CNCs Dennis Pilaske receives ANCA Nature Center Leadership Award

The Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA) has presented Chippewa Nature Center (CNC) Executive Director Dennis Pilaske with the 2022 ANCA Nature Center Leadership Award.

This national award recognizes an individual who has made a major contribution to the success of a nature center, as well as important contributions to the profession through professional organizations and through support and mentoring of other nature center leaders. Pilaske was recognized for having an extraordinary record of organizational success and exemplifying strategic vision, passion, integrity, innovation, perseverance and a collaborative spirit.

Pilaske has served as CNC’s executive director since 2017, and is responsible for achieving the strategic vision by working with the board of directors, a leadership team of five director-level staff and approximately 50 employees. Prior to that, he was the director of interpretation for 12 years, supervising adult and family programming, as well as the self-guided interpretive resources. In 2008, he co-chaired the Visitor Center renovation and the LEED Gold-certified Nature Preschool construction, enabling CNC to expand its Nature Preschool program.

He was also an active member of the National Association for Interpretation – Great Lakes Region 4, attending annual regional and national interpreters’ workshops. He co-chaired the Regional Interpreters Workshop in 2010, presented at several conferences on the use of music in interpretive programs, served on the Interpretive Project Grants Committee for five years and was a committee member for the 2006 NAI Region 4 workshop. He participated in ANCA’s Professional Leadership Institute in 2015, and has attended six summits. He has also organized multiple Michigan peer group meetings since 2013 as co-chair of the state’s peer group. In addition, he has also led facilitated discussions on building morale in the workplace, partnerships and preparing for the 2021 summer camp season. Pilaske is a mentor through ANCA, and has been selected to serve on six ANCA Consult teams.

Locally, Pilaske is a graduate of Leadership Midland class of 2002, and currently serves on the Leadership Midland steering committee. He participated in the 2014 Great Lakes Bay Institute for Leaders, and is the board treasurer for the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He also serves on the board for Phoenix Community Farm, a grassroots community nonprofit dedicated to growing and distributing fresh, healthy produce for those in need.

For the last 25 years, Pilaske has been committed to connecting people to the natural world, placing incredible value on the role nature plays in a community’s physical and mental health, quality of life and sense of place. Now, as executive director, he fosters a positive work environment where staff can thrive while providing opportunities for meaningful connection to nature through access to greenspace and high-quality nature programming.

He encourages CNC staff to seek out professional development opportunities and support the profession by involvement in regional, state and national organizations. His investment in staff results in national recognition of CNC’s staff and programs, and continuous forward movement as everyone feels empowered to pursue the mission.

As CNC’s executive director, Pilaske continues to serve with integrity, dedication and professionalism, which has not only benefited Chippewa Nature Center, but the broader world of nature centers.

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