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First up in our Nonprofit Week blog series is Mac Antigua (1996, BS/MA, Communication Studies), the Director of Alumni Engagement at Public Allies. Read on to find out about Mac’s current role and career path.

Describe your role with the Public Allies. What drew you to the organization and how long have you worked in your role?

As the Director of Alumni Engagement at at Public Allies, Mac works to create opportunities and platforms for our Alumni to accelerate their leadership practice.

As the Director of Alumni Engagement at Public Allies, Mac works to create opportunities and platforms for their Alumni to accelerate leadership practice.

I’m the Director of Alumni Engagement.  The mission of Public Allies is to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation.  Our main engine for that has been our AmeriCorps Apprenticeship Program,  a 10-month Apprenticeship that consists of working at a nonprofit organization, participating in a cohort based leadership development program grounded in our five core values of (inclusion, integrity, asset-based focus, continuous learning and collaboration) and performing service projects.  This Apprenticeship is in 23 cities across the country, and has turned out 5,400 Alumni – the “new leadership” that our mission states, 80% of which who continue to work in the public and nonprofit sector.  As the Director of Alumni Engagement, my charge is to create opportunities and platforms for our Alumni to accelerate their leadership practice (i.e. their skills, career and network) and impact (individually and collectively).

At Northwestern, I was very engaged in the Undergraduate Leadership Program, Office of Student Community Service and studied under Jody Kretzmann and John McKnight, who were leading in academic research on Asset Based Community Development Theory.   I remember they recommended me to apply to Public Allies Chicago’s Apprenticeship, which was being led by one of their fellow Asset Based Community Development practitioners, Michelle Obama.  So, that was a heck of a first job interview.

Somehow, I got accepted into the Apprenticeship, and I was placed at the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention to create a youth leadership initiative which would create more youth voices and peer influence to advance the movement within the state.  I was hired after my Apprenticeship year, and stayed there for two more years, ultimately returning back to Public Allies Chicago to be the Program Director from 1999-2003.

I came back to work at the national office of Public Allies (based in Milwaukee, WI) in 2008, and have been in this role since 2011.

I never thought I’d be associated with the same organization with most of my professional career – but I’ve been attracted by Public Allies vision of a diverse, just and equitable society, and that’s what keeps me here.

What is your work and education background?

I graduated from the School of Communications in 1996 with my BS/MA in Communication Studies.  I started in rhetoric as I thought I was going into law, but then after studying the speeches of Gandhi, King and MLK, I wanted to learn more about the work of the social movements they led.  That ultimately led me to looking at leadership development and working in the non-profit sector.

Describe a typical workday.

I’m charged with maintaining a virtual national network that’s present on several different social networking platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), so part of my day is monitoring those platforms for our Alumni activity and for amplifying Alumni stories and leadership opportunities.

I’m also working with my National Program Teammates who manage our Apprenticeship, and finding ways our Alumni can support our local efforts – particularly around supporting our Apprentices in sticking in the program, and looking ahead assisting with outplacement after they complete the Apprenticeship.

Otherwise, I’m also connecting with my local Program Staff and/or my Alumni volunteer leaders on how we can best align and coordinate our efforts.  I’ve become the master at googlehangouts and conference call platforms, as I host several of those a month.

I don’t have direct reports, but rather a mix of volunteers and local staff who have Alumni as a focus for their work – so my management style is grounded more on collaboration and shared aspiration, rather than “command and control.”  If anything, I lean on the community organizing skills I first learned while doing Independent Study as a junior.

What does an entry level role look like and entail?

At the National Office of Public Allies we don’t have a lot of entry level roles.  We’re pretty lean, and we’re responsible for a national network so all of us had prior roles before taking on our current gigs.

In terms of “entry level” in Public Allies, the Apprenticeship is the most analogous – where our Apprentices work 32 hours a week at a nonprofit organization, and then for 8 hours a week participate in team service projects (which they organize themselves), as well as participate in our leadership development curriculum.

What’s the best thing about working at Public Allies?

The best thing about working at Public Allies is that I’m surrounded by talented people who are really committed to the mission and vision of the organization.  Even though Public Allies has existed since the early 1990s, it’s maintained a sensibility of a “start-up” organization.  A lot of that is due to the fact that in the nonprofit sector, you tend to work lean anyway – the “startup vibe” comes from the ambition we have to make our mission come true, as well as our commitment to putting the organizations 5 core values first in our work.

Over the course of my time at Public Allies (as an Apprentice, as a Program Staff member in Chicago, and now at the National Office), I’ve also had the privilege of studying and learning the leading edge of leadership development theory.  I’ve got to learn the stories of thousands of diverse young leaders who’ve aspired (and still aspire) to change the world to make it better.  As a result I just get to be surrounded by impressive people who demand the best out of me, and who don’t take the status quo for granted.

We believe that “Everyone Leads” – which doesn’t mean that everyone is a “leader” by way of title, but rather everyone has gifts, and the responsibility to step up and lead by sharing that gift in service to making the community better.  I love that I get to be part of an organization that believes this and works every day to make that a reality.

What professional advice do you have for job-seeking graduating students interested in this field? For students who are early in their college careers?

For those who are job-seeking students interested in this field?  Get up on national service/AmeriCorps.  You’ve got the “Big Box Brands” like Teach For America, City Year, National Civilian Conservation Corps, or find a more localized/niche opportunity like Public Allies.  Yeah, I know the pay ain’t great, but if you can get a great cohort experience, that will go a long way towards assisting you in networking and building a strong foundation for a career in the “for-purpose” sector.

For those who are early in your college careers?   Volunteer and be engaged in your community.  Discover your gift and talent that can make your community better.  Hone your skills associated with empathy and understanding.  Get familiar with the structures of power and privilege in our society, and understand your role within them.

What does your work space look like?

Here’s my cubicle here at the Public Allies National Office.   Yes, there is a process and system here – but it’s just not obvious to the passerby.

Mac's workspace

What gadget, office tool or program can’t you live without?

Wow – I don’t think I can pick just one.   Let’s just say I was super psyched when we switched over from Microsoft Outlook to Google for Nonprofits several years ago.  Especially since I use googlehangouts a bunch for my virtual Alumni convenings.

What’s the best career or life advice you’ve received?

My first supervisor at the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention was Michael Johnson, who had logged many years doing youth development and gang violence prevention on the south and west sides of Chicago. (He’s now a CPS Elementary School Principal)  He was terrific as he took on a mentorship role for me, and I still remember his advice.  It came when I was struggling to put together a lesson plan for a series of statewide youth trainings.  I kept redoing the agenda over and over and driving myself insane with second guessing.   He finally took me aside and told me, “Mac, these kids may show up because of the program, but they’ll only come back because of the people.”  What I took from that I could have the best curriculum in the world, but it wouldn’t mean anything unless I brought my full authentic self to the role, and that I cared about who they were and about who they wanted to become as a result of our time together.  He was right – they did come back after I showed them I cared about them and believed in them, and because we created an environment where they met other like-minded and passionate leaders.

Even though I’m not doing dating violence education and gang violence prevention anymore, I still carry that same approach that Michael impressed upon me.  People and relationships matter, and I’m best served by tending to those with great care.

Mac, do you have any additional articles, websites, or resources you’d like to share with students exploring non-profit work?

Of course, I’m biased – check out www.publicallies.org, as we’re accepting applications for our 2015-2016 cohort.

I’m a big fan of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network – as they’ve built a national network of emerging leaders in the sector, and have a great blog.

In terms of my favorite thinkers in the work – Maurice Lim Miller is up there.  I’d say that his writing should be required reading before entering the field – explore a series of his essays from the Huffington Post.  “When Helping Doesn’t Help” is where I’d start, but it’s all gold.

Are you interested in learning about nonprofit organizations that are similar to Public Allies? Be sure to explore the following organizations.

  1. AmeriCorps
  2. City Year
  3. BUILD (Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development)
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