Beyond The Degree: Making Community Impact
Jessica Bailey utilizes her MPA to bridge various nonprofit roles for community benefit
On any given day, Jessica Bailey ’16 could be selecting a keynote speaker for a luncheon event, attending school board meetings, planning a food drive at a local business, or delivering inflatable units for a child’s birthday party. Bailey admits having a dislike for downtime, but with the wide variety of leadership roles she currently serves in her community, it’s not difficult for her to find ways to stay busy.
Bailey’s resume is extensive—and interesting. She is the director of marketing and community development at the Greater Portage (Indiana) Chamber of Commerce; president of the Friends of Portage Township Foundation; secretary of the board of trustees for Portage Township Schools; food donation coordinator for the nonprofit 500 Turkeys; and owner of Bounce N Around, a bounce house rental company.
The bounce house company came about 10 years ago. Bailey comes from a family of small-business owners, and after talking to a colleague who owns a bounce house business in a nearby town, she and her husband were inspired to start their own company.
“It’s a joy seeing children—and adults— get excited when we drop off the units,” Bailey says. “We love making people smile.”
Bounce N Around expanded on the passion Bailey already had for being an advocate in her community, particularly involving the parks in Portage.
“When I was doing some research in preparation for my new role as president of the parks foundation, I came across information about Walden’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program,” she says.
It was the perfect fit for her many roles in the community.
“Once I learn one new thing, I want to learn something else,” Bailey says. “My mind has to keep growing. Because I was already on the school board and taking on a role in the parks, I decided to focus on nonprofit management. I couldn’t wait to apply my knowledge to my roles at that time and do even more in the community.”
Previously, Bailey felt like her roles were largely just volunteering. But now, she has the expertise to implement social change, starting with structuring the boards of the organizations she helps run. Based on her MPA research, Bailey analyzed the strategic selection of board members based on what is most needed to make the organization successful.
“We have taken a step back in filling board positions and are conducting a SWOT [strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats] analysis to see which skills are currently represented, and which ones we are lacking.
“Working as a community toward a common goal is so important,” Bailey says. “Having my connections in the business and nonprofit worlds, I’m excited to bring that into the school system. In today’s global economy, children need every advantage they can get, and I believe working as one cohesive unit will give students the best training possible.”