Jennifer Schwarz Ballard, Ph.D.

Jennifer Schwarz Ballard, Ph.D., serves as the vice president of learning and engagement programs for the Chicago Botanic Garden. In this role, she oversees the Garden’s adult and children’s education offerings and the urban agriculture, Windy City Harvest, and horticultural therapy programs.


Since starting at the Garden in 2005 as the Garden’s education manager, Schwarz Ballard has worked to ensure that in our increasingly urban world, people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds have access to green space and to high quality nature-based education and enrichment programs, both on Garden grounds and in their own communities. She is passionate about environmental justice, the need for engagement and action focused on climate change, and the very judicious use of technology to increase access to nature.


Schwarz Ballard joined the Garden after completing her doctorate in the learning sciences at Northwestern University. Before attending graduate school, she worked for a nonprofit housing development firm to increase and improve housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income households and special-needs populations in Westchester County, N.Y., and then for a variety of nonprofits in the areas of marketing and membership development. She is married to an architectural designer, has a daughter attending college in Madison, Wisconsin, and lives in the northern suburbs, where she spends most of her off-time growing her own gardens and looking after two precocious cats.