alumni Spotlight

October Alumni Spotlight with Jeanette Duffy, MPA ‘12


In this month's alumni spotlight we speak to MPA alumna and Chief Program Officer at Dress for Success Worldwide, Jeanette Duffy, covering her thoughts on the nonprofit sector, what she does at Dress for Success, and how her Marxe MPA experience contributed to her career.

What do you think the nonprofit sector needs? What do you bring to your work that meets this need?
I'm not a nonprofit professional. Instead, I consider myself a startup leader navigating innovation and scale in the nonprofit space.

There is so much learning and best practice coming from a business landscape dominated by startups that nonprofits can no longer afford to ignore. Imagine the impact on an entire generation if a life-changing product or program could become as accessible and ubiquitous as Netflix, Instagram, or Lyft? Comfort with risk, getting rid of red tape and investing in growth are all completely necessary strategies for nonprofits to adopt. This is how you scale, but this is also how you create the kind of organization and culture that will attract the right talent to make real and lasting change possible.

You’re relatively new at Dress for Success. Can you tell us about the mission there, what your role encompasses and what you hope to accomplish?
Dress for Success is an international organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. I'm one month in as Chief Program Officer for Dress for Success Worldwide [as of time of writing, July 2019], and it has been a privilege to see the heart and soul my new organization puts into delivering programs and experiences that elevate women, turning moments that matter into habits and skills that ensure a lifetime of success. I am excited to build on this work by introducing human-centered design. We're taking the time to listen to and learn from women, ensuring that their stories and needs remain the one "true north" in every decision we make. And while the first tenet of design thinking requires listening and learning before doing, I do come to my new role with a passion for technological solutions. LinkedIn Co-Founder and Silicon Valley Leader Reid Hoffman said it best: "Software is the medium by which we organize our thinking, by which we organize our thoughts, by which we find other people, by which we communicate." I cannot wait to see how many more moments that matter when can deliver when leveraging technology to reach and engage women wherever they are.

How did your Marxe MPA set you up for success?
If you want to live and work in New York City, you cannot beat the network you will become a part of as a Marxe Alumnus. When I came to Marxe to get an MPA focused in nonprofit administration, I considered it a transitional moment in my career--I had worked in the entertainment industry and made an intentional decision to do good (professionally, at least). Most of my professors were not just academics, but distinguished practitioners in their fields, bringing real world examples to the classroom. On an evening class track, most of my classmates were already nonprofit professionals looking to advance their careers. As someone in transition, l loved the instant sense of community that came from meeting and learning from so many people with shared passions.