The Steve Fund was established in 2014 to honor the memory of Stephen (Steve) C. Rose. Steve lost his life to mental illness after graduating from Harvard College and completing a Masters degree at City University. The devastating loss of their son and brother inspired the Rose family to create the nation’s only organization focused on supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of college students of color. The Steve Fund works in partnership with colleges and universities, the clinical and research community, and the public health and nonprofit communities to stimulate dialogue; design high impact technology-based services; build knowledge and thought leadership; and promote awareness as students of color enter, matriculate in, and transition from higher education.
Since its inception, The Steve Fund has built a strong reputation in the mental health and academic community. They captured the attention of key funders including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Knight Foundation and several others in that league. Their website is a rich compilation of research, resources and roadmaps for understanding the troubling state of mental health and emotional well-being for students of color in higher education settings. Some of the factors that pose a high risk for mental health issues include cultural under-representation on college campuses; perceived and experienced racial discrimination; microaggressions; and stressful transitions from home to campus. The consequences of these current trends are emotional, physical and academic, and they are creating demand and raising expectations for the higher education community to get engaged and strengthen their counseling service models.
In late 2016 the board decided it was time to appoint a full-time leader to take the organization to the next level. The Support Center was selected to lead a national search for the first Executive Director, and we were poised to leverage our expertise in Executive Search and Transition Management in support of The Steve Fund’s work.
This assignment, although standard for our practice in many ways, was also a bit nuanced. Throughout the process we balanced several factors: The Steve Fund is a startup organization and the first of its kind; the board was seeking an experienced leader who also had specialized mental health expertise; the appointed Executive Director would be the board’s first full-time hire and and an immediate partner to a range of researchers, consultants and funders; and, finally, the board considered the ideal candidate to be someone who possessed both the stature and social capital to engage high profile national leaders and the humility and empathy to connect with students whose lives and well-being are at the heart of The Steve Fund’s mission.To find the person best suited for and most passionate about the position, we cast a wide net across traditional recruiting sources, online platforms, and in numerous search outlets specific to the mental and public health communities. The response was immediate and substantial both in volume and quality, yielding over 100 applicants. The field of candidates gradually narrowed as we juggled the dynamics of a national, virtual search with candidates and a search committee scattered across the country. Once a final slate of candidates emerged, we assisted in crafting and negotiating the terms and conditions of the job offer. From that final slate, the board then made an outstanding selection of a candidate whose background, professional experience, skills and personal passions are tailored exactly to this position. Dr. Terri Wright, of the American Public Health Association, will become the first Executive Director of The Steve Fund. She brings extensive leadership skills and expertise in advancing the public’s health through policy, practice and management in government, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. Her vast experience includes maternal, child and adolescent health, environmental public health and population health. Dr. Wright is driven by a vision for health and social equity for all members of society, and she will boldly lead The Steve Fund to a greater level of excellence. As we begin to plan the onboarding process, we are now reflecting on and capturing the many key lessons we gained in order to strengthen our ESTM practice and fulfill our own mission to accelerate positive social change.
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