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Interview with Quanisha Green, M.S.S. '15

January 10, 2024
Quanisha Green

We interviewed Quanisha Green, M.S.S. 鈥15, the new associate director of the Center for Professional Development and administrator of the Nonprofit Executive Leadership Institute (NELI). She has an impressive background in social sector leadership, with over 20 years of experience in the field. After earning her M.S.S., she started her company Black Woman CEO, where she provides business coaching for Black women entrepreneurs. The GSSWSR is delighted to have her on the team!  


What do you bring to your current role as associate director of the Center for Professional Development? 

I think one of the important things I bring to this role is my expansive network, which has helped the Center expand its outreach to speakers with whom I have professional and personal connections. NELI has historically had two series of leadership programs, one for ascending leaders and middle managers, and another for more senior and executive leaders. Now, the vision is to have more stand-alone training. So, I鈥檓 focused on building out these single-session trainings on additional skills that people need as nonprofit and social sector professionals to promote their leadership. I鈥檝e been able to use my network to bring in some new training on topics like artificial intelligence for nonprofit professionals and thought leadership. 


I also bring to this role my own experience and knowledge of what it takes to be a good leader and what skills are necessary to get promoted and develop as a professional. When brainstorming about what kinds of training we should offer, I鈥檓 thinking holistically about the skills that nonprofit and social sector leaders need to move up in their roles and impact their organizations. One thing that we鈥檙e also organizing is a self-care series because that is a big issue. The series explores how people in caring professions also care for themselves, and the factors that lead to burnout. Someone I developed a relationship with through my entrepreneurship will lead this series. 


Additionally, because I ran a business, a large part of my role is marketing our programs and thinking about how we can fill these programs, especially our new stand-alone programs that don鈥檛 have a reputation or alumni like our existing NELI program offerings. I鈥檓 using my experience in marketing, community organizing, and change-making to effectively convey to people how these workshops can help them move forward in their careers. When I was in the nonprofit sector, I would tell people that my job was to sell change, and I think that extends to my work at the Center for Professional Development.  


You mentioned that you engaged in entrepreneurship before joining the Center for Professional Development. Can you tell me about this work and how you got into it?  

My work as a business coach for Black women entrepreneurs partially stemmed from my master鈥檚 thesis that I did at the GSSWSR with Raymond Albert, my thesis advisor. I was interested in exploring the experiences of Black organizers doing social justice work. During my time as an organizer in the social justice field, I encountered a lot of Black women who would tell me to not give my life over to organizations and to take more ownership of my work. They expressed that they were suffering from physical illnesses due to the stress on their bodies from compromising their wellbeing in the workplace. Hearing about these experiences inspired me to pursue entrepreneurship and help other Black women gain leadership skills to move up in their professions.  


My master鈥檚 thesis focused on the experiences of Black women and their mental health. I used my personal experience to explore what the literature said about Black women鈥檚 relationship to leadership. Based on the research, I started my business, Black Women RISE, now called Black Woman CEO, to help Black women gain leadership skills and get promoted in their jobs. As I was doing that work, there was a segment of folks who were highly motivated to get support and become Black women entrepreneurs. The literature showed that despite being highly credentialed and qualified, Black women are often overlooked for promotion in their workplaces. Those experiences were being echoed through the anecdotes I heard from Black women in various spaces when I started my business. They told me that because of these experiences of being overlooked, they wanted to go out and start their own businesses. Because of this identified need, I extended my work to helping women become entrepreneurs, not just move up the ranks in their current jobs where they likely faced discrimination.  


I worked for an organization called Happy Black Woman starting spring semester of my second year in the M.S.S. program that was also geared towards helping Black women with their entrepreneurship journey. This opportunity made me even more interested in business coaching for Black women. If I hadn鈥檛 done the research for my thesis or looked at my own life and what was and wasn鈥檛 working for me as a Black woman professional, I wouldn鈥檛 have been prepared when I was met with the opportunity of helping women who wanted to become entrepreneurs. A mixture of things got me into this work, such as the theoretical frameworks I was rooted in and my independent study within social work. I also participated in the Organizational Management and Behavior Certification with Darlyne Bailey, who was Dean of the GSSWSR at the time. After graduation, I was able to use my social work education to explore these topics and work for myself in organizational development. At the time, I still had ties to the nonprofit and social justice community but was also able to explore the unique topic of Black women and entrepreneurship as a business and do consulting and coaching work around that.  


Did you know that you wanted to do community-based work going into the M.S.S. program? 

Yes. Going into the M.S.S. program, I thought more at the mezzo and macro levels of organizations and systems. I analyzed larger policy frameworks and thought about how I could actually engage in social change. I saw my business as a form of social justice because it worked towards economic justice for Black women by increasing their earning potential. As Black women, we lose about $1,000,000 in our lifetime due to bias and discrimination that causes wage inequality and unequal hiring opportunities. I wanted to create a business that made up for these losses since these systems aren鈥檛 changing fast enough to address these inequalities.  

Do you have any advice for current students who are looking to do more macro-level social work in the nonprofit and related sectors?  

It鈥檚 important for students to hone their networks, especially if they want to stay in the region. I think developing and investing in relationships is essential for all students, but especially macro students, and taking advantage of leadership development opportunities. It is important for macro social workers pursuing a career in the nonprofit space to not only focus on gaining subject matter expertise through their coursework, but also work on professional development and gaining the skills they would need to get jobs in this field. Macro social workers should learn how to tell their stories effectively, write a compelling resume and cover letter, and establish their thought leadership.  


I think for macro students, their career moves might look a little different because there isn鈥檛 as clear of a path to getting certain jobs as there is with clinical students. So, they have to do the traditional job search. That鈥檚 where students鈥 networks can come in to aid the job search. Even though they have a social work degree, they鈥檙e now competing with all the other folks with master鈥檚 degrees, and so they have to create a compelling story of why their degree in macro social work will lend itself better to a certain role than someone who has a master鈥檚 in public policy or another related field.