An Executive Director Grounded in Retrospect
Looking Forward, Reaching Back
Growing up in the Rust Belt of Ohio, Shannon came from a family she considered “well-off”. compared with other families in her community. It was not until she arrived at the University of Richmond in 1993 that she realized she was at a huge financial disadvantage. Without significant support, she could not gain work experience through unpaid internships as her classmates could. Thanks to the assistance of Bonner, she was able to catch up by securing an internship in Washington, D.C. with the Congressional Hunger Center (CHC).
Shannon’s first post-grad position with CHC started in the “ summer of 1997 as a Hunger Fellow. In 2015, she returned to where it all began as the Executive Director of CHC.
Recently she uncovered her type-written inquiry about internship opportunities, a relic from a time when she needed financial aid just to afford rent. The inquiry was addressed to the same office she now leads more than twenty years later. Guiding the organization that made her career possible, she seeks to empower the next generation of advocates and professionals.
A Career in Washington, D.C.
From her first experience with CHC, Shannon was inspired to pursue a career focusing on food security. After year-long stays with Youth Service of America and an AmeriCorps program in South Florida, Shannon joined the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). At the CNCS she served with the AmeriCorps VISTA program and then as Senior Marketing Specialist, Special Assistant to the CEO on Strategic Initiatives, and Executive Director of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation from 2006-2009.
From 2009-2015 Shannon served as Chief Talent and Knowledge Officer at the Grameen Foundation, a large economic and civic development firm. She also established the Bankers Without Borders program, which provides high-skill volunteer labor to social enterprises. Her project involved creating a network of professionals solving economic development issues around the world. When asked about how to progress and take leadership in your career path she explained, “It’s about challenging yourself. Leveraging your strengths—but always taking on new challenges.”
Throughout her career, Shannon has worked with young and motivated volunteers— difference-makers steeped in their beliefs and connected to their communities.
When a search for Executive Director of the Congressional Hunger Center began in 2015, Shannon decided it was time to return to where it all started. She explained, “I wanted to push them forward and make sure that such an important organization stays relevant and impactful.” She was up to the task with an MBA from Johns Hopkin’s Carey School and plentiful leadership experience under her belt.
“If I think about what I’ve done for the social good and multiply it by all the people who have gone through our fellowship programs, I can celebrate those small wins.”
Roughly thirty leaders per year are developed through the fellowship programs offered by the CHC. Shannon wants that number to be in the hundreds. A summer internship with a D.C. nonprofit is the type of experience that lands you the jobs that shape the world. Shannon wants to bring more individuals affected by issues like hunger and poverty to the career opportunities that work to solve them. “So often it is only the people who can afford [unpaid internship] opportunities that end up shaping policy—there’s something wrong with that.”
Shannon’s determination is clear. She realizes her own strength as a leader and feels a responsibility to lead the development of the change-makers of the future. Referencing friends she has in other industries, Shannon believes that, “You can go into any sector and do good.” However, it is not enough to know the issues and have expertise. “You really need leadership skills to influence change in your spheres.” Looking at her path so far, it is evident that Shannon has cultivated her leadership ability. Now she is plotting a course for the Congressional Hunger Center that focuses on creating equity and opportunity for the leaders of tomorrow.
To learn more about Shannon, check out:
- Congressional Hunger Center
- Her program, Bankers Without Borders
- An interview with her from Nonprofit Quarterly
Written by Taylor Clarke, Bonner Leader at Stetson University ‘19
Read Shannon's job profile here.