Niagara Foundation welcomes Mignon Senuta as our newest team member in Chicago!
Interview by: Mevlut Hilmi Cinar, VP of Development and Strategy
Hilmi: Mignon, explain to our community how you found yourself in Chicago, and subsequently, as a member of the Niagara Foundation staff?
Mignon: Well I’m originally from Maryland…but I’ve called Chicago home for the past 8 years. I first moved to Chicago to attend Loyola University, where I studied Political Science, International Studies, and Spanish. I left Chicago to join the Peace Corps in 2012, serving for 26 months in Botswana, an interesting and sparsely populated country in southern Africa. I returned to Chicago in August of this year in search of my next role.
Hilmi: Botswana sounds like an interesting place to live and work! Tell us a little bit about your experience there.
Mignon: My primary role was to serve as a consultant, or capacity builder, for local, community-based organizations. I worked in tandem with directors and coordinators of these NGOs to implement individual and community-level interventions. My larger intention was to strengthen systems, improve financial sustainability, and enhance organizational development, in order to mitigate the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I had a lot of secondary projects, as well. Most notably, I planned and implemented several youth camps and workshops focusing on gender equality, health education, and life skills. These were my most meaningful projects. I also served on the Volunteer Advisory Committee, as a liaison between Peace Corps staff and volunteers, an advocate for policy changes, and a technical and emotional support for other volunteers.
Hilmi: Did you know what you were getting into beforehand?
Mignon: Not necessarily. I wasn’t even sure what part of the world I would be heading to until a few months before; I had a few cancellations before Botswana. I knew the experience would be rewarding and foster growth, regardless. Flexibility is key when applying for the Peace Corps… [Laughs]
Hilmi: What encouraged you to apply for the position with Niagara? Why did you think you would be a good fit?
Mignon: Niagara’s mission – fostering global fellowship and intercultural dialogue – is extremely worthwhile. I’ve always been passionate about these exchanges, but my interest was solidified during my Peace Corps service. Two-thirds of Peace Corps’ goals are related to cultural exchange. The importance of creating a better understanding of Botswana on the part of Americans, as well as creating a better understanding of Americans on the part of Batswana, cannot be understated. If I didn’t focus on these goals, on establishing trust and building relationships, my projects would have failed. It is a nonnegotiable first step and suggests why there is a two year minimum for Peace Corps service…it takes time and perseverance to do this!
My interest in contributing to development, event planning, and fundraising efforts, as well as having a hand in the management of programs – such as Niagara’s Blue Dot membership program – suggested I would enjoy and thrive in the role. I love how Niagara is able to bring such a diverse group of people…of leaders…together. I’m excited to participate.
Hilmi: On behalf of the whole Niagara family, welcome aboard! We’re thrilled to have you join us.
Mignon: Thank you! I’m equally excited to be here and look forward to contributing to Niagara’s mission and development with grit and integrity.