Meagan Darrow (pictured left) and Meghan Goldenberger (pictured right) attended Western Washington University(WWU) for undergrad, studying Community Health Education and earning their Bachelor of Science degrees just a few years apart from one another. Goldenberger worked in public health doing substance abuse prevention and education in Skagit County then in healthcare administration in Seattle before landing back in her hometown of Olympia working at TOGETHER! in 2006. After graduating from WWU, Darrow worked as a Nutrition Educator in Title I schools in South King County through Washington State University’s King County Extension Food $ense program. She then moved to work for Tukwila School District writing school health policies then moved on to a nonprofit called Community Schools Collaboration as their Health Director, implementing public health strategies in public schools and communities in South King County. After her husband was transferred to Olympia for his job, she had her first child, and was hired on at TOGETHER!.
Darrow knew she wanted to either get a Master’s in Public Health or Nonprofit Administration. She had heard about Evergreen’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program through information sessions. Meagan also sat in on a class both at Evergreen and the University of Washington Public Health program.
Having gone through K-12 schooling in Thurston County, Goldenberger knew about Evergreen and grew up swimming there as a child. Evergreen was already a treasure in her family as they initially moved to Olympia from Montana when she was a child so her mom could finish her Bachelors studies at Evergreen, after attending Evergreen in the 70s. Meghan has also taken a digital media course at Evergreen on a summer off between academic years at WWU.
Applying for MPA at Evergreen
Darrow applied to the program first but deferred initially, and then Goldenberger hired Darrow at TOGETHER! in 2011. As Darrow and another colleague talked about graduate school, a fire was lit for Goldenberger, who applied at the late deadline in 2012. The two found Evergreen’s evening and weekend studies Master of Public Administration program highly attractive for several reasons including accessibility for working people and young parents raising their families, as well as its reputation and great return on investment.
The two listed the following among some of their favorite experiences in the program:
- Applying learnings in the workplace
- Hearing from other professionals currently working in the field of nonprofits and their honest accounts of the landscape
- The cohort model - They loved having the same people for two years in their core cohort and getting to know them
- Joint sessions with the Tribal MPA program
- Going back to listen to MPA capstones after they had graduated to learn from current MPA students
Advice for Current and Prospective Students
Prospective students: Goldenberger – “Definitely apply! You don’t have much to lose. The program is a doorway to expanding your knowledge, skill, ability and many job and career changes are possible as a result. It’s also a real value for the money. You will never regret it once you’ve graduated. There are times when it’s challenging to balance work and life and school, but it is completely worth it. An immense amount of personal and professional growth happens in this program, and the connections you make are amazing. Your fellow students will become your friends, your employees, your supervisors, and your peers in your fields and workplaces.”
Current students: Darrow – “Listen to the feedback from your colleagues and faculty. Use them to broaden your perspectives. If you are unemployed or underemployed use this time to network with other professionals in and outside of the program. Do your research where you want to work, partner with people who could hire you. Also - all of your MPA program time is like an interview - people in the class, the professionals you partner with outside the program can be resources, references and a network to help you go where you want in your career.”
Post MPA Work
Meghan and Meagan still run TOGETHER!, together and they have been up to a lot. At the beginning of their second MPA year, Meghan and Meagan were given the opportunity to run TOGETHER! collaboratively. During the MPA program they dreamed about what their organization could be and what aspects of team development, workplace culture, and innovation were missing from the work. The year they became co-leaders at TOGETHER!, their organization grew and then kept growing. From 2014-2018, their organization’s budget tripled in size, they went from 9 employees to 35 employees, and increased their capacity to serve more children and families.
TOGETHER! as an organization and individiually, the two have been awarded a lot of kudos:
- 2015 Lacey Chamber of Commerce Workplace Excellence Award
- 2015 YWCA of Olympia’s Women of Achievement Award - Organizational Award
- 2016 Meagan Darrow Thurston County Chamber Boss of the Year
- 2017 Meagan Darrow Rotarian of the Year at Tumwater Rotary
- 2018 Meghan Goldenberger Creating Positive Change President’s Award at Gateway Rotary
- 2019 Thurston County Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Leadership Award
Other projects that the two shared were:
- Teaching an Evergreen MPA elective To Lead A Nonprofit as a team of adjunct faculty in the Spring 2019
- Part of Thurston County CEO Cohort doing deep inclusion and equity work with the YWCA of Olympia
- Completion of the Center for Equity and Inclusion’s Reframing Racism training earlier this year in Portland, Oregon
- Goldenberger has served on the Tumwater Planning Commission in 2015, including as vice chair since last month. She also serves on a statewide prevention organization board, where she has served since 2011 and was elected to serve as a co-Vice President for the 2019 calendar year.
- Meagan D was a co-keynote speaker at the 2018 Washington Nonprofits Conference
- TOGETHER!’s Community Schools work in Tumwater, Washington was selected to be part of a national “learning community” with only 3 other states.
- Both Darrow and Goldenberger went through Thurston County Chamber Foundation’s Leadership Thurston County program in 2017 -2018
Utilizing MPA knowledge
Darrow and Goldenberger utilize knowledge from their MPA degrees in many ways. They use some of the processes from class in their organization such as seminars and give-backs. They frequently say out loud during budgeting, “Your budget is your agency’s biggest policy and where your values really are reflected”. So as an organization, when they say they value equity, they prioritize it within their budget. Darrow frequently references the book “The Ethics of Dissent” - she says this book blew her mind and has made her more deeply examine the ethics of the work to change systems. They also use the co-leadership flattening organization model, write memos regularly, and still use human resource tools and employee engagement practices that they initiated during their capstone course.
Meagan Darrow and Meghan Goldenberger are proud to be Evergreen MPA alums, and so excited to be teaching To Run a Nonprofit as adjuncts later this spring!