Janelle Farris was working as associate director of the Pratte Center for Community Development when she realized she wanted to learn more about the field of Organization Development. She already had a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and extensive non-profit management experience, but when she began to notice the impact Organization Development had on her job, she decided it would be helpful to study it full-time. Farris began looking for a program that “made the connection between theory and real-world practice” while also “showing appreciation for the nonprofit sector.” Her search led her straight to The New School’s Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment.
“Milano was a series of ‘aha’ moments,” Farris says. “I kept finding reasons for and descriptions of experiences I’d had managing staff. It was refreshing to better understand why it’s so hard to make sweeping, lasting change, and to gain tools that are helpful when I find myself in those situations today.” One of Farris’ favorite moments during the program came while working with fellow students on a consultant team. Her professor, Scott Gassman, invited the team to work with the Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI), a small all-volunteer organization. “Our consultant team helped them to see a bigger vision, to recognize that they needed to fundraise differently, and provided them with a road map for growth,” she says. Today, KAVI is a multi-million dollar enterprise. After graduating with her Post Master’s Certificate in Organization Development from Milano in 2013, Farris began working as Chief Operating Officer of Brooklyn Community Services, one of the oldest not-for-profit, non-sectarian social service providers in New York City and one of the largest in Brooklyn. By 2018, she was named BCS’s Executive Director and President. She says her time at The New School continues to impact the decisions she makes as she leads BCS. “I appreciate Milano’s values (of prompting, achieving, and sustaining social equity, civic engagement and economic inclusion),” Farris says. “I care deeply about them and work to make them an active part of (Brooklyn Community Service’s) culture and mission.”