Six Evans School graduates working at The Seattle Foundation took time from their busy schedules to respond to questions about their work and to reflect on their time at the Evans School. We heard from:

  • Michael Brown (MPA ’95), vice president, community leadership
  • Jessica Case (MPA ’08), research associate
  • Caroline Maillard (MPA ’86), senior program officer
  • Jennifer (Hoppner) Martin (MPA ’03), program and donor services officer
  • Norman B. Rice (MPA ’74), chief executive officer
  • Jared Watson (MPA ’00), vice president, program and donor services

What do you like most about working for The Seattle Foundation?

Martin: Being able to think strategically about how best to invest in the community to make a significant difference. I’m able to do that through my work advising donors as well as through the grantmaking program (which awards grants to King County nonprofits). I also really like that I am able to work across issue areas and see how they all connect.

Watson: We have a broad mission to improve the quality of life throughout King County, so we continue to learn, as the issues facing our community are always changing. As a community foundation, we do our grantmaking, and thus make change, by working alongside and with our donors—there is a large portion of our work that involves educating and inspiring donors and encouraging them to work on solutions with us. I enjoy being able to bring others into our work as partners.

Case: I love seeing the wide impact we are able to have in the community. I enjoy hearing from people what a difference one of our grants or our Healthy Community Report has made. It’s also a fantastic environment with great people.

What is the biggest challenge facing community foundations today?

Rice: I see two major challenges: first, attracting new donors and providing pathways for them to make good philanthropic decisions; and second, providing existing donors similar opportunities and avenues.

Brown: Meeting growing community need while dealing with a reduced operating and grantmaking budget. Foundations have seen shrinking budgets as a result of the economic downturn, so grantmaking dollars will be smaller for the next few years.

What skills from your Evans School degree have been the most useful in your current position?

Martin: Critical thinking, policy analysis, evaluation, and management. In general, I think that my graduate work helps me to ask better questions and to think of creative solutions when I’m assessing an issue or problem.

Rice: Without a doubt, the degree project was invaluable. It was the capstone, building upon the courses and internship I had completed, and allowed me to use my whole skill set in a real-life issue. The degree project gave me a view of today’s world, not a view of yesterday’s world.

Watson: My work at the Evans School definitely helped sharpen my critical and strategic thinking skills. Much of our work involves analyzing community issues as well as evaluating solutions and nonprofit organizations, and we use those skills a lot.

What advice do you have for people who want to work in an organization like yours?

Brown: Get out and learn as much as you can about what’s happening in the community. When we hire, we’re looking for smart, nimble people, but those who shine are the ones who understand the issues our community faces and have some knowledge about the role nonprofits play. Get experience by working for a nonprofit or in the public sector, somewhere that exposes you to these issues and how those in the community are responding to them.

Maillard: It’s really helpful to have firsthand experience (as a staff or board member, ideally both) with the types of issues and/or organizations supported by foundations.

How has being a part of the Evans School network benefited you in your current position?

Maillard: The reputation of the program helps to open doors, as do fellow alumni—we’re everywhere! My faculty contacts at the Evans School have also been great resources for me and for the organizations I’ve worked for as guest speakers, evaluation consultants, guides to relevant research, etc.

Case: First of all, there is a strong Evans School network within The Seattle Foundation itself, so there is a lot of shared experience. I keep in touch personally and professionally with many of my classmates and professors, and it is amazing to see how widespread the Evans School network is in Seattle.

Rice: The Evans School network has given me entry into what I consider to be an elite organization from day one. From exposure to the Advisory Board to access to the deep and vast cadre of alumni, no school can compete with the Evans School’s reach and connections.

About the Alumni at Work Series

Our Alumni at Work series features articles highlighting the experiences of alumni in workplaces with six or more Evans School graduates as employees. If you have comments or would like to suggest an employer for us to feature, please contact us at evansalum@uw.edu

Published on August 21, 2009.