Smith Appointed President of JGI-USA
We're pleased to announce the appointment of Maureen P. Smith to the position of president. A veteran of the media industry, Smith recently led Discovery Communication’s Animal Planet channel, as well as Animal Planet Media Enterprises. A highly effective leader with extensive management skills, Smith is uniquely qualified to guide the Institute as it continues to replicate its acclaimed community-centered conservation approach in chimpanzee range countries in Africa while building upon the success of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program.
“Maureen’s arrival at the Institute couldn’t come at a more opportune time,” said Dr. Goodall. “Fifty years later, the research at Gombe continues to yield groundbreaking results. We are engaging new partners, like the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania, to support local reforestation efforts and we’re working with companies from ESRI to Google Earth Outreach to employ cutting-edge geospatial technology to address conservation challenges in Africa. And all over the world, we are developing the next generation of leaders through our Roots & Shoots program. With Maureen’s expertise, we will be able to spread our messages and expand our mission in a way never before possible.”
Smith is no stranger to the Jane Goodall Institute. While at Animal Planet, she met and worked alongside her “lifelong hero,” Dr. Goodall. Together with Dr. Goodall and JGI staff, Smith and her team developed and produced documentaries designed to inspire and inform people around the world to support JGI and do their part to protect the planet. The films and specials included Return to Gombe, Jane Goodall’s When Animals Talk and Jane Goodall’s Heroes.
Smith also personally developed and championed Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Minutes, which highlighted the efforts of Roots & Shoots groups across the globe and invited viewers to go online to learn more about the program. The advertiser-sponsored video shorts aired weekdays for more than a year.
“Jane Goodall’s unique and deep understanding of nature and human nature led to her extraordinary discoveries and helped inform the empowering approach to conservation practiced by her Institute today,” said Smith. “My goal is to communicate the Institute’s work and Jane Goodall’s vision to a much broader audience and inspire action from a wide range of individuals all over the world.”
Smith led Animal Planet to record revenues and profits and helped grow the business by using technology to create new ways of engaging people of all ages. She transformed animalplanet.com from a simple promotional website into a top-notch money-making source for animal-centric entertainment, information and games, while also leading her team to the acquisition of petfinder.com (the world’s #1 pet-related website). This accomplishment was recognized by Ad Age magazine as one of the “Top 10 Internet Acquisitions of 2006.”
Smith’s wealth of expertise in branding, marketing and consumer research boosted Animal Planet to #1 in the rankings among moms (who voted it a “most trusted” media company for their families) and the company’s licensing and merchandising division had its most profitable year ever. During her tenure, Smith worked closely with the Smithsonian National Zoo, the National Aquarium in Baltimore and dozens of other organizations on various conservation awareness and fundraising projects.
In addition to the new Jane Goodall specials, Smith revitalized the legendary conservation-focused franchise Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and worked hand in hand with the National Wildlife Federation to coproduce Backyard Habitat, which taught people how to transform their surroundings into sustainable wildlife habitats.
A believer in “giving back,” Smith assisted in the creation and distribution of free curriculum guides to supplement content at the three networks where she worked. She also participated in Cable in the Classroom by providing teachers with free access to company-produced educational media. At Animal Planet, Smith and her team established the channel’s first-ever animal advocacy initiative, R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.), which empowered viewers who wanted to make the world a better place. Dr. Goodall was a featured spokesperson in the R.O.A.R. campaign.
In addition, Smith was honored by Retinis Pigmentosa International with a People of Vision Award for being the leader of the first television network to provide programming narrated to the blind and was recognized by the Starlight Children’s Foundation for helping to grant wishes to terminally ill children.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, Smith has twice been named as one of the most powerful women in entertainment by The Hollywood Reporter magazine. She has been profiled everywhere from The Washington Post to Smart Money magazine, as well as in the business book, The Opt-Out Revolt: Why People Are Leaving Companies to Create Kaleidoscope Careers.