Barr all staff photo 2023

Welcoming New Barr Colleagues

President Jim Canales introduces new faces – and familiar faces in new places - at Barr.

“Oh my, you’re so tall!”

While not typically aimed at me (at least in recent memory), I have been enjoying hearing exclamations of that sort in our hallways and conference rooms (for me, it’s more often, “You’re so gray!”). It’s a happy consequence of increased in-person time in our offices, but it’s also a reflection of so many new faces at Barr.

At Barr’s recent offsite gathering—our first in almost four years—I noted that more than a third of those in the room had joined us since our last offsite in 2019. I am devoting this blog post to introduce members of our expanded staff, and new ways current Barr team members are contributing.

By way of context, Barr has been growing steadily since I arrived in May 2014 when our staff numbered 19. Today, there are over forty of us, with plans to add additional colleagues in the coming years. All along, we have aimed to be thoughtful about our growth, and one of our key partners in planning and executing all the work that such growth requires has been Denise Gillespie, who for many, many years was the sole human resources leader for both Barr and Pilot House Associates, Barr’s affiliated family office.

I cite Denise to start because her valued efforts have so often been behind the scenes, and yet so critical to the effective recruitment and retention of Barr’s talented team. As we faced continued growth and a focus on talent development, we all determined that adding human resources capacity would best serve Barr’s mission and growing team (and grant-making) going forward.

To that end, I am delighted to share that we have created a new leadership role of Vice President for People and Talent, dedicated entirely to Barr. This new VP will report to me and join me, Roger Nozaki, and Lynn Harwell providing leadership across the Foundation.

I am also excited to introduce Pam Jensen as Interim VP for people and talent, effective January 1.

With deep HR experience in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, Pam supported Barr and Pilot House Associates as a consultant and advisor throughout 2022, as we worked to shape an HR strategy and plan for its implementation. Pam’s willingness to step in for a one-year interim assignment will enable us to move swiftly in advancing this vital area of Barr’s work, while also allowing time to shape plans for a permanent VP.

Pam is joined by Maia Tillotson, whom we promoted in the fall to a new role of Human Resources Coordinator. This role, also fully dedicated to Barr, will provide much-needed support and guidance for our various teams across Barr, and we are thrilled to be able to promote one of our valued colleagues.

We have several other new additions and changes to report:

On Barr’s Education team, Natasha Ushomirsky has joined us as a Senior Program Officer. Since 2008, Natasha has worked with The Education Trust, a national nonprofit focused on research and advocacy for high academic achievement of all students – and also a Barr grantee. Most recently, Natasha led The Education Trust’s Massachusetts team, which convenes and facilitates the work of the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership.

In addition, Leah Bennett joined the Education team as Program Associate. Prior to Barr, Leah was Communications and Operations Manager at Saint Cecilia Parish (led by Reverend John J. Unni, a 2019 Barr Fellow). Leah will primarily support the Education Team’s Invest in Educators and Build Public Will portfolios – the latter of which Natasha will lead.

To help us better serve our grantees, we expanded our grants management team with the addition of Joe Rodriguez as Grants Management Assistant – coming to us from Gateway Arts, a Brookline, Massachusetts studio art center, gallery, and store supporting meaningful lives and careers in art for adults with disabilities.

To support our efforts to ensure Barr’s offices are welcoming, a fun place to gather, and a space to get good work done, Brit Vasconcellos joined us in January as Office Management Specialist – a new role for Barr. Brit came from The RepTrak Company, where she was Senior Officer Operations Coordinator.

On our communications team, Mary Chalifour was promoted to the new role of Associate Director of Communications, acknowledging both her leadership as Interim Director during the prior year, and our ever-increasing ambitions for how strategic communications can help propel Barr’s mission.

Most recently, we announced the appointment of Lisette Le as Director of Barr's Racial Wealth Equity Initiative, and two new open searches on the Education Team.

As we start 2023, we do so with anticipation that this year will bring us many more occasions to be together with our various partners, colleagues and friends. I look forward to having you meet our new colleagues (and reconnect with others). We are excited to welcome many of you back to our offices at Two Atlantic.

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