ASU nonprofit master's graduate Tomasa Ravines Burga strives to empower women through service and advocacy

ASU nonprofit master's graduate Tomasa Ravines Burga strives to empower women through service and advocacy

by Troy Hill, ASU Lodestar Center

August 28, 2019

Tomasa Ravines Burga had been volunteering for Zonta Club of Portland, Oregon, for almost five years when a few students in the organization inspired her to further her education and career.

Zonta International, currently celebrating its 100th year,  is a global organization that seeks to empower women “through service and advocacy.” They have more than 29,000 members and nearly 1,200 clubs – including Burga’s in Portland – in 63 countries around the world.

Feeling stuck while working as a freelance nonprofit consultant, Ravines Burga decided to empower herself, and that led her to Arizona State University’s Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program, available online. It would let her take the next step on a career journey that had taken her to a number of different organizations in different countries.

Early on in her career, Ravines Burga worked for La Asociación de Comunicadores Sociales Calandria, a Peruvian civil-society organization that specializes in strategic communications. Later she worked for a Spanish NGO called Solidarity that had an office in Bolivia. She started out as an assistant, but moved her way up to a program manager.

She was responsible for all of the organization’s programs in Bolivia and oversaw interaction with a number of indigenous tribes in Bolivia and Peru, including Quechua and Aymara communities.

“I had a great experience working with different types of communities with different types of cultures,” she said. “I worked with native groups and I worked with governments and the different types of stakeholders from Europe, from Latin America.”

Most of Ravines Burga’s work, including with Zonta, has been with women’s rights groups and feminist organizations. One of the largest of these projects was the international “Orange Campaign” with the UN.

“The idea is to make contributions to the awareness of the women's rights,“ Ravines Burga said. “It is important to make visible in the public opinion the problems that many women are living, for example, in the case of a violence against women.”

It is clear when talking to her that the area of women’s advocacy is of the utmost importance to Ravines Burga, and she wants to achieve serious change. And that’s where her pursuit of a master’s degree enters the story.

“I live here in Oregon and I didn't want to live apart from my family,” she said. “So [being able to take the classes online] was very important for me.”

She said that the classes provided more than just ordinary, by-the-books lessons.

“What I found is that the professors… they give an opportunity to grow up, an opportunity to learn from different experiences,” she said. “I also learned a lot from my peers and all the other students. They came with a lot of different backgrounds.”

Ravines Burga also made many friends and connections through the program. She grew close with a number of them while working on projects and other assignments, building a network of changemakers.

For her final assignment, Ravines Burga was required to present a capstone project, integrating learning from the entire program. Her project delved into effective branding – she later wrote a summary for the Lodestar Center’s blog – and was able to take her ideas back to Zonta after she graduated last fall. The organization has already decided to implement many of the recommendations and branding activities, putting the new knowledge into practice to make a difference.

The capstone project has not only helped Ravines Burga’s organization, but also her career. Her master’s degree journey began with a yearning to do more. Because of her new degree and the ideas she brought forth with her capstone project, Zonta recently promoted her to Communication Director and she launched her own nonprofit consultancy. It was just the opportunity to make an impact that she was hoping for.

Tomasa Ravines Burga (middle) volunteers with Zonta Club of Portland, Oregon to empower women through service and advocacy. Zonta International, currently celebrating its 100th year, is a global organization with more than 29,000 members and nearly 1,200 clubs. Ravines Burga graduated from Arizona State University’s Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program in December 2018 and runs a nonprofit consultancy.