Thursday marks the end of my first six months as a development officer at Loras College. I joined the staff of Iowa’s oldest college on June 1.
So far, the new job has been a great career move. I’ve met dozens of great Duhawks, traveled to places I hadn’t previously visited, found a clearly defined career path and started working for better pay and benefits. A bright future awaits.
For a few minutes, however, I’d like to look back and reflect on lessons learned in the process of leaving old jobs for new ones. Prior to arriving at Loras, I worked 3 1/2 years at Muscatine Center for Social Action, which runs a homeless shelter, a homeless prevention program and a domestic violence shelter in Muscatine, Iowa. I started at MCSA in late October 2012, some eight months after being downsized from my last newspaper job. Technically, it was the first time in my life I had been unemployed even though I worked in a combination of part-time jobs during those eight long and anxious months.
I will be forever grateful to everyone at MCSA who gambled that an old newspaper guy could learn how to write grants, raise money and generate awareness for a nonprofit organization that literally had hundreds of great stories to tell. Essentially, MCSA offered me the kind of professional opportunity it offers on a personal level to the hundreds of people whose lives it helps rebuild — especially those who are really committed to bettering themselves.
In return, MCSA benefited from having an employee who tried hard and showed improvement each year during his tenure there. Would MCSA have survived — maybe even thrived — without me? You bet. But I literally don’t know what I would have done without that job. Without it, I could have easily wound up as a resident at MCSA.
Instead, MCSA changed my life. The process of beginning a new career and then gradually finding some success helped show me the path to climb out of other ruts in which I had been stuck for many years. Some big changes followed, including a divorce in 2014. Ultimately, all of this led to my looking for better opportunities beyond MCSA and Muscatine. I didn’t want to find myself in another rut and it was time to acknowledge my passion for MCSA had faded a bit.
At the time, it felt as if the organization’s leadership had chartered a course for the future that maybe didn’t really include me. The former executive director was allowed to step down into a position with less authority and responsibility, but remained in a position of leadership. A longtime board member was hired as the new executive director, presumably with a significantly improved salary for the position. It was all kind of secretive and not well communicated. It felt as if my leadership role had been diminished while the expectations to raise even more money had been increased.
I don’t mean for that previous paragraph to sound as bitter as it probably does. After the passage of six months, maybe I’m just a bit introspective and feel like telling all of this to the 12 people who may read it.
But no one should misunderstand how important MCSA’s role is in Muscatine and how proud I always will be of my connection to the organization. Make no mistake about my view: The new executive director is the right person for the position. MCSA is lucky to have her and will be even luckier if she stays for years to come. It is also lucky to have Jerry Riibe, the school superintendent in Muscatine, as the president of MCSA’s Board of Directors. He is a much better leader than were his immediate predecessors as the board president.
But for any organization to thrive, it can’t have a key employee who feels as if he is on the outside looking in, so MCSA is better off without me. And I’m better off, too. Blessed, in fact, to have a great opportunity at Loras that I would have never been qualified for without the many lessons I learned at MCSA. And for that, I say thank you to everyone involved and wish only the best for you and for MCSA in the future.