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Joyce Foundation Welcomes Samper, Smith Baker to Board of Directors


Cristián Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Chanda Smith Baker, the senior vice president of impact with The Minneapolis Foundation, have been elected to serve on the Joyce Foundation’s board of directors.

Samper is a biologist who has worked on the interface between science, education, and policy for more than three decades. He has led the Wildlife Conservation Society since 2012, and previously directed the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Raised in Colombia, he was the founding director of the Humboldt national biodiversity institute and an advisor to the government of Colombia.

Smith Baker has more than 20 years of experience working in, for, and with underestimated communities. She joined The Minneapolis Foundation in 2017, overseeing the Foundation’s grantmaking programs and providing strategic direction to community initiatives and partnerships. Previous to that, she was president and CEO of Pillsbury United Communities, where she spent 17 years and led the complex, community-based nonprofit in pursuing bold strategies to address systemic inequities.

“Chanda and Cristián will bring outstanding experience and expertise to the Joyce board,” said José Alvarez, Joyce board chairman. “We look forward to the evidence-based and creative thinking they will bring to deliberations regarding issues across our portfolio.”

The Joyce Foundation is a nonpartisan, private philanthropy that invests in public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region. It supports policy research, development, and advocacy in five program areas: Education & Economic Mobility, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, Democracy, and Culture.

Based in Chicago, Joyce focuses its grantmaking in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. This year, it budgeted charitable distributions of $52 million on assets of $1.1 billion.

"I am honored to join the Joyce Foundation board and help them continue to build on such a strong legacy addressing some of the most critical issues of our time,” Samper said. “I look forward to learning from the talented staff and board members and to adding my experience, as we work to build a more sustainable future for the Great Lakes region and the nation."

Under Samper’s leadership, the Wildlife Conservation Society hosts a diverse audience of more than 4 million visitors annually to its zoos and aquarium in New York City, advances field conservation programs in more than 60 countries, and supports the global policy agenda for sustainable development. Leading the Smithsonian for more than a decade, Samper oversaw transformation of the museum’s exhibitions, explored new ways of making collections available to global audiences, and recruited the next generation of research scientists.

Smith Baker, a proud native and resident of North Minneapolis, has served on numerous nonprofit and philanthropic boards. She currently serves on the board of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Women Winning, and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber. At The Minneapolis Foundation, she hosts a podcast and event series entitled “Conversations with Chanda.”

“Joyce has an impressive track record of advancing equity in the Midwest, and its mission resonates deeply with my own values and work in Minneapolis,” she said. “I look forward to serving alongside Joyce's dedicated staff and my fellow board members to move the needle on critical issues facing our region."

Smith Baker’s civic leadership has been recognized with several awards and commendations. They include being listed among Minnesota Business magazine’s Real Power 50, receiving the Hubert H. Humphrey Leadership Award, and being honored among the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s Women in Business, and as a Minnesota Vikings Hometown Hero.