Career Exploration

 

As the Director of Service Programs at the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, Katherine Keegan oversees the AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps State & National, and Workforce Infusion (WFI) Programs. She also co-leads the Texas Family Literacy Initiative, a network of 30 literacy providers in Central Texas.

Was there something in particular that led you to seek out this line of work?
I am really passionate about coalition building, and the Literacy Coalition, AmeriCorps, and WFI are all about building partnerships that help improve local nonprofits’ ability to more effectively and efficiently serve more community members.  I am energized by finding new avenues for collaborations between programs that reduce competition and increase impact, and I feel lucky to find an organization and position where the focus is just that.

What is a typical day at your job like?
Since AmeriCorps and our WFI grant work on fairly predictable cycles, on any given day, we’re in one of three stages –recruitment/onboarding, member management, or exiting for our programs. On top of that we regularly report to our funders, meet with potential new host sites, manage relationships with site supervisors and partners, and navigate any crises that come up with members or their supervisors.

What types of skills are required in this particular line of work?
Relational skills: whether it’s with an AmeriCorps member, a colleague, a board member, or a future host site, communication, listening skills, and relationship building skills are a huge part of the day to day work.

Attention to detail: there are details that are critical to the continued funding of our programs. If you’re not able to pay attention to them and adhere to all of the program compliance requirements for all of our different funders, then you’ll have a really tough time.

Project management skills
: time management, prioritization, Gantt charts, workflows, and clear processes are all critical to us being able to do our best job. When we’re working with lots of different people on lots of different projects, you have to feel comfortable managing each of them effectively and efficiently.

Program evaluation
: For each program, we have to develop outputs and outcomes so we can measure our interventions’ efficacy.  Elements of program evaluation have helped me understand the ways our funders evaluate our programs, and how to ensure that our interventions are effective for the people we serve.

How did your MSW or MSSW prepare you for this job?
My MSSW helped me further develop my relational skills and program evaluation skills.  The social justice component of the MSSW education and the principles of social work form the backbone for all the work I’m doing. I use the strengths-based and client-centered approach that I learned in the MSSW program every day with colleagues, clients, AmeriCorps members, and partners.

What kind of students might enjoy this line of work?
CAL/APP students that are interested in managing federal grants and coalition building, as well as anyone with a passion for and/or experience with national service.

Is there anything that might surprise people about this line of work?
I was surprised about how much I enjoyed being connected to the larger national service umbrella. There are over 75,000 AmeriCorps State & National members and over 7,000 AmeriCorps VISTA members serving each year. This is a gigantic network to tap into and a great place to learn about countless nonprofits doing incredible work throughout the country.