“I was looking for a program that had a social justice bent,” said Booker Drew, who earned her PhD in 2014 from Antioch’s Graduate School of Leadership and Change.
When she began the program, she felt she didn’t belong. Then, in her first course, she learned about imposter syndrome, a behavioral pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and fear exposure as a fraud. “It totally shaped the way I saw myself. It made me realize I’m not alone,” she said. This idea was further supported by the way her professors related to her as a colleague. “They were on the same page, there was no power imbalance.”
“I was around people very different than what I had been accustomed to, they had different experiences and lifestyles,” said Booker Drew. “I had discussions that confronted my way of thinking as a woman of color that for me was life-changing. It also changed my work.”
An interest in asset-based community development, or the idea of looking at relationships as assets, evolved into her understanding of the power of social capital—that the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a community enable it to function effectively.
“When you’re able to secure resources based on relationships it can open doors,” she said. “It can be more powerful than money. It became a fire lit under me to begin investigating this idea and how it applied to women of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and ages.”
She built social capital in her cohort at Antioch. “I took advantage of the wealth of information from students and faculty, I still keep in touch with them,” she said.
Booker Drew found that little research had been done on the concept of using the Immunity of Change (by researchers Kegan and Lahey) as a tool to build social capital among diverse women, so she decided to explore it. She brought women together and listened to their stories. She helped them think about the way they create change in lives, not as individuals but as a community.
What she learned she brought with her to her position at World Vision, a Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organization where she was promoted to national community engagement director for U.S. programs. Her work included development and implementation of an engagement strategy across the country as well as the identification of local, regional, and national partners. She also created and presented training to educate organizations on social capital, collective impact, and asset-based community development.
In 2016, she began working for the State Fair of Texas, where she was promoted to vice president of community affairs and strategic alliances in February.
She began that position by listening to people in the community where the state fair is located. Several people told her they never had anyone to talk to about how they felt. She asked what she could do to support them, which led to her working to strengthen capacity building for nonprofits, economic development, and supporting education and local schools.
“There are some brilliant students who didn’t have opportunities in our local schools and some amazing organizations in this area who needed additional support,” she said. This groundwork led to the creation of a grant program for nonprofits to develop their infrastructure and support work in the community.
“It’s changing the narrative of how we look at nonprofits and people of color,” she said. “We’re hoping not only to change the narrative but think of ways nonprofits can work differently, from staffing to serving communities.”
Booker-Drew has also worked to build cohorts. There is now a one for concessionaires at the fair designed to help people of color and women find work in concessions that she wants to scale for implementation nationwide.
“I’m bringing in people to do coaching, and create business and marketing plans,” she said. “My colleague, Melanie Linnear, and I are helping build relationships with sponsors and vendors as an opportunity for them to engage.”
When she’s not at work at the state fair, Booker Drew speaks on a variety of topics such as social capital, networking, leadership, diversity, and community development to national and international audiences. This included serving as a workshop presenter at the United Nations in 2013 on the access to power.
Booker Drew was recently recognized by the Dallas Business Journal as a 2019 Women in Business Award Honoree.
She credits her experience as a PhD student at Antioch for fueling her passion in her work. “I wouldn’t have had the framework without having that kind of education—it was priceless,” she said. “I hope I am an agent of change that makes an impact. I want to be part of such a legacy.”
Karen Hamilton ’17 (Antioch Los Angeles, MA) is Antioch's Director of Marketing for Content and Communications. She has used her storytelling and copywriting skills for more than twenty years, crafting articles and creating publications. She believes that communication is a powerful driver for social change.