Sophia Shaw

Cofounder and President

Sophia Shaw and Associates Consulting and Coaching


About Sophia

Sophia Shaw leads the firm’s work with nonprofit clients and donors to nonprofits.

From her experience as a CEO, trustee, board president, donor, volunteer, consultant, and professor of social impact, Sophia has a deep understanding of how to maximize the impact of a nonprofit.

Concurrent with starting her company, Sophia served as an adjunct professor at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and directed Kellogg Board Fellows, connecting top Kellogg MBA students to Chicago-area nonprofits for an opportunity in board service. Sophia taught both an introductory course on board governance of nonprofits as well as one on advanced topics.

From 2006 to 2016, Sophia served first as vice president and then president and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden, one of the leading public gardens of the world. Under Sophia’s leadership, the 385-acre campus experienced a 52 percent increase in attendance as well as record-breaking fundraising (nearly $240 million) and operating budget results. The Garden also became recognized as a model for environmental conservation, advocacy, as well as urban agriculture and horticulture jobs training and education emphasizing programs for diverse and underserved communities in partnership with a wide variety of corporations, schools, healthcare centers, organizations, and government agencies. Under Sophia’s leadership, the Garden completed transformational design and construction projects and launched the plant biology and conservation Ph.D. program with Northwestern University. In 2016 Sophia was awarded the Openlands Conservation Leadership Award and Chicago Horticultural Society Medal.

Prior to her decade at the Chicago Botanic Garden, she served The Field Museum for nine years, many of which as vice president of exhibitions, education, and the library. She held curatorial roles at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago, and started her career first as a shipping clerk and then leading the property department at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

Sophia serves on the board of trustees of Wellesley College and is a director for the Winterbotham Collection of The Art Institute of Chicago. Formerly, she was active on the boards of The Art Institute of Chicago, the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution; and The Arts Club of Chicago, where she served as president of the board. She also devotes herself to her condominium association boards.

She is a USA Triathlon certified coach specializing in paratriathlon. Sophia is the 2022 Volunteer of the Year at Dare2Tri, a leading nonprofit specializing in adaptive sports. She volunteers for the Rape, Assault, and Incest National Network (RAINN), the national’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Plenary Speaker, “Why Gardens are Important, Especially Now,” 5th Global Botanic Gardens Conference, Dunedin, New Zealand (October 24, 2013)

Interview with Phil Ponce, Chicago Tonight, WTTW (September 30, 2009)

Interview with Phil Ponce, Chicago Tonight, WTTW (April 26, 2007)

Essays and Articles

Selected Profiles and Quotes