Alumna Janey Pearl Starks selected for American Express Leadership Academy 2.0 at the Aspen Institute

Alumna Janey Pearl Starks selected for American Express Leadership Academy 2.0 at the Aspen Institute

Janey Pearl Starks at 2019 NLASA Senior Celebration

Janey Pearl Starks, recently selected for a coveted spot at the American Express Leadership Academy 2.0 at the Aspen Institute, was the keynote speaker at the 2019 Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association graduation. Janey graduated from the program in 2004 and then attended the ASU Lodestar Center's American Express Leadership Academy in 2018-19.

by Alexandra Conforti, ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation

December 15, 2021

The ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation is pleased to announce that Janey Pearl Starks, 2018-19 alumna of the American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center, is one of 15 people worldwide selected to participate in 2022’s American Express Leadership Academy 2.0 at the Aspen Institute: A Fellowship for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders. Participants will start the program with four virtual classes, followed by an in-person experience August 22-26, 2022.

Janey started in ASU's nonprofit programs with the undergraduate Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association and returned to the ASU Lodestar Center as a mid-career emerging leader to attend the American Express Leadership Academy. She is now the director of equity, diversity and engagement for Mountain Park Health Center.

The purpose of the American Express Leadership Academy 2.0 at the Aspen Institute, like the ASU Lodestar Center’s own Academy experience, is to develop the next generation of nonprofit leaders. This is a values-based leadership development program for 15 fellows, who are selected through a competitive nomination and selection process. Using the Aspen Institute method of text-based dialogue, the fellowship offers participants a neutral forum in which to reflect on timeless human values, pursue common ground and cultivate a richer understanding of the human condition. They then apply these insights to their work as nonprofit leaders.

Janey continues the tradition of alumni from the ASU Lodestar Center who have been selected for this unparalleled learning experience. This Q&A explores Janey’s current and past nonprofit work and program involvement, and her hopes for her future after attending the Aspen Institute.

What is your career story? Where have you been and where do you want to go?

Janey Pearl Starks: I went to ASU for my undergrad and graduated in 2004, and I went to the Harvard Graduate School of Education for my master's degree. This year actually marked my 15th year as a professional in the Valley, and I’m proud that that duration of time has been spent working either on issues I care about or for people who represent the issues I care about. I worked for the Department of Health Services during the H1N1 pandemic, so COVID-19 is actually the second pandemic that I've worked through. I was their public information officer and Latino outreach coordinator, and then I worked for several elected officials, either in communications or community engagement roles. I also worked for an education nonprofit where we focused on parent engagement. I’ll have been at Mountain Park Health Center for seven years as of December 1.

How do you feel the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and the American Express Leadership Academy programs at ASU impacted you? Did being in these programs help form any relationships?

They definitely impacted me. I’ve always wanted to spend my life serving others and helping people, so the programs definitely helped expose me to professionals who are currently doing that. The curriculum was outstanding, and I can only hope that it's even better now. And two of my best friends to this day, one of which actually spoke at my wedding, the other who helped walk my mom down the aisle, are people I met through those programs. But it's always surprising that after more than 15 years removed from the program, I'm still running into people from my class and we’re still in touch.

Tell me about the American Express Leadership Academy 2.0 at the Aspen Institute. What were you feeling after being selected?

I was called by the American Express Leadership Academy [at the ASU Lodestar Center] and told that my name had been chosen as the person to be nominated for the Aspen Institute. This is an institute that accepts nominations of students from universities and then from there they make their selection, so it's not something that people can just apply for. Obviously, it's a huge honor knowing that you're one of 15 people in the world selected. When they called me and said that I was being nominated, I read up on the institute. I know that there have been some amazing nonprofit leaders that have gone through this program and it seemed like a great opportunity, so I thought, I’ll give it a try.

Janey Pearl Starks on PBS

Janey Pearl Starks appeared on PBS Newshour November 23, 2021. The story featured her team's hard work at Mountain Park Health Center getting Arizonans vaccinated.

What are you hoping to take away and gain from your time at the institute?

I'm in the nonprofit healthcare sector and I work at a community health center. Since the beginning of the pandemic, my focus has been everything related to COVID-19. Most recently getting people vaccinated and eliminating the disparities between who has been vaccinated and who has not. I’m excited to learn from other nonprofit leaders who are representing a variety of sectors within the nonprofit field around the world. I'm really excited to learn from people from other cultures, and what leadership looks like in their cultures.

Do you think going through this institute will benefit your future career?

I'm at a point in my career where I really love what I do. I've helped build up an amazing team and I love the work we do at Mountain Park and the people we are able to serve. I have a team of 10 individuals and we are responsible for everything having to do with community engagement and outreach, marketing and communications, and also diversity and equity work. Every day at work we're tackling a different problem, but especially this past year with the pandemic, we’re helping to save lives when working, which is important to me. I can't say that I hope this institute does one thing or another, but I do feel like every time you work through new experiences with new people, it always inspires something in one's own self to help them become a better leader and help them overcome challenges differently, so I’m hopeful to get that.

Do you feel you've evolved within your professional career thus far after going through ASU programs and preparing for this Aspen institute?

Absolutely. Right now, I’m leading a department of people for one of the largest community health centers in the state and we have more than 90,000 patients and eight clinics around the valley, so our team is always partnering with different nonprofits. We're constantly finding ways to engage with the community. Years ago, we started a volunteer program, and key pieces of getting that running was from things I learned in those programs. For example, fundraising, working with boards, understanding the ethics within nonprofits; those are conversations we would have often, and they still come up in the work that we do.

Janey Pearl Starks and Mountain Park Health Center team distribute food

Janey and many team members at Mountain Park Health Center participate in food distribution four to five times a month, serving roughly 200 families at each event.