1 Year Out is an interview series highlighting alumni from the classes of ’14 and ’15 who are engaged in public service, entrepreneurship, or nonprofit work in any capacity- through their employment, a volunteer position, or on the side.
It has been both wonderful and hard! I dived into some experiences that weren’t what I expected and stumbled into others that were truly transformative. I worked on an urban farm in Portland, OR as well as for Blue Hill at Stone Barns in NY. I’ve continued to collaborate with many of my beloved friends: Lily Myers ’15 and I are growing our holistic feminism site The Shapes We Make and Nicole Stanton ’15 and I have spent the better part of the year nurturing our environmental arts magazine Loam. More than anything, I feel grateful that I get to navigate this newness. Even on the most difficult of days, it’s exciting to explore different careers and cities and connections.
How are you involved in public service, entrepreneurship, or nonprofit work? How did you get there?
I’m the Curator of Creative Development for The Bayha Group. I help to write, research, and implement grants that bring placemaking, art, and environmental initiatives to life within diverse school districts in Southern California. Although our primary partners are in L.A., we want to grow our network to support communities from California to Colorado. I am also responsible for organizing events—such as art exhibits and local food markets—that support programs for which we’ve received funding.
Finding my way into my current job was definitely many years in the making! I worked for the educational nonprofit WestEd throughout college. When June, my boss at WestEd, left to start The Bayha Group, I reached out to her about being part of the team. I really admired her passion for holistic education and her energetic approach to driving change. I thought this is someone I can really learn from!
Describe a typical day at your position.
I’m very lucky to have a boss who is open to new opportunities and encourages my creative spirit. Because of that, no two days are alike. I meet with the school district to talk about how to best implement a program. I coordinate discussions with local advocacy groups to figure out what kind of initiative we want to propose for a prospective grant. I collaborate with partners on organizing an event and research exciting grants that will benefit the environment, arts, and education. I love that I am always getting to learn from someone cool or do something new.
How do your race, gender, class background, sexuality, and other identities factor into your work?
Race, gender, and class background very much factor into my work—in more ways than I can fully address in this interview. For example, the primary school district where I am working in is largely Hispanic, low-income, and first generation. I attended a demographically similar school district growing up. That said, I’m a white, upper middle-class woman. I’m not from California and so don’t share the same understanding of place as my boss and collaborators. Because of that, my job isn’t to take charge. It’s to listen and reflect.
What is unexpectedly great about your job?
The Bayha Group’s emphasis on organizing physical events and promoting tangible goals means that I get to truly experience the fruits of our labors. Sometimes, when I’m just typing away at the computer and it’s sunny out, I wonder what am I doing? Grant writing can be super technical and data driven. But it’s also an unexpectedly creative challenge, not unlike putting together a puzzle. You have to craft a compelling narrative in only a couple of paragraphs.
So for me, what is unexpectedly great about this job is that it gives me the rare opportunity to see how tedious computer chores and boring administrative tasks are actually key components of bringing meaningful programs into communities. I am fortunate that I get to see grants through from brainstorming into being.
What’s the hardest thing about your position that you’re willing to share?
I both love and hate not having an office. Even though I meet with people regularly and get to go to incredible events, I spend the majority of my workweek on my laptop at a local café. I’m grateful that I get to schedule my own time and it’s definitely nice to have the freedom to take a hike in the middle of the day. But I miss communal lunches and the camaraderie of working in a shared space.
What are some characteristics that would make your type of work hard for someone?
Working in education and/or on large-scale federal grants can sometimes be wildly frustrating because of sheer bureaucratic insanity. And so you have to balance being patient with driving change. You have to be okay not having a strict schedule and very open-minded to unexpected developments. I’m still figuring it all out!
Does the compensation you receive in this field meet your financial needs? If not, how do you make ends meet?
Yes, this job meets my financial needs.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
My Dad once told me to work with people you love. When he ran our family printing company, he only took on projects for clients that he cared about because the hassle of working with a draining partner is just not worth your precious time. Sometimes, we find ourselves suckered into a project with someone who may not be very kind or respectful because we want to make a little extra money. It’s definitely tough to step back and say my work isn’t separate from my life and I want to imbue it with as much love and meaning as I can. Be intentional, to the best of your abilities, about whom you collaborate with.
Tell me about a time you felt really effective making change in the world.
You don’t necessarily need money to make some kind of incredible happen. There is tremendous power in the people.
There is also a lot of money floating around. And so the challenge is: how do we get all this money—from the government, from philanthropic organizations, from private donors—into the right hands? How do we find the resources to support exceptionally vital environmental, educational, and creative initiatives?
To some extent, I feel like the why? of my job is rooted in answering those questions. I’m working on a placemaking grant right now that is seeking to revive creative economy and environmental stewardship in a L.A. suburb that’s faced encroachment from big box stores and toxic manufacturing plants. I am very grateful to contribute to a movement that is actively challenging the industrialization, homogenoization, and dehumanization of cities. Because everyone has a right to a healthy environment and beautiful home.
What would you recommend to current students considering work like yours?
Nothing is perfect and nothing is permanent. Don’t think too hard about whether this is the absolute best job ever. Dive in, see what there is to see, and decide from there whether this is a line of work you want to be in. Because if you don’t just do, you fundamentally can’t know.
And take care to truly educate yourself on the community you are entering into and the project you are working on. Stay receptive to change, embrace your own learning curve, and read Lodro Rinzler’s “Walk Like A Buddha.” This Wes grad’s wise words on the Buddhist notion of right livelihood are profoundly inspiring.
If Wes students or recent grads have questions about working in your field, could they contact you?
Yes, please! And it doesn’t have to just be about grant writing and research; I’ve also worked in urban agriculture, farm-to-table event planning, and sustainability.
If you are a graduate of the Class of ’14 or ’15 working in public service, entrepreneurship, or nonprofits and would like to be featured on the blog, please email me.