Dia Cirillo, AAUW Member

Personal Statement

In public elementary school, I lived through an historic moment in the early ‘80s in my hometown of Chicago that established my guiding values of fairness and equality. The city came together to elect its first Black mayor, Harold Washington. I also learned a hard lesson from that moment: some white politicians were explicitly and publicly racist.

This indelible experience set me on a path to become the seasoned, domestic policy expert that I am today. I have served as a senior manager and strategist, working in government, nonprofit and private sectors on behalf of working families and communities.

I also bring a national and international perspective to all that I do. While I grew up in Chicago, I currently reside in the Nashville area. I took my BA from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, my MA from New York University, and I conducted research in Chile on a Fulbright Fellowship, drawing on my fluent Spanish.

In light of these experiences, I remain optimistic that effective public policy and strong organizations can deliver on the promise of fairness and equality in our society. Working with the board and the staff, I aim to ensure that AAUW continues in this role for women and girls.

Exploratory Information

What is your vision for AAUW in the next 5-10 years?

Over the next 5-10 years, AAUW must become adept at three-dimensional chess. This involves an unrelenting focus on gender equity, a sophisticated approach to intersectionality and inclusiveness and an organizational culture that fosters trust and growth.

I support the new strategic plan for AAUW and the vision that it contains for equity for all and advancing gender equity for women and girls. AAUW must win the conversation on equal pay and women’s leadership and opportunities in order to move the needle on equity, especially as defined by economic security. Further, AAUW must move forward on these issues, while simultaneously building for intersectional and intergenerational collaboration. Truly, AAUW cannot win any issues without this collaboration.

Unlike the previous decades of gender equity work, which focused on federal legislative change, the upcoming years must involve a hearts and minds strategy that includes new levers of change. AAUW can pursue private sector wins and wins in community ecosystems, in addition to traditional public policy advocacy.

Even the Business Roundtable agrees that corporations must turn their attention to investing in their employees, customers and communities. These conditions provide an opening in pursuing private sector solutions to address women’s economic security and opportunities for leadership.

As a board member, how would you contribute to achieving AAUW’s mission and strategic plan.

In the near term, I plan to focus on financial viability, IT infrastructure, and public policy – all of which draw on my professional expertise.

Financial viability stands at the core of any consideration of sustainability and longevity. I will continue to support AAUW’s new strategy to increase funding for general operating dollars to sustain new programming, public policy and research. I have been working with AAUW – TN to raise $12,000 this fiscal year. For the first time, the state organization contributed $2,000 to kickstart a challenge opportunity to members and branches.

The planned upgrade of the MSD must be rolled out to engage members and to allow for greater affiliate autonomy. Currently, the transaction processes are burdensome for members, branches and state organizations. 21st century banking fixes can set the organization on solid footing with existing and future members and donors.

Investing in public policy will ensure that AAUW continues to shape the public debate. AAUW members are seasoned in getting out to vote and in engaging state and federal lawmakers. Providing opportunities to Gen Y and Z to step into debates on public policy, know how their lawmakers vote on issues related to gender equity, and turning out to vote are the foundation of the mission of AAUW.

Please describe your board and leadership experience.

Last year, I was elected to the national AAUW board for a one-year term, and I aspire to a full 3-year term this year. Over the course of my 20-year career, my work has culminated in new laws, new funding ($34 million and counting) and stronger organizations.

I launched my own consulting practice, Spring Consulting, LLC. (www.spring.team) to build the capacity of organizations and to support effective public policy initiatives. I have led several organizations through pivotal transitions to remain relevant and sustainable. For example, I served as the Acting Executive Director of a local economic development corporation on Chicago’s Southwest Side, and successfully delivered the organization out from under a significant deficit during the economic downturn.

Serving in the Illinois Governor’s Office, I led a national demonstration project on Medicaid and care coordination. The project involved eight state agencies, four statewide health-related associations, over 1,000 professionals through webinars, and over 300 behavioral healthcare providers in surveys and focus groups. I designed, managed and measured a $250,000 funding initiative of six demonstration projects throughout the state. I guided the effort to modernize Illinois’ mental health confidentiality act to successfully accommodate patient-centered care and care coordination.

Please describe your strategic planning and finance/budget experience

I launched my own consulting practice, Spring Consulting, LLC. (www.spring.team) to build the capacity of organizations and to support effective public policy initiatives. My work in organizational change management and strategic planning relies on several evidenced-based methods. I am a certified Prosci change practitioner, and I have employed industry standard methodologies, such as ToP, OKRs and collective impact.

I have led several nonprofits through pivotal transitions to remain relevant and sustainable. For example, I conducted the strategic plan on core curriculum redesign for Tennessee’s largest undergraduate university, Middle Tennessee State University.

Serving in leadership roles throughout the AAUW network, I have led the local branch and state organization through planning sessions. I served as the president, AAUW Murfreesboro (2015-19); president, AAUW of Tennessee (2018-19); state public policy chair (2013 – 2015); member, national policy committee of AAUW (2016 – 2019). I founded the charitable arm (The Middle Tennessee Fund for Women and Girls). The branch fundraising capacity increased by five-fold, membership dropped in average age to 47 and included nearly 30% women of color. My work in renovating the Murfreesboro branch earned me a nomination for the 2018 ATHENA Award (Rutherford County) by the MTSU June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students.

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  1. Avatar Deborah Simontacchi says:

    Would you advocate for men who identify as women, transgender women, to be allowed to participate In women’s competitive sports where their physiological advantages would give them an unfair advantage over biological females?

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