Meet Teresa, alumna of our campus MPA Program! Teresa is a veteran and currently serves as the Executive Director of the Women’s Resource Center in southeastern PA. In our interview, she discussed her role, the WRC in general, and her experiences in Villanova’s MPA program.
What are you up to now? Tell us a little bit about the Women’s Resource Center.
I am honored to have been selected as the Executive Director of the WRC. The WRC is an organization founded in 1975. It was started by a group of women coming together to help one another through divorce, obtaining resources, and recently I was informed the founders assisted gay women with their needs. I like to describe the WRC as – we provide transition, growth and development services to all women and girls throughout Southeastern PA.
The WRC provides supportive and personal help to women who are struggling to keep their families and homes together during times of crisis and transition.
Our services include:
An Information and Referral Helpline offers the assistance of a real person trained to help with the increasingly complicated issues faced by many of the women who are in crisis due to a job loss, a medical problem, separation or divorce, or other family issues. We also provide supportive services to women veterans and partner with local veteran service organizations to ensure the female veteran is receiving the proper assistance. If WRC cannot directly assist, we provide our callers/clients additional resources in their communities. We have trained volunteers provide information and referrals to women facing crisis and transition, Monday through Friday 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM.
Free Drop-In and telephone Counseling:
A professional counselor provides confidential consultations on any issue in person and by telephone, offered Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The goal of our free drop-in counseling is to give women hope and provide them with options for problem resolution. When they arrive they are usually overwhelmed, feeling alone and hopeless. When they leave they have phone numbers and names to contact and a plan for seeking on-going treatment. They also have a sense that they are not alone.
Free/Low Cost Legal Program:
The goal of the legal program is to provide low to moderate-income women with free and low-cost legal guidance, to increase their accessibility to information on their legal rights and options, and to provide them with practical information for building their capacity to work toward resolution of their legal problems. Consultations are scheduled with attorneys to discuss legal options around family law issues, divorce, and child custody. We also conduct seminars and workshops on divorce resources that include finance, investigators, real estate, support, and child custody concerns; every Saturday conducts a Divorce Support Group. The Legal Services Program of the Women’s Resource Center is invested in collaborative relationships. To date we have collaborated with area Bar Associations, OIC, the Delco Family Center, the Center Foundation and the United Way of Southeast Delco.
Career Development/ Services Program:
WRC offers networking groups, individual consultations and seminars for women looking for jobs, having been laid-off, re-entering the work force, or starting a new career. Additionally, we have folded our career program into Single Mothers and veterans. Taking a holistic approach will have a bigger impact on our client population using these two specific programs.
Financial Wisdom and Wellness: We provide specialized seminars and educational workshops that enhance our existing programs.
Veterans Outreach Initiative:
This program provides opportunities for female veterans and their families to assist in their transition to civilian life and/or provide additional opportunities, training, and counseling services to military families seeking assistance. Veterans and their families may use all WRC services at no cost; attorneys, therapists, career counselors, financial advisors and attend training, seminars, and workshops. The goal of the Outreach to Women Veterans is to offer supportive services to enable female veterans to be self-sufficient and to provide safe, secure homes for their families.
Single Mothers Program:
A structured support group offered at no cost for single mothers, held at five community based sites. Program includes dinner (with leftovers to be sent home) and childcare. The overall goal is to help mothers make positive changes in their lives so they can better provide for the successful development of their children, currently offered at five locations with a sixth beginning in the spring.
Girls Leadership Program:
A twelve week group program for 7th and 8th grade middle school girls that develops leadership abilities encourages community involvement while increasing self-esteem and learning positive decision-making skills. Trained, professional facilitators provide skill building programs, currently offered at nine middle schools in three counties.
Young Women’s Leadership Program:
This new program has grown out of demand from our client population and young women from the community college and four-year universities seeking assistance in professional development. We believe by building mentor relationships with leaders is at the heart of evolving into a leader yourself. Women make up almost half of the U.S. labor force, but only 5% of top leadership and 17% of corporate boards at Fortune 500 companies and as of the 2014 mid-term elections, women made up 20% of the U.S. Senate and 19% of U.S. House of Representatives and (Pew Research Center).
This program provides opportunities for individuals to give back to their community. Currently WRC has 200 active volunteers doing administrative work, telephone helpline, program coordinators, attorneys, therapists, etc.
How did your Villanova MPA degree help you get where you currently are in your career?
Without Villanova, I would not have my current position!! I have a military and private sector background. After my 2011 tour in Afghanistan, I knew I wanted to work in nonprofits. So the best course of action for me was to go back to school and get the tools and education needed to transition over. After conducting some research, I decided to apply to Villanova because it was the strongest program. I met with Dr. Palus and originally I was only going to complete the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management because I have a Masters in Management. While I was in the Middle East 2013-2014, I made the decision to continue for the MPA. It was the best decision I made.
What advice do you have for current MPA students?
The MPA degree is flexible and provides us with a wide range of opportunities. I highly recommend getting a graduate certificate in a subject you like. For example, a current MPA student is getting her certificate in Education and another friend is getting his certificate in Statistics. So do not be afraid to step outside the program and add a few classes to customize your degree. Find subjects you are passionate about.
Were there any particular courses or learning experiences during your time in the MPA program that stood out to you?
I loved the entire program and its flexibility to customize our electives. I use statistics in my new job along with Strategic Planning, Financial Management and Org. Theory!!!! The entire program is beautifully connected to ensure students leave Nova with a fantastic experience, an amazing degree and tools to be successful.