How do you live the NEO values of embracing change, being innovative and forward thinking?
My time at NEO has offered many opportunities to develop and integrate innovation and forward thinking into my daily work life. Recently, I joined the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) working group with the purpose of expanding the practices of equity and justice internally as well as with our partners and projects. Drawing from my experiences in the maritime industry, I help my portfolio of FS projects to think creatively and outside of the box with unique approaches to their work that don’t always fit the mold of past practices.
What fuels your focus on social justice issues?
My first introduction to philanthropy and social justice occurred at the age of five, on a site visit with my mother to a Navajo reservation. My mom believed in broadening my compassion and worldview early, and did so through numerous site visits across the United States and Puerto Rico. These days, equal parts determination to make the world a better place, a taste for fine tea, and dark chocolate fuel my outlook on life.
Give us a peek of Maura outside of the office. What are your favorite things to do when you aren’t at work?
Outside my work with NEO, I am a licensed captain of traditionally rigged sailing vessels and wooden boats. I have sailed throughout the US, Great Lakes, and New Zealand leading professional crews, volunteers, and high school interns in conjunction with community-based, education non-profit organizations, which currently include the South Street Seaport Museum and Bayshore Center at Bivalve. I am inspired when kids of all ages, but particularly when little girls of color, realize that there’s someone who looks like them in command of a crew of professional mariners and who is continuing/promoting the tradition of marlinspike seamanship. I also enjoy international travel, creating new baking recipes, yoga, and shooting landscape photography.
Is working in social justice something you always knew you’d do or is it something you fell into?
Through my exposure to philanthropy during my childhood and adolescence, I started to recognize social justice as a potential career path, but not without a few other diversions, for example, my pre-med undergraduate track, environmental public health graduate work, and sailing professionally. My years of working with various non-profits to engage the local community focused not only on and around the water, but also connected the social and health issues associated with coastal living. I’ve always been centered on the idea of making the world a more just and equitable place.
What advice would you give someone beginning a career in social justice?
There are two keys facets to a full life: passion and balance, and the common denominator is time. If you can focus on what personally motivates you and incorporate that into the various aspects of your personal and professional life, it will lead to a better sense of fulfillment and happiness.