Hi Everyone, my name is Madeline King, and I am the Conference and Event Planning Fellow at Global Minds Initiative. I’m excited to interview Global Minds Board Member and the new president of the World Affairs Council, Betty Cruz.
What is the World Affairs Council?
I will start by just sharing what our mission is, but I will elaborate on that a little bit. The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh’s mission is to provide a pathway for a more globally minded region. We do this by offering students and the community a learning space that covers key international issues. More broadly speaking, we’ve been around for almost 90 years, so next year we turn 90. We recognize that global engagement is essential, and we talk about that by saying global learning or global education, but we don’t mean just education that happens in the classroom. Although that is part of our approach, it’s also the education that occurs in the community. We’re working with students to equip them best to be globally-minded future leaders, which they will become. Also, making sure teachers that they work with, and their families and others have the resources they need, the curriculum, the materials they need to best support youth as they become these globally-minded future leaders. And then on the flip side, how are we doing this work in the community to have conversations around why global engagement matters. To talk about policy issues and things that are happening around the world in a way that feels relevant to Pittsburgh, not in a way that furthers this idea, “that’s happening far away over there,” but rather, things that are global also matter at the local level and are very much in a way beyond what we might even realize, impacted at the local level and intertwined with what happens at the local level. And I think the global pandemic we’re experiencing right now is an unfortunate but very real example of that.
What is your position at the WAC?
I’m the president and CEO and I stepped into that role January 21st, so I’d been in the role less than two months before we realized that we were all together in a state of global pandemic and our team went remote.
How has social distancing and working from home been going for you?
To be honest, on a personal level, I think it’s fine because I’m someone who navigates between being an introvert and an extrovert. I’m an extrovert when I have to be, and it’s part of my professional side of life, but I very much recharge by being alone. I like to have that solitude and that space to think and crank out the work that’s needed, so the physical isolation of having to work from home hasn’t been the issue. Id say I’m even busier now that I was before. There were already a lot of things we were plotting and working on, strategic assessments of where we are, as this long-standing institution, and where we’re going. We have a lot of really exciting partnership opportunities and things that we’re exploring that we’ll be rolling out over the next several months. What’s added to the regular flow of the day is factoring in this virtual reality we’re all now in as well, and how we can be responsive and layer in programming and resources and stories that are relevant and useful to our community at this moment. I think that we’ve turned up the dial in terms of our workload, that’s another piece of it. I don’t have kids, so I don’t feel the added weight that my teammates and colleagues who do have kids and are now not just juggling their day to day work and some of these other aspects that we’re taking on as an organization. They’re also now teachers or extra caregivers, beyond what they already were as parents or children in the case of folks who are caring for older adults. That’s another part of what’s not normal, making sure we’re thoughtful with the team and working with them and reminding them to take time and space for themselves. And just a constant reminder to all of us that this is not normal, so don’t think that you have to go about life and work in the way you always have, we’re learning and working together through it.
Can you share about any current projects?
We have a few different programs. Our youth education side has things that had already been happening virtually. Our public program side, which is the work we’re doing more broadly with the community at large, that was exclusively in person, so we have a lineup of different types of programs that we’re going to be launching at the end of May. We have four areas that make up our public programming that we’re going to be doing virtually and piloting, we haven’t done it this way in the past, but again this need and opportunity is creating a chance for us to respond this way. So our public program we’re going to focus it in four ways virtually, one is around Pittsburgh’s ingenuity, so we want to talk about really innovative things that are coming out of Pittsburgh that impact the world. The other is world recess, which is going to be more of just a playful time to come together, and we’ll be featuring local cooks doing international food and cooking with them, or we’ll do a game, so a much more relaxed hour of coming together. We have community gatherings, where we’re going to come together as a global community. We’re going to be talking to folks in other parts of the world to understand what their life looks like these days, how they are coping and have some city to city lessons from everyday community members. The fourth area is called the Learning Hour, where we’re going back to the basics of the way the council has engaged our network in the past. In the past, we had a heavy program schedule that included lessons from ambassadors from different parts of the world or different types of subject matter experts and really going deep on a specific area.
What was your position prior to working for the WAC, while you were on the Global Minds Board?
I had my own organization called Change Agency, and we were a social enterprise business, so I had a few different projects that I worked on, the one that took up most of my time that was my full-time focus is called All For All. All For All is an immigrant inclusion initiative in our region centered on how we’re making Pittsburgh welcoming for all of our residents no matter how they got here. Also, thinking about the bridge-building that needs to happen between the immigrant community and the black American community and other US-born community members, people from all different identities and backgrounds, and experiences. We launched Change Agency in September of 2016 and launched All For All simultaneously as our first big project. I did work on a few other things simultaneously; we did a project for the census working with the city and the county to help them create a streamlined strategy on community engagement for the census to make sure everyone gets counted. We also worked on a project called Age-Friendly Greater Pittsburgh, which is how we can build a region that is more inclusive of older adults and intergenerational voices. So yeah, that’s what I was doing when I met Peyton, I had just started Change Agency. She was just beginning to look for funding to launch Global Minds; I think we met in December 2016.
How does the Global Minds board operate?
Just like how any board operates [Peyton and I] met when we were both at an info session for a funding opportunity, and we stayed in touch. She invited me to join her board, and then through conversations that we had and that she had with other and relationships she was building with community leaders, she identified other board members to bring along and to recruit. I haven’t been officially on the board since January, but I always tried to be a sounding board to Peyton so in terms of my role as a board member, giving lots of feedback, trying to support Peyton as the founder and leader of the organization in any way she needed, not getting in her way. I think an essential part of the board is to make sure that the organization is meeting its fiduciary responsibilities so that it’s managing its money well, that it’s getting the money it needs to be able to do the work. Also making sure it has an actual strategy in place so that it knows what’s the problem that they exist to solve and how they are working for it. But at the end of the day getting out of the way of the team and the staff that’s how you bring this work to life. That’s the magic that happens with the team, and as the board is important to know how you can be helpful and how you can step back. So really being a champion, being a thought partner, and being an investor in terms of giving what we can to support Global MInds are the critical factors of any good board member.
How does the Global Minds Adult Board interact with the student board?
From my experience, I felt that the youth board was integrated every step of the way. A lot of times, the youth board lead little exercises to create team-building and dialogue between the youth board and the adult board. The youth board was fully present for the traditional board meeting part as well when we’re talking through financials and strategy. To me, the youth board was essential to making all the pieces of the board meeting come to life both in presence in the physical space when we were there, building a relationship with the board members, and being part of the conversations.