Blog Post

Meet Jill Tiefenthaler, National Geographic Society’s First Female Chief Executive Officer

Learn more about Jill Tiefenthaler and her plans to move the 132-year-old organization forward, including her intention to bolster the Society’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The National Geographic Society is thrilled to welcome Jill Tiefenthaler as chief executive officer! Jill joins the leadership team this week after a nine-year tenure as the president of Colorado College.

In her role, Jill will oversee the development and implementation of the nonprofit’s mission-driven work and programmatic agenda. She will also lead our global community of Explorers: scientists, innovators, educators, and storytellers—in National Geographic’s mission to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world.

Originally from Iowa, Jill grew up working for her family’s popcorn business before launching her career in economics and academia. Before her transformational years with Colorado College, she held faculty and administrative roles at Colgate University and served as provost of Wake Forest University. During her time as Colorado College’s president, she helped set a new direction for the school and executed the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the college’s history. Jill’s tenure at Colorado College was punctuated by a keen ability to build personal connections across the community, including recording 600 personalized messages to congratulate this year’s graduates when their in-person graduation was canceled due to the ongoing health crisis.

At each of these colleges and universities, Jill’s goal has been to make the world a better place through the combination of education, research, and empowering younger generations. With that context in mind, she brings passion, a people-first approach, and a strategic mindset to champion the National Geographic Society’s mission in science, education and storytelling.

Jill believes that the Society’s programmatic work has never been more critical, and that National Geographic’s platform has never been stronger. With climate change and biodiversity loss accelerating, and the world’s cultures under increasing pressure, she sees her role as a catalyst to help the organization protect endangered species, increase our understanding of human history and culture, and conserve the planet’s most iconic places. She plans to focus on developing partnerships with like-minded individuals, foundations and companies, bringing great minds and great ideas together with a focus on impact.

To position the organization for continued excellence and relevance, Jill is committed to building an environment where everyone, of every race, identity, experience, and ability is able to contribute to and benefit from our work. Since she first accepted the position in January 2020, much has changed in our world, and yet much has stayed the same. As recent flash points of violence and discrimination, including the murder of George Floyd, have underscored long-standing issues of systemic racism, the National Geographic Society is committed to advancing meaningful change.

As the Society’s first female CEO, Jill is dedicated to accelerating and leading our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and ensuring that we do a better job of amplifying everyone’s story. In addition to outlining several actions the organization must take to pursue systemic change within our organization and with our constituencies, the National Geographic Society launched its first diversity statement. The statement is centered on a simple, clear principle, which will serve as our North Star in everything we do: Your Story Matters.

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Guided by this statement, Jill will ensure that we can learn from our past, examine our present, and build a more inclusive future in support of our mission. Under her leadership, the National Geographic Society is excited to do the hard work, both internally and externally, to cultivate a community where everyone’s story matters.

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About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.