Museum Leadership

Dennis Kois - President/CEO
Dennis Kois is President and CEO of MPM. He attributes his extensive career in museums and admiration for the important cultural role they play in our society to his many visits to MPM in his youth. Dennis grew up in Whitefish Bay and graduated with honors from UW- Milwaukee with a bachelor’s degree in Museum Design. He continued his education at New York University, where he earned a master’s degree in Museum Studies, and at The Getty Foundation’s Museum Leadership Institute, where he took part in a highly competitive executive leadership program for global professionals. Dennis’s significant professional experience was honed at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and The Grace Museum. He is involved in numerous professional organizations including the Association of Art Museum Directors, American Alliance of Museums, the Museum Assessment Program, and more.


Ellen Censky, Ph.D. - Senior Vice President & Academic Dean
Dr. Ellen Censky returned to Wisconsin in 2008 to take the Position of Senior V.P. and Academic Dean at MPM. Her responsibilities include oversight of research, collections, exhibits, registration, conservation, library, and exhibit maintenance.

Ellen has 40 years of museum experience, including 10 years as Executive Director of two natural history museums. Ellen started her museum career as a UWM work study student at MPM, and then moved on to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, where she worked for 20 years. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh and her B.S. in Zoology from the UW-Milwaukee. She was involved in field research on biodiversity in Costa Rica, Paraguay, British West Indies, Dominican Republic, and several states in the US. Ellen has authored more than 50 scientific papers and three books. She was a founding developer of the BioBlitz, a 24-hour scientific survey and educational event, which now is conducted by organizations across the world. She headed up MPM’s Green Team, which was instrumental in developing the Museum’s Green Policy and Plan, green roof, solar panels, and several upgrades to lighting in the museum.


Patti Dew - Vice President, CFO & Chief Administrative Officer
Patti Dew, V.P., CFO and Chief Administrative officer, oversees finance, accounting, payroll, facility and security operations, administrative services, and risk management.

A graduate of UW-Madison, Patti has been professionally serving the Greater Milwaukee Area for nearly three decades. Her background is that of a senior financial executive with diverse responsibilities in the nonprofit sector -- mainly in social services and foundation fields. Patti has the demonstrated ability to leverage strong leadership and a proven track record of developing and retaining top talent. Her qualifications as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Operational CFO bring a high level of integrity to the work of MPM.


Karen Spahn - Senior Vice President of Development
Karen Spahn joined MPM in January 2005 as Senior V.P. of Development. She is responsible for directing and evaluating all fundraising functions of the Museum to ensure the success and effectiveness in accordance with long and short range plans. With a development staff of nine, the department oversees all efforts in the areas of membership, planned giving, grants, sponsorships, operating, and capital campaigns. Prior to joining the Museum, Karen served as Senior Director of Development at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and spent 11 years as Program/Development Officer at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.


Hillary Olson - Vice President of Audience & Community Engagement
Hillary Olson is the Vice President of Audience and Community Engagement at MPM. Olson is responsible for all aspects of the public face of the Museum including Education, Marketing and Communications, Visitor Services, Theater and Planetarium Operations, Events, Graphic design, and Retail Operations.

Prior to joining MPM, Hillary has held leadership positions at the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Long Island Children’s Museum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the Griffith Observatory. She holds a B.S. in Earth and Space Sciences from Stony Brook University and an M.S.Ed in Museum Leadership from Bank Street College.