A Deeper Conversation With Alison Kennedy, NxGen/ExecGen Program Manager

A Deeper Conversation With Alison Kennedy, NxGen/Exec Gen Program Manager
By Karen Hewitt (ze/she/they), Associate Director and Alison Kennedy (they/them), NxGen/ExecGen Program Manager

We are so excited to have Alison Kennedy (they/them) join our team! Alison will be serving as our NxGen and ExecGen Program Manager. To find out more about Alison’s background, please check out their bio here

This blog post was created to give us a chance to ask some questions that go a little deeper. Here is what Alison had to say.

Karen Hewitt: You have spent most of your career working in the museum industry and non profit sector. Why did you choose Leadership Columbus at this time in your life?

Alison Kennedy: It all comes down to the mission. Building strong and vibrant communities requires brave leaders. Leaders who have done the personal and professional work it takes to stand up for those most marginalized in our communities. When I think about a culture of equity, I think about organizations and communities where people are willing to stand up and say when they notice something is wrong or that something could be improved. Where you don’t have to have expert knowledge in every diversity dimension to be willing to speak up and create change. Leadership Columbus is committed to this work and aligns with my personal values and desire to create a better Columbus.

Karen: As the Program Manager for NxGen and ExecGen you will have the opportunity to work with newer and aspiring supervisors and also very seasoned leaders. What are you most curious about for each program?

Alison: I am so excited about the juxtaposition of these two programs! Both of these programs focus quite heavily on introspection and personal development. I am curious to see how these two different groups of people engage with the challenges of the programs. Working with newer and aspiring supervisors has always been one of the best parts of my career. I love to find out what they are passionate about and what led them to want to manage people. I think I will learn so much from the ExecGen participants, but I am also looking forward to pushing them to come out of their shells.

Karen: You have quite a bit of strategic expertise. As you prepare to manage these two programs, how do you plan to incorporate that expertise into your time at Leadership Columbus?

Alison: For me, strategy is about making the decision that will have the biggest impact on the organization. It may not be the most popular decision or one that appears the best to everyone. I am really looking forward to learning from the rest of the incredible Leadership Columbus team about where the organization has come from, and working together as a group to capitalize on the organization’s change over the last few years to continue to grow.

Karen: You have done a lot of advocacy and teaching in the museum industry around LGBTQ+ inclusion and Transgender inclusion specifically. What would you want people to know about your experience in this space and your philosophy/approach in advocacy? 

Alison: In 2018, I co-founded the Task Force for Transgender Inclusion, a working committee under the American Alliance of Museums’ LGBTQ+ Alliance professional network. That experience was incredible for so many reasons! I worked with 22 other trans and allied museum professionals from across the field to produce “Gender Transition and Transgender Inclusion in the Museum Workplace”; a toolkit that provides direction and leadership to transitioning professionals, allied coworkers and museums themselves for how to best support and include trans staff in their museum workplaces. I learned so much from collaboratively creating something that has the opportunity to really change lives.

So often, people are afraid to try. They worry about being wrong or doing the wrong thing, and the fear of doing the wrong thing means that nothing ever happens. Being brave has to start somewhere. I would much rather see people make a genuine effort, get it wrong, and then repair and try again, than see someone never try to make the world better.

Karen: What are you most excited about and hopeful for walking into this position? 

Alison: I am so excited about working with the incredible Leadership Columbus team! This group of people has welcomed me with open arms, and I’m looking forward to learning from them just as much as we learn from our participants.

Karen: What do you do outside of work for fun?

Alison: Outside of work, I spend a lot of time outside at the barn! I currently lease a 12 year old Irish Sporthorse named Magic. He is really well educated and has shown at a much higher level than I have, so I am having so much fun learning from him. We are showing Training Level dressage right now, and I’m looking forward to this show season. I’ve learned to love dressage in the last few years – each horse and rider does the same test and the judge scores them against the test. Even if you mess up one movement, you can recover and it doesn’t affect the rest of your test. There’s always something to learn and ways to get better.

I also love all kinds of fiber arts. I learned to crochet when I was in elementary school – my grandmother taught me! In the last several years, I’ve also picked up knitting, cross-stitch, and most recently blackwork embroidery. Blackwork became popular in Tudor period England, but it was known even before 1500. As someone who most recently worked in a history organization, I think it’s so much fun to be creating in the same or similar ways that people have for centuries!

Karen: As a city and in the workplace, what do you think the biggest challenge is for leaders at this moment?

Alison: I think right now, we are at a moment where leaders are going to have to decide to give up power. That may mean leaving a role. It may mean sharing power with other people. It may mean sharing power with people outside your organization. We think about this a lot in the museum field – how do we share power with the communities that museums are a part of?

I also think that leaders have to take ownership and responsibility for the culture of burnout that has happened in so many organizations. It is not the responsibility of the worker to prevent or treat burnout, but the responsibility of leaders.

Karen: What is your  hope for your legacy at Leadership Columbus? What mark would you like to leave at this organization?

Alison: I don’t know if I can define what I want for my legacy at this point! I am so excited to be joining the organization in a time of growth and with such an incredible team. I know that we will create together a Leadership Columbus that is stronger and more prepared for the future than the one we each joined.

Thank you for your time and vulnerability, Alison! We are very excited and looking forward to all you bring to Leadership Columbus. I hope you all got to know more about Alison; we sure did!