Date: March 17, 2022
- What do you want people to know about you? Describe yourself in 6 words.
Erica: Six words, ooh that’s always challenging. I would say that I am a leader, a visionary, a development professional, an advocate and a dancer/poet.
Tell us your name, your business name or industry, location and description. Why are you in this field? How did you get here?
Erica: Well my origin story, you can call it, is that I started doing a lot of dance , which took me to Paris. I spent a year and a half studying and doing dance. And I woke up one day saying you are not a dancer , you are not really good enough to be a dancer. So then I discovered a field of Arts and Administration, so I moved into New York and got into Arts and Administration professionally. And then like many young people, I found an internship and a mentor, that was at the Paul Taylor Dance Company, through that mentorship it became a job. I then discovered development and fundraising . I discovered that I was wonderfully talented at bringing people together and connecting all kinds of people at the finance side , the writing side, the communication side. I loved the work itself and the arts because that was my background. That grew into other things , opportunities at larger arts organizations, I worked at Columbia at NYU. Then eventually led me to my work here at SUNY New Paltz.
- What was your single biggest challenge in running your business or working in your industry throughout the pandemic?
Erica: Well we launched 7 years ago, the very first ever fundraising campaign in the entire history of SUNY New Paltz called Soaring Higher. We launched it in the pandemic year this ending 2021, that year was supposed to be the very last year of our campaign. And here we were suddenly unable to travel, unable to go to meetings, and unable to meet with big donors… We had to pivot with all of our events like everybody. We had this pressure of our goal, our 23 million dollar goal and it was terrifying to determine how we were going to do that. I’m really pleased to say that we actually surpassed our goal, we raised 24.7 million.
- Like the Elton John song, you are still standing. Where does your resilience come from and how do you tap into it?
Erica: I have three things. One is I think a lot about my origin story , where I came from, my grandparents on both sides of my family. I think about my Jewish side of my family where they were at a different phase in the immigrant experience and were a little bit better off than others. I think about my Catholic side of my family, very working class, cleaning houses and how they came together. Which allowed me to see all of humanity, and so I love to carry that with me in my soul… Those people give me strength. You’ve heard about our students, I am mission driven in a way. I need to know that when I die, I left the world better than I found it. That comes down to helping a person. It’s not always systemic change… The last thing I want to say is that I find that being honest is really key to my inner resilience.
- Any mistake you made that you want to prevent others from making?
Erica: One of the things that I have been thinking about lately is who is at the table and making sure that with particularly very large discussions. In my field that can range from an important donation being made you sort of want to make sure that you are talking to the stakeholders around them… Maybe you don’t know who should be at the table, you can’t actually see that , you don’t know , so maybe having a few trusted people around you , who you can say “Did I forget anything?” “Did I forget anyone?” I think this prevents a lot of mistakes who should be part of this conversation.
- Each one. Teach one. Suggest a book, song, course, program for our listeners.
Erica: So there is one business thing and there is one personal thing. So the business thing is to listen to Adam Grant’s podcast, it has changed my life. It is called Work Life. He has all sorts of guest speakers on it, you can listen to the guest speakers podcast and follow them. The other thing is in terms of my personal well being is I dance to one song at least everyday. One of the songs I’ve been listening to a lot is Aretha Franklin’s version of “Let it Be”. One day I think I listened to it 24 times! Listen to one song for a moment and those 5 minute can change your mood for the whole day.