Going back to when you first started with your organization to now, what has been your proudest personal accomplishment?
We have developed a couple of amazing programs and partnerships that I am very proud to be a part of. The App-titude program, in partnership with United Way of Broward County and FAU, helps high school students learn about the science behind the Museum’s exhibits and also guest interaction over a 6 month internship. They then attend FAU’s coding program to create smart apps to improve the visitor experience. Their apps were phenomenal and beyond our expectations.
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I work with such a great group of people, both co-workers and community partners. We all work together to create dynamic programs that provide STEM education to our community. There are no limits in STEM and pushing the envelope is exciting. I believe a good team starts at the top and we are lucky to have such an established and talented CEO like Kim Cavendish at our helm.
Do you have a mentor; someone who has been there to guide you or consult with you when you needed their input?
I have quite a few people who are 100% there for me, but also willing to give constructive feedback when I need it. I met Lee Sheffield while at Kids In Distress and she was a Board Member. She has been such a great friend to me and has helped guide me at every crossroad in my non-profit career. My oldest sister Michelle is a hospital administrator and she and I have navigated some major career changes and having a child at the same time, so have naturally been a support system in many ways for each other. My predecessor, Patrick Flynn had a tremendous influence on me and I value his opinion and his feedback is always spot on to this day.
You are out in the public arena quite often; who is the most interesting person you have ever met?
My early career was in fashion production and celebrity events, as well as many special projects over the years including the Super Bowl, VMA Awards, NBA All Stars, MLB All Stars, Presidential Inaugurals Ball, Summit of the G-8 events (when there was still a G-8), concerts for U2/Rolling Stones/The Three Tenors, and more US Opens than I can count. At one event in Philadelphia, I was fortunate to meet all the living US Presidents except for Reagan as Nancy came in his place due to his failing health. So between the talent we coordinated for these events and the attendees, I have been lucky to meet some outstanding people. But I will have to say the most interesting person I have ever met is Barrington Irving, a local aviation hero who was the youngest person to fly solo around the globe in 2007. He is barely 30 years old and has accomplished so much, and recently did another global aerial trek last fall. On top of that he is committed to creating dynamic science education programs that excite young people and break down the concepts so they can easily understand complex ideas. Everyday he is shaping the future minds and leaders of our world. What stands out about Barrington is his amazing charisma, limitless energy and lack of ego in what he does. Talk about inspiration, ten minutes with him makes you want to move mountains.
What program with your organization do you get the most excited about?
Another program that touches my heart is the partnership with Camp DMC supported by Lorraine Thomas. The MODS team provides science curriculum to the summer camp program at Miami Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Center and also provides field trips for these amazing kids who have developmental disabilities. Melissa Wetzel and her team are really on top of their game so everything is seamless.
How did you determine which charitable organizations you would support?
I go with my personal experiences like everyone else, things that touch me, and have made an impression in some way. I support Susan G Komen because my phenomenal sister-in-law Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer, Ann Storck Center because my nephew has autism, Big Brothers Big Sisters because I used to be a big and know how much the program means to those kids, and Pinion because the Special Olympics inspire me.
Is there a charitable event(s) you really look forward to attending each year?
I truly look forward to MODS Wine Spirits & Culinary Celebration. With over 1600 guests, I get to see most people in one night so is a good way to catch up and enjoy some of the best restaurants at the same time. I also always attend Susan G Komen’s Race for the Cure, Pinion’s annual luncheon and the Ann Storck Center Celebrity Chefs event.
How have things changed for you through the years?
Having a child changes everything – my outlook, priorities and even my dreams have shifted. As Jake grows older and his needs have changed I have had to adjust my time commitments and schedule as well. You can always plan on one thing that will never change and that is that everything is always changing.
What is your greatest strength(s) that makes you such an asset to your organization?
I am intrinsically motivated and love science and education, so that passion motivates me to give everything I can at every turn. I am very social by nature and enjoy meeting new people which helps me create positive relationships with co-workers, benefactors, volunteers and more.
What is your greatest challenge at this time?
Trying to focus my energies on key initiatives and prioritize things that are meaningful to me both professionally and personally. There are always so many amazing opportunities that come my way at the Museum and I wish there was unlimited time and resources to get involved with more projects.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness is a myth as nothing is perfect. The things I cherish always seem to have a few imperfections that make them unique or have a little edge.
What is the most important thing you have learned through the years?
That it is OK to not be perfect, which is a relative idea anyway. Also that no one can do more than one thing at a time, multi-tasking is a scientific impossibility. You can have many projects in flux, but can only physically do one thing at a time.
How do you relax?
I love to read and finish two or more books a week. I love the quiet in the morning and at night when I can turn on my Kindle and explore new worlds, experiences and ideas at the touch of a button.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
I enjoy traveling and have a plan to complete visits to all the continents in the next three years, but the perfect vacation includes walking along the shores of Lake Michigan watching the sun set and listening to the waves and enjoying the breeze.
What do you wish you could have a never-ending supply of?
Without a doubt – energy. My Mommy has more energy than anyone I know and I don’t know where she gets it. As you age, some things do take a little more concentrated effort and preparation.
If you found a treasure chest – and you could keep it, what would you want to be in it?
I would love to find ancient artifacts, especially personal journals and photographs. Antique Roadshow is my favorite show.
How can we reach out to other people in the world?
Smile as you pass people on the streets, make conversation with the people you are next to in line, an elevator etc. You can connect in so many ways. Limitless.
Is there an inspirational book you have read that you would recommend to others?
I really like the book Invention of Wings. Books where characters are ahead of their time and face public persecution to stand up to do what is right inspire me. There is no argument anyone can make why everyone can’t be treated with respect and dignity.
What can make you laugh?
Pretty much anything. I come from a very large and gregarious family and everyone was always telling funny stories and jokes. When my Grandfather died, we laughed way more than we cried at the funeral as everyone shared their memories. I usually try to find the humor in any situation, it certainly helps to laugh through the pain.
What can make you cry?
Ever since having Jake, I pretty much can tear up at anything. Before that I never remember crying about anything. If something is touching or inspiring I will tear up. As Jen Klaassens would say – I am a proud card carrying member of the Cry Baby Club.
Are you where you hoped you would be at this point in your life?
I never had a desire to have children initially, so that life event made me reevaluate what I thought I wanted to achieve. I still have a lot to do, but am very happy with the choices I have made.
What do you still hope to accomplish?
Once Jake is off to college I would like to work for an agency that does international relief work. I also write and would like to self-publish one of my stories sometime in the next decade.
Is there a fond childhood memory you can share with us?
My Mommy would drive us around to see all the Christmas lights and would sing carols. There are so many little moments like that, too many to count. I still am more impressed with experiences that have depth and simplicity instead of pomp and circumstance.
When you were a little girl, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
I remember wanting to win the lottery so that I could start a home for people who were homeless or had abusive environments.
What is your vision and hope for the future?
That we all start respecting and appreciating each other more. Variety is the spice of life and the world takes all types. Otherwise, things would be so boring and predictable.
What do you think is the biggest problem we are facing in this country today?
I think our biggest problem is we are becoming disconnected from each other and failing to listen and empathize. I have always found we are so much more alike than we will ever be different.
How do you want to be remembered by future generations?
I don’t really care if anyone remembers me personally, but I just want to know that I did the best I could with what I had to offer.
What do your want your epitaph to read?
This lady made me laugh and feel loved.
Do you have a motto, or some words of wisdom, that has guided you through your life?
We’re not saving the whales here. I have always been taught to keep things in perspective. Although, I do think saving the whales is a fantastic thing!
What word best describes your life right now?
Crossroads – all the roads seem to be converging at once.
What charitable organizations are you involved with at this time?
Obviously MODS. Significantly involved with Susan G Komen, Ann Storck Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Pinion, but many others in small ways CDTC, 211-Broward, Ghost Light Society, etc.
What is your proudest achievement?
My son Jake.
What is something your parents taught you that you will never forget?
To always be myself. My Gran used to say that she would have no qualms having a cup of tea with the Queen. That woman was something special and loved and laughed with the best of them.
If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title of it be?
The Art of Making Friends
Who is your hero?
In order to thrive and survive in the corporate workplace, we sometimes have to desensitize ourselves in order to get ahead. Not being real and authentic, isn’t that a big sacrifice to make?
I would never sacrifice being real or authentic. People are very intuitive and can tell there is something off when you try to portray yourself as something you are not. It backfires in a big way. Trust is everything.
How does one hold on to their true self in the corporate world and still become successful?
Perseverance. Being unwilling to compromise yourself. There are opportunities for positive growth and improvement, but changing who you are is non-negotiable.
How do you stay so motivated and committed?
I have a lot of passion and am careful to only get involved with things that mean something to me. I get that from my Mommy. We just always keep going. Her Mother was the same and was on the executive board for 4 organizations when she died in her late 70’s and was also caring for my Grandfather who had Alzheimer’s’ and rarely ever missed a meeting.
When does someone know when it’s time to move on?
When you have to force yourself to do something. We all have bad days, but if it becomes a habit – you are in the wrong place or around the wrong people.
What are your favorite leisure time activities or hobbies?
Going to concerts, reading, paddle boarding, skiing, traveling.
What is your favorite sport?
Football. Go STATE!
Do you feel women have made progress in their quest to be treated fairly and equally in the workplace?
I don’t think we have done enough. People really fought for their rights decades ago, and I think we have not slid backwards, but have failed to continue to make progress.
How does the “seasoned” woman compete in a marketplace that is focused on looking and being young?
I look younger than I am and I think that backfires in some instances. Experience and wisdom are valuable. I am not concerned with age or how I look.
Is there a special “aha” moment in your life when you knew “I get it now!”?
Many ‘aha’ moments. The older you get the more clichés start making sense to you.
You are evidently a very capable and talented woman/man, what other talent do you wish you had been born with?
I wish I could sing. It is like screeching cats.
What is the best book you have ever read?
Too many to list.
What’s the best movie you have ever seen?
Boyhood. Beyond phenomenal to have the same cast for 12 years, story line was beyond and the main character reminded me of my Jake. Shawshank is one of the few films I have seen many times, but that is #1 on almost any list.
What three things are always in your refrigerator?
Watermelon, Fresca, yogurt.
What is your most treasured possession?
I am not really attached to things in anyway. Just my son.
What is your greatest indulgence?
All day moviethons. Once or twice a year, I blow off a whole Saturday or Sunday.
What is your favorite store for clothes shopping?
I do not like to shop, it is the last thing I want to do with free time. But I do appreciate the dress department at Bloomindale’s.
What magazine do you look forward to reading each week/month?
I don’t really read magazines, used to have a subscription to the New Yorker, but all that paper waste makes me crazy.
What is your favorite restaurant?
Again, too many too count, depends on fare.
What will we find you doing on a Saturday night?
Usually at home watching a movie. Saturday nights are for amateurs, lol.
What is your favorite room in your house?
My sitting lounge by the pool
If your house was up for sale, and a potential buyer did a walk through, what would your home say about you?
Modern mixed with personal collected pieces. Function over form. No tchotchkes.
What is your pet peeve?
What is your greatest strength?
Compassion for others
What is your greatest weakness?
Lack of patience
What are you most disciplined about?
I am really not that structured or specifically regimented. With everyday comes something different. The only thing I can say I do everyday is brush my teeth and take vitamins.
If there were a movie being made about your life, what actor/actress would best play you?
I can’t even begin to imagine that happening, nor would I invite that kind of attention or scrutiny. People who do are very brave.
What is a moment you will never forget?
When my son was born, and not just because I had a natural birth.
What is something you have learned from a pet?
Love is unconditional
If you were going to be on a Space Shuttle for about a year, what one item would you have to take with you?
Do you have a Fashion Addiction?
Not at all, but I do appreciate a stellar pair of shoes or handbag.
What is your favorite snack?
Popcorn at the movie theater
What is your favorite Ice Cream flavor?
Haagen Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter
What is your biggest fear?
That I won’t get to see my son reach adulthood
What do you like the most about yourself?
That I am very accepting of others
What would you still like to learn how to do?
Play the guitar
What do you have to say to all the young women/men out there ready to take on the future?
You will never regret doing something, but you will regret not taking some risks and going for it.
How do we get our young people more interested in charitable giving and community volunteering?
I think the school required hours are a good thing as all have to do something in order to graduate. High levels of community involvement is usually something you gain from your family and early experiences.
What would you like to see happen in our world, let’s say, five years from now?
That we speed up our alternative energy initiatives and improve emissions and waste.
What is the greatest problem we are facing in this country today?
Environmental impact of excessive lifestyle choices. Sustainability can’t be achieved when one person uses 10 times the amount of resources as another.
What can we personally do to make things better for future generations?
Live your life with purpose and truth. As Malala said – why are we are all waiting for another Martin Luther King or Ghandi. They were just ordinary men like us who did something extraordinary. We all can make a difference.