Regular seminars are a core element of the Project 55 Fellowships Program, giving fellows opportunities to deepen their knowledge about public issues and civic leadership. In Chicago, PP55 fellows gather weekly with fellows from our TAN affiliate schools to be inspired by and learn from leaders working for social change. Latalia White ’12 reports on a recent PP55 seminar in Chicago.
On Wednesday, November 13, Chicago PP55 fellows met downtown at Civic Consulting Alliance with Public Interest Program fellows from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago for a seminar led by Pamela Bozeman-Evans, Chief Operating Officer of the YWCA in Chicago. Bozeman-Evans described how growing up in a grassroots politically active family on the South Side of Chicago set the foundation for her to dedicate her life to public service, with a focus on helping women and children. After graduating from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s degree in corporate communication and a Master’s degree in fiscal administration, Bozeman-Evans took a position as the Director of the University of Chicago’s Community Service Center after childhood friend [and former PP55 mentor] Michelle Obama ’85 persuaded her to consider the position. She has also worked on Barack Obama’s Senate campaign and served as the Senior Program Director for the Gary Comer Youth Center.
Bozeman-Evans used her time as Executive Director for Blue Gargoyle Community Services from 2007-2009 to detail the struggles of running a nonprofit organization during tough financial times, reflecting to fellows how the shutting down of Blue Gargoyle under her leadership inspired her to prove her critics wrong by successfully moving ahead in her career. Bozeman-Evans’s advice to fellows who want to work in the nonprofit sector is that their focus should be on working toward a future in which their nonprofit organization no longer exists.
Using her current position as COO of the YWCA Chicago as an example, she expressed that she would be horrified if there was still a need in one hundred and fifty years for the YWCA, an organization that seeks to eliminate racism and sexual violence toward women; nonprofit companies need to strive for prevention as opposed to intervention. Taking questions from fellows about moving up in the nonprofit world, Bozeman-Evans’ recommendations were to implement a “strategic and visionary approach to development, the most important team” in a nonprofit, understand your hook, and constantly be thinking about what your company’s future needs will be in an ever-changing world.