Words by Lauren van Schepen and Hannah Burchill // Photos by Marie Ketring
It’s common for change to be the only constant in a young nonprofit professional’s life. At its best, it’s invigorating. At its worst, it’s exhausting. The draw of new experiences can be strong, especially in sectors with undefined career ladders and where switching organizations is often the surest way to a promotion. But this constant change can feel directionless. Luckily YNPN-TC members and Pollenites had a chance to hear Jamie Schumacher, executive director at the West Bank Business Association, speak about the circuitous route to her current position and her firm belief in exploration.
Jamie’s professional experience ranges from art galleries to coffee companies, graduate school to community development, and theater to nonprofit administration. The skills she gathered from this multitude of positions led Jamie to her current role at the West Bank Business Association.
The West Bank is home to over 200 businesses, three higher education institutions (The University of Minnesota, St. Kate’s, and Augsburg College), and is easily walkable and accessible by transit. This unique combination is the perfect setting for community engagement and development, Schumacher found.
That’s not to say Schumacher has been free of challenges. She’s guided organizations through financial and strategic confusion, and worked hard to create an active and engaged board in her role at WBBA. “You have to stop thinking of it as a hierarchy and establish more of a flat leadership structure. Everyone has a role. Everyone has a part to play,” she explained.
Schumacher is still balancing a lot of roles herself — she’s an executive director, an artist, a wife, and mother. But it’s clear she too has found her part to play on the West Bank and in the nonprofit sector. It’s a fact that was reassuring to the 20 young professionals, in the process of finding their own paths, who attended the breakfast.
Even though the nonprofit sector is very innovative, there’s still more to do. Jamie’s encouragement to think outside the box really resonated with me. I’m excited to take the energy from this event back to my organization.
I came excited to hear about Jamie’s versatile background and the career she made from her passions and experiences. She certainly didn’t disappoint. It feels good to know you can bounce around following your hopes and interests, and that you can turn that into a career you’re passionate about. You can be successful in whatever way you define success. Jamie is a good example of that.
This piece is a summary of a conversation with Jamie Schumacher, which took place at the Southern Theater on March 13, 2015, as part of Pollen and YNPN-TC’s joint Breakfast of Champions series. For more information, or to register for an upcoming event, check ynpntwincities.org.