Pathway to Nonprofit Careers Panel

Nonprofit career panel nonprofit career panelIn an effort to increase awareness and resources for liberal arts graduates exploring different careers, the School of Liberal Arts, in collaboration with Career and Professional Development Services, presented “Making a Difference, a Living, and a Life: Pathways to Meaningful Careers in the Nonprofit World” on Oct. 26 in the Soda Center. Led by Beverly McLean, director of the career center, the panel featured Doug Biggs, executive director of Alameda Point Collaborative; Kathleen Gushoney, vice president and executive director of YMCA of the East Bay; Maeve Brown, executive director and co-founder of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates; and Mykah Montgomery MBA ’11, founder of Leaders Are Readers. According to a student body survey, 60 percent of liberal arts students are interested in careers in nonprofits, which prompted the panel’s creation.

Many questions revealed the panelists’ personal and professional journeys into the nonprofit world, which were all varied and diverse. Biggs said, “I didn’t choose nonprofits, nonprofits chose me.” Biggs said his love for service and community development began in the Peace Corps, where he helped farmers raise fish in Nepal. He continues this love through his work with Alameda Point Collaborative, working with community members to improve Alameda through community gardens, farms, playgrounds, and more. “It’s constantly changing, and it’s client- and resident-oriented,” Biggs said.

In contrast to Biggs’ experience as a new nonprofit director, Gushoney’s career is in a large and established nonprofit organization, the Young Men’s Christian Association, better known as the YMCA or “The Y.” Gushoney said her faith and desire to give back led her into the nonprofit sector. After spending 10 years in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, she joined the YMCA, whose goal is to strengthen communities. She says that the YMCA is “all in,” and while it is a lifelong and fun learning environment, it is a professional business environment because the organization is so established.

Brown began her journey differently. After attending law school, she wanted to “get the most done, and being a lawyer seemed like the best way.” Brown worked for labor lawyers, and volunteered while she was working. Brown said, “I loved the ethic or notion of being mission-driven.” She started her nonprofit organization because “no one else had done it.” She describes Housing and Economic Rights Advocates as “collaborative, collegial, and hardworking. We go out of our way. We take care of each other.”

Montgomery has what she calls a “9 to 5 and a 5 to 9,” specifically because she works in the for-profit sector as a Senior Customer Success Manager at Zuora and runs the nonprofit Leaders are Readers. Montgomery worked in the entertainment industry in the past as a songwriter, and author, and a performer. After becoming a published children’s book author, Montgomery said, “How can I use my creativity to help people?” Her answer was to create and establish Leaders Are Readers from a campaign to a nonprofit.  Montgomery describers Leaders are Readers as open, loving, and kind. A 2011 graduate of the Saint Mary’s MBA program, she ascribes some of her great success to skills she learned at SMC, such as creative marketing and understanding leadership at an executive level.