Meet the Experts: Inside the Research
For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed counting and categorizing things. As a young child, I created a catalog system for my personal library using both numbers and colors to distinguish the books in my collection. Math was always one of my favorite classes in school because it presented a puzzle that could be solved. I took a computer programming class in college—but while I enjoyed the challenge, I knew that as an extrovert I couldn’t spend all my time coding.
Parallel to my interest in math, was my love of art, dance, and theater. I grew up in a family of musicians. I studied ballet, tap, and jazz, and I performed in school plays and musicals. In college at Florida State University, U.S., alongside calculus and programming, I took drawing and painting classes. Originally, I had dreams of becoming a math teacher, but after my lackluster performance in calculus, I decided to take a different path. I chose to major in art history.
At first glance, art history seems to have no connection to math, but looking back, I can see that it provided my first experience in visual analysis. When I struggled to find work after college with an art history degree, I began to wonder if I could use my math and business skills to work for an arts organization. After researching my options, I decided to pursue a Master of Business Administration degree with concentrations in both arts administration and information systems management.
An amazing opportunity in my second year of graduate school helped to solidify my path. I was selected for a semester-long program to work as an intern at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., U.S. It broadened my knowledge of careers within museums and gave me the experience I needed to return to the Smithsonian Institution after graduation. I spent eight years working in the central advancement office as a business officer for one of the membership programs. I managed membership operations and learned about database management and reporting for fundraising. In other words, I was back to my happy place of counting and categorizing.
When the time came for my next challenge, I wanted to dive more deeply into data and analysis, so I accepted a position as a fundraising consultant in the Target Analytics division of software company Blackbaud. I was part of a team that analyzed fundraising performance, presented on benchmarking trends, and developed analytic dashboards for a wide range of nonprofits. It was at this job that I really began to understand the power of data for strategic decision-making. I learned how to present data in a way that was easiest for users to understand, and I loved solving the puzzle of how to best visualize and convey the story behind the data.
Joining CASE in January 2022 as the Senior Director of Research felt like the perfect culmination of all my work experience. While my day-to-day work allows me to focus on the research and benchmarks that I have always loved, what I most enjoy about this role are the relationships I have built with members, volunteers, and CASE staff around the world. I am thrilled to continue learning about advancement professionals’ needs and how we can best serve you.
Now with the data, standards, and research provided through CASE Insights℠—previously AMAtlas—our CASE data team is even better positioned to help you make data-informed decisions that lead to greater impact for your institution. The new name and look highlights the deeper understanding that data offer us—the insights—that are available to you no matter the size, focus, or location of your schools, universities, and colleges. I’m thrilled to be here, working with so many of you, in my happy place: exploring the art and science of data.
Article appears in:
March - April 2023
DIGITAL ONLY ISSUE - Measures of Success: Five teams share stories of data in action. Plus a spotlight on sustainability: fundraising for climate initiatives, digital sustainability, and storytelling about climate change.