Dynamic Duo: CEO, COO Participate in Prestigious Programs

Mar 8, 2023 | News, Policy & Practice

We regularly encourage the teens and young adults we support to step outside of their comfort zones. It’s how they grow. At Foster Success, we practice what we preach.

Both our President and CEO Maggie Stevens and Chief Operating Officer Monika Mala are participating in prestigious local programs – programs that scared them at first, but that they knew would allow them to grow personally and professionally, and would get the organization’s mission in front of new audiences.

Last August, Maggie was selected for the 2022 Class of Hoosier Women Forward, a civic leadership training program designed to empower women to become more active participants in politics and leaders in their communities. She has been with Foster Success for 5 ½ years, first as COO and now as CEO. She has a background and doctorate in higher education.

Monika is a Mosaic Fellow, through which she is serving on the Indy Arts Council’s board of directors. The fellowship was established in partnership with The Indianapolis Foundation, an affiliate of Central Indiana Community Foundation, and Leadership Indianapolis to increase diversity on local boards. She has been with Foster Success for three years. She also has a background and doctorate in education.

Elevating voices

Monika admittedly knew nothing about art going in, so for her, the challenge wasn’t just stretching herself professionally and committing to the three-year fellowship, it was also educating herself about exhibitions, galleries and public art.

“Some of it was overcoming imposter syndrome. This board is made up of really prominent people in the community, so I had to navigate how I fit into that so I could help the organization,” Monika said. “I approached it as if I didn’t know anything. That’s what’s been the most interesting part, learning more about my abilities and what I can offer.”

The arts council has put Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at the forefront of its work in the community by highlighting more artists of color.

“We’re working to elevate those voices through art, and that is something I connect with,” Monika said.

The fellowship also gives her an opportunity to branch out and do something different. As the COO, her focus is often on internal strategies, staff and programs.

“This gives me an opportunity to be external facing in a way that helps us then bring back best practices for our organization,” Monika said.

Her term ends in 2024.

Making connections

For Maggie, applying to Hoosier Women Forward wasn’t an easy decision.

“I went back and forth for a while. Ultimately, and maybe selfishly, I was looking for a space where I could invest in myself and grow my own leadership,” she said. “It felt like the time was right.”

As Foster Success’s president, Maggie has become more heavily involved in policy work over the last few years. With older foster youth by her side, they advocate for changes at the state and national levels on behalf of the 24,000 teens and young adults transitioning out of foster care in Indiana.

HWF is a diverse group of women of all ages and identities, she said. Some work for other nonprofits; some serve on city and town councils throughout the state; all want to be more involved in their communities.

“It really is a group of women trying to figure out where they might fit in and where they might make a difference. You’re meeting women from a variety of walks of lives and from a variety of backgrounds and making lasting connections,” Maggie said.

She also wanted to expand Foster Success’s footprint and gauge where we might be able to go next in terms of policy, she said. She will graduate from the program in May.

“The goal is to continue to get insights and perspectives as I am working to advance policies to better support our young people and to learn more about the inner workings of state and federal governments,” Maggie said. “My hope is that by taking this year to participate in HWF, I’ll be better prepared to improve the systems that surround our older foster youth.”

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