November 2019 Alumni Spotlight
What do you do as Department Coordinator for the Ford Foundation?
As the Department Coordinator for Natural Resources and Climate Change at the Ford Foundation, I am responsible for being the glue for my immediate program team and supporting the Program Director. I manage all the daily processes and programming of team actions, monitor expenditures and process contracts, project manage all events and convenings, facilitate all international meetings across 8 global locations and provide actionable summaries, and engage across all programmatic areas within the foundation, and externally with philanthropic partners.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced thus far?
My biggest challenge so far has been adjusting to the world of philanthropy. It’s a very strategy heavy environment and not as involved as working in direct service nonprofits. I’ve spent 13 years working in direct service which has given me a good sense of what needs to be done at a grassroots level, but learning how best to do those things in accomplishing the bigger goal, let alone learning what the bigger goal truly is, was difficult to grasp along with not having the regular interaction I grew accustomed to in direct service. In a way, I had to learn to be comfortable in the silence and debate of strategy and not having someone to help directly in a day-to-day fashion. Earning my MPA helped a lot with teaching me how to navigate that space as well.
Why did you decide to come to the Marxe School to get your MPA?
I had attended the Marxe School for my undergrad degree in Public Affairs and went to work in the field immediately after. I saw within the first few years that I would need to bring my knowledge and skill set around public policy to a higher level if I truly wanted to be effective at positive change and leading conversations around what positive societal change looks like. I searched around other MPA similar programs and the Marxe School still offered the best education and networking opportunities in terms of gaining real world perspectives. The focus on policy analysis and evaluation also played a big part for me. It really helped me to understand the whole forest and not just see it as most policy makers have done in the past. I felt I could really trust the Marxe School to deliver the same valuable education that had kept me going in the nonprofit world up to that point and build further upon it.
What changed for you during the course of and after attaining your degree?
I learned just how much I love doing analysis and learning around different experiences in the public sector. One of my first research projects was centered around educational attainment and primary languages, in which my professor had become as excited as I was around the significance of the results. That really solidified for me that my ideas and interests were transferable to my career path and it really helped me to gain confidence on just what I could accomplish with that.
Tell us how you prepare for the job you do. How do you focus and accomplish your goals?
At Ford, communication is number one. Clear, cogent, concise. I assume that nobody has free time and I make the best effort to value what time they give me and just what I do with it. This can mean mulling over a discussion I need to have elsewhere with a colleague for clarity or writing a draft of an email and coming back to it after I’ve had coffee. Staying organized is also very important. I use Microsoft OneNote to keep myself organized. It’s a virtual notebook I can link to any number of Microsoft office files and it saves everything I enter into it automatically. A good stable resource like this goes a long way towards getting work done properly. I also meet with my Director weekly for updates and stay proactive whenever possible. This gives my team less to worry about. I’ve joined relevant affinity groups for support and overall manage my time as closely as I can. I set daily goals of closing out a set number of action items and making progress on major projects when possible. I take a walk around the neighborhood if I feel stuck or in a slump and I also make time to exercise regularly and make sure I get enough sleep; balancing your life and your energy is everything; without it our goals tend to suffer.