The Coleman Foundation is pleased to announce the addition of Nathan Stevens to our team as Program Officer. Nathan will be working in the program areas of entrepreneurship and developmental disabilities. Recently, CEO Shelley Davis sat down with Nathan and asked him a few questions about his journey to becoming our new Program Officer.
I know you come from a background of service and mission-driven organizations – what influenced you to you raise your hand to join our team at Coleman Foundation?
I’ve had the opportunity through my career and volunteer work to interact with amazing and inspiring Chicagoans like small business owners, homeless youth, LGBTQ seniors, and everyone else in between. Early on in my first non-profit job, I remember being fascinated as I sat in on a conversation with my CEO and a program officer from a private foundation. I was specifically drawn to the program officer’s genuine appreciation for the work that our organization was doing, his ability to listen, and his pledge to support our needs to be successful in the community. Then and there I knew that I wanted to move into philanthropy.
The moment I saw this job posting, I really thought the stars and the universe were aligning for me. What drew me first to Coleman were the grantmaking areas. I am the son and grandson of entrepreneurs. I’m the son of someone who battled and died of cancer. I am also acutely aware of injustice and concerned about the inequities occurring on the city’s South and West Sides around food disparities, economic development and access to fundamental resources. Coleman’s legacy is about creating real change—change that is still essentially needed throughout Chicago. Through my interview process, I learned about Coleman’s commitment to growing healthy communities through sustainable programming that encourages collaboration. As I talked about this idea with leadership and staff, I knew that I had found my people and that I was exactly where I needed to be.
As a new program officer, do you have advice from mentor(s) or any guiding principles that you will rely on as you acclimate to your new role?
For six and a half years I had the pleasure of supporting one of the nation’s most regarded negotiations professionals, Mori Taheripour, author of Bring Yourself: How to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly. Mori’s advice is geared toward professionals, but her lessons are whole-heartedly applicable to personal relationships and day-to-day interactions. I intend to bring three of Mori’s guiding principles for entrepreneurs into my new role. First: be present. From attending a large meeting to having an introductory conversation with a new colleague, give people your full attention. Silence external distractions (cell phone, the news, etc.) and really listen to the other person who is investing their time and energy into an authentic engagement with you.
Second, approach conversations and situations through a lens of curiosity. So many of us have our minds already made up about people or organizations. It’s important to stay open and ask questions to understand why this or that decision was made, what information led to this choice or that conclusion, do their expectations differ from ours, and why?
And finally, lead with kindness and empathy. Truer today than ever before- everyone is going through something. The world seems torn apart on many issues and the pandemic has exacerbated previously existing hardships. Acknowledge that you’re not the only one who might be going through a tough time, understand that not everyone has shared your experiences or privilege, and find out what you can do to lift them up.
What do you in your spare time to relax and have fun?
As a seasoned Chicagoan, if the weather is nice, I will take any opportunity to get outside! My summers are spent playing volleyball at Montrose Beach or enjoying a small business’ outdoor patio with good company. I love going to concerts. My top five acts would have to be Fleetwood Mac, Dolly Parton, Brandi Carlile, The Killers, and Carly Rae Jepson. I enjoy attempting to cook intimidating recipes, dinner and game nights with loved ones, and working out. I’ve also inherited my mother’s love of baking cheesecakes. Some of my most admired cheesecake creations have been jalapeno and lime, ginger and pear, and S’mores. As a former screenwriting student, I thoroughly enjoy independent films and have no problem taking myself out on a date to the movie theater. Finally, during most weeknights, you can find me on the couch watching the Cubs, NFL Football, and Golden Girls reruns.
Welcome to the team, Nathan! You can find Nathan’s bio here: