What is your current position, place of work, and daily duties?
I’m the Executive Director of LOHF, the Lancaster Osteopathic Health Foundation, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. LOHF improves public health and well-being in Lancaster County by focusing on two intersecting goals: strengthening the capacity of the health care professional community, and improving children’s behavioral health services.
LOHF is an endowment created from the sale of a local hospital. It’s my job to manage operations, support our board of directors, lead strategic planning, and oversee communications including fundraising and grant writing. LOHF provides grants and scholarships, to advance mental wellness of children and youth in Lancaster County by facilitating access, education and coordination of resources.
What did you gain from your time in the MURP program and how did it help get you where you are now?
In the MURP program, I learned about grant writing, public policy, statistics, program evaluation, and asset based community planning. My internship during the MURP program continued until graduation when I was offered a full-time position as Program Officer at the Children and Families Commission of Orange County. In that position, I learned about the stewardship of public funds and community planning.
The most valuable experience I had during that time was supporting the “Building Healthy Communities” effort in central Santa Ana with The California Endowment and many residents and community organizations. This experience taught me the importance and value of authentic community engagement and planning. I use these skills every day.
My internship and position upon graduation introduced me to a career in philanthropy. When I moved back to Pennsylvania in 2010, I began a position as a Program Officer for a regional private foundation. In that position, I managed a portfolio of grant funds to schools, municipalities and community organizations to improve health and wellness for area residents.
Why did you choose the MURP program at UCI?
I chose the MURP program at UCI because it provided the opportunity to study urban and regional planning in the context of social ecology and public policy. Other programs focused on design, and with a BS in Geography, I was more interested in community systems change, policy analysis, and public administration.
Growing up in Pennsylvania and then studying abroad in Europe, I had spent most of my life in old, walkable cities. I was fascinated and confused by the concept of suburban sprawl and master planned communities. The MURP program at UCI offered an opportunity to immerse myself in a very different culture and planning approach than I knew.
What were some of your favorite classes and why?
In my first quarter, I took a grant writing class and met several MURP alumni who discussed their roles in county government and nonprofit organizations. This class introduced me to the broader context of resource allocation, funding, and public policy. I realized that grant funding and public policy has the opportunity to shape and build community change.
I enjoyed studying about the psychological effects of planning and design, and one of my favorite projects was a literature review of neighborhood design and family safety. I also learned a lot about public policy analysis in a class about how to diagram the effects of a piece of proposed legislation. I use those skills in advocating for change at the state and national level.
There were also classes in program evaluation that taught me how to structure and design pre- and post-tests to measure impact of a program in a community. I used these techniques in my master’s project with the Community Outreach Partnership Center and a local nonprofit organization.