Finalist: Mariana Lopez-Owens
Award: Nonprofit Employee of the Year
Day Job: Director of Development, Marketing and Communications, La Plaza, Inc.
Connect with Mariana on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mlopezowens/
Mariana Lopez-Owens exemplifies what it means to be an extraordinary nonprofit employee. Her work centers on serving Latinx individuals in Central Indiana with a focus on helping students succeed in higher education. She is focused daily on increasing the impact of La Plaza and helping more people improve their lives through education and training with an eye to achieving their dreams.
As a part of her work, Mariana was integral with La Plaza’s efforts to ensure that the pandemic did not prevent engagement with the 2020 census. She pivoted fundraising efforts for La Plaza gracefully to exceed projected totals. Mariana is driven, passionate, and thoughtful, and we are lucky to have her as a part of our Central Indiana community.
Read further to learn more about what it means to be a leader means to Mariana!
Q: How did you react when you found out you were nominated for an ELEVATE Award?
A: I was very surprised and excited to be nominated. It was really nice to know that our hard work in the community is being recognized, and I hope this inspires other individuals to take action.
Q: What is your vision for Central Indiana?
A: My vision for Central Indiana is that we become one of the most inclusive and progressive cities in the Midwest—to continue working towards making resources more accessible for everyone so that we remove barriers that impede an individual’s full participation in society. That means focusing on things like workforce development initiatives, access to education, and helping push more policies that help support working families. I envision that Central Indiana will be place where residents feel, no matter where they are from, feel like they are part of the fabric of the city and that their concerns and hopes are taken into consideration when planning long-term projects in the city. I look forward to seeing more diverse individuals that reflect the community in leadership roles at high levels of public, private, and nonprofit institutions. We have already made significant progress and I look forward to contributing to the progress we will continue to make.
Q: Finish this sentence ““Being a great nonprofit employee means to me….”
A: Being a great nonprofit employee means having compassion and empathy for those you are serving and being a great team player. A really good nonprofit leader is the guide and makes their team feel like they are the heroes. They lead from behind, making sure they lead by example. They are wise, thoughtful, and respectful. Great nonprofit leaders are mentor who are eager to nurture others, clients and staff alike, and see them succeed. They have a bold vision and are willing to put in the hard work over years, often times making incremental changes, to see that their vision come to fruition. They are resilient, persistent, and push forward that vision to have measurable and long-lasting positive outcomes. I am fortunate to have several such influences in my life, including my current boss, Miriam Acevedo Davis, who has these qualities and leads by example. I learn an invaluable amount of wisdom from all of the great leaders who I have had a privilege of getting to know.
Q: What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic and how has it affected your job, volunteering, etc.?
A: During the pandemic, I learned that I enjoy thinking quickly to come up with solutions to the challenges that present themselves. Having a strong community network allowed us to tap into the resources needed to quickly adapt and respond to the changing circumstances. I enjoy collaborating with leaders from different sectors of the economy to work on projects that have positive outcomes for our local communities.
I learned that “failing forward” is important to continuous success. Failure is part of progress and by reflecting on projects, we can find out what worked well and what areas could be improved. This mindset has only improved the way we do business at La Plaza. The pandemic gave us an opportunity to implement new ways of doing things that I think will continue to be beneficial for years to come.
Time for some favorites:
Q: Favorite spot in Indy?
A: The canal in downtown Indy – I love to walk and run there.
Q: Mountains or Beach?
A: Beach, but I love the mountains too!
Q: Favorite vacation song?
A: “Bamboleo” by Gipsy Kings! It is our summer jam. “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias, “One Dance” by Drake.
Q: Where will you travel to once it is safe to do so?
A: Probably go to Mexico or visit some friends in Brazil. In the US, I’d head to the east coast or west coast – I haven’t been to either!
Q: Favorite podcast or book?
A: Any NPR podcast, “Things You Should Know,” “Hidden Brain” – I love so many and choose which one to listen to based on my mood.
Join Mariana at ELEVATE and don’t forget to RSVP, today!
Written by Caitie Deranek Stewart