What have you been up to since graduating from the Arts Administration program?
From graduation in 2003 until January 2005, I was in Moscow, Russia, trying to find a job in the NGO sector there. Then by May 2005, I had moved to New York and volunteered for the New York International Ballet Competition helping specifically with Russian-speaking dancers. Then I began at the Open Society Foundations, where I work now as a Program Officer in the Human Rights Initiative. At OSF, I have worked in five to six different departments with various functions — everything from grant making in Kenya, to organizing annual board meetings in Budapest and London, to building grant portfolios around youth and/or disability rights.
How did UC’s Arts Administration program affect your career path?
It gave me skills in management, budgeting and financial literacy that I did not have before, but which I use daily. These skills are among those that my colleagues who have MAs in area studies or human rights don't necessarily have. The UC AA program also allowed me to understand how NGOs work, which is important in developing strong relationships with my grantees around the world. Even though I am now on the side of giving funding, I believe that understanding the challenges nonprofits face on multiple levels from their side makes me better at my job.
Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
I have no idea! My time at OSF has been unique. I've been shuffled around departments over the years and have had 11 supervisors! Because our funding comes from a living donor, the organization is quite robust and new opportunities tend to come up unexpectedly. So I try to keep the door open to new experiences whether they might be here at OSF or elsewhere. Right now I am content in my position as I am still learning, and as a mother of a young child, the flexibility offered in terms of work hours is most important. However, I would like to figure out how to spend more time with family at my house near Woodstock, New York, and perhaps find a job that would allow me to relocate there permanently.
What makes you excited to go to work?
In the past, I was excited about the travel that came with my job. In 2012, for example, I visited about a dozen different countries around the world from Tajikistan to Morocco to Spain, France and more. Now, while I still like to travel, it is harder and less exciting since it is heartbreaking to leave my young son for a week at a time. Also exciting are my colleagues who all have diverse and exciting backgrounds, which I find stimulating. In my immediate program, at least a dozen different nations are represented. Our conference calls are like little UN meetings. Finally, I love building relationships with grantees and seeing them achieve (and overachieve) their goals. Since I work with youth a lot of the time, seeing the exuberance that young people bring is often what keeps me going in this field of human rights, which can be difficult as we confront situations of horrific abuse regularly.
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
From 2011-2013, I was part of the management team of the Open Society Youth Initiative. I loved this job and was proud of it, because I could see tangible change in the young people we worked with. I also am proud of a project that I run in Kyrgyzstan called Youth Action Fund. It is a mini-grant program for youth there who are interested in doing projects about a human rights issue they see in their community. We have built the project to encourage young people to use youth-friendly artistic expression such as hip-hop, rap, graffiti and street art, theatre and digital technology to bring attention to issues such as early marriage, disability rights, domestic abuse and reproductive rights, among others. Last year a young woman wrote a rap song about domestic violence which was aired on national television. This year we have many youth using forum theatre techniques to raise awareness of child marriage. I also am proud of a group of youth with disabilities that I fund in Latin America. This group, called META, has identified Article 30 (Participation in Cultural Life, Recreation, Leisure and Sport) of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as key to its work, and a leader in the group is a young dancer who has cerebral palsy and who conducts movement workshops. I am grateful for opportunities like these that allow me to help foster the use of arts and artistic development in youth from diverse and other marginalized backgrounds.