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Jennifer Westerholt '12next

Alumni Jennifer Westerholt

Jennifer Westerholt

Director of Marketing & Development, Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara

I am part of a whole.

About Jennifer Westerholt :

By Kara Kane 

One common piece of advice for job seekers is to take on a volunteer opportunity. For Jennifer Westerholt, her career at Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara, Inc. got its start with exactly that: her role as a volunteer.

Westerholt is no stranger to working in education and community service. She has worked for the Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Development Consortium, Inc. (WDC); Cazenovia Community Resource Center; and Global Resources for Education and Travel (GREAT). Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara was recently formed from a merger of Literacy Volunteers of Buffalo and Erie County and Literacy Volunteers of Niagara County. Westerholt volunteered to plan the annual Cocktails in Character fundraiser. From there, the executive director invited her to work part-time on grant research and event planning. When the position of director of marketing opened up, Westerholt eagerly seized the opportunity.

A quote that Westerholt remembers from her course in systems thinking comes from Bill Weeks, clinical associate professor in the Department of Management and Leadership: "I am part of a whole." She operates as a department of one, and explained how that course influenced her to take a critical outlook at her position at Literacy New York. "Each department here - adult programs, youth programs, marketing and development, and the board of directors - are parts of a whole. I would not be able to do my job well if the programs weren't successful." She continued, "I am able to secure grant funding for our programs because they run smoothly and have measurable results."

Westerholt credits the work she did as she completed her master of arts in organizational leadership in part for the recent success of a $35,000 grant for Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo (CFGB). The fully-funded grant will support its After-School Tutoring Program.

Another part of her master's coursework impacted her current position. The final assignment in Diversity and Multiculturalism was to create a diversity and inclusion plan, and she chose to write one for Literacy New York, which serves an extremely diverse population, including school-aged children, adults and recently relocated immigrants. As Westerholt explained, "The creation of the plan could only help us as an organization, with regard to fundraising, funders and in the advancement of our strategic plan."

She continued, "This project proved to be worthwhile and beneficial for the organization as a whole just a few weeks after the end of the course." CFGB asked that the plan be included in the grant application, and it certainly contributed to the success of the award.