Michelle Thomas will graduate from the Masters in Nonprofit Management (MANM) program at AULA in June 2019. One month away from finishing her program, she feels as though she’s going through an intense transformation, experiencing change and growth on both personal and professional levels. “This quarter has really been about excavating souls,” she said. “The coursework is unearthing it all.”
Thomas completed her undergraduate degree at AULA. She chose to continue her education in the MANM program as a way to grow and expand her already considerable experience working with nonprofit organizations. She felt that to grow in her career she “needed to get a handle on the administrative skill set of nonprofits, especially the financials.”
Twenty years ago in Del Rio, Texas, she worked with the public high school to bring college reps from all over the US to migrant youths who weren’t able to do college visits, and also coordinated a program that provided students with mentor/tutors to help them pass standardized tests; she’s worked in the health care sector for twenty-five years, first for for-profit programs and then nonprofit; she’s also been involved in many charitable and community building organizations such as developing community gardens in underserved communities and as a donor relations coordinator in Lynwood that assists community members facing foreclosure or eviction.
Thomas currently works for as an administrator for Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center. She recently attended a conference for women leaders in nonprofit, Aspiring Trailblazers, where they discussed assessing personal value/ strengths and contribution. Now, she is putting that intention out and learning how to function in or with unknown as she prepares for the next phases of her work.
One thing she’s realized is that her true passion goes back twenty years to find the emotional and academic support for kids needing to pass standardized tests in Texas. “Though they received academic tutoring, the social support was most important,” Thomas said. “Relaxing was important. Once they could relax and feel like someone was there for them, they did better on the tests.” This is where her heart is— working with young people and “the moment the light comes into their eyes, realizing that someone is there to support them.”
As a child, Thomas was taught to be seen and not heard. Through her learning process at Antioch, she feels that her voice is becoming clearer and more effective.
“If you’re working with people, you must be able to communicate. I’m learning to speak up without being pissed, and say what has to be said.” The program’s last quarter is focused on adaptive leadership and sustainable business model, which Thomas says really gets into individual fitness and adaptability. “I’m building confidence,” she said, “getting at my foundation, sealing the cracks… Asking questions like, Where do I fit? What works for me?”
As Thomas navigates the final weeks of school, she is feeling grateful for the support of her cohort and teachers. The seven students of the cohort “lift each other up,” though they are all feeling the strain of the work. “Praises to the instructors,” Thomas said, “they are thoughtful and they really listen to us.”
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.