Interview with Amy Geffen, NYSSA's New President and CEO
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On September 9, 2010, NYSSA announced the appointment of its new president and CEO, Amy Geffen, PhD. During her tenure at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Dr. Geffen expanded the global reach of the organization and spearheaded the delivery of online learning. Before beginning her new role on October 4, Geffen sat down to answer a few questions.
You’ve been with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for almost 10 years, which is a long tenure these days. (The average tenure for an American worker is 4.1 years.) What did you enjoy most about working for ASME?
Although ten years may seem a long time to be at one organization, in my ten years at ASME I held three different positions. The first was as Director of the Continuing Education Institute for four years. My greatest accomplishment there was to launch online courses that grew from zero to 100 in four years.
What about this position with NYSSA appealed to you? Were you familiar with the organization beforehand?
The NYSSA position is appealing because it is a great challenge and opportunity to grow the association through membership, student involvement, and new online programs. NYSSA has a strong recognizable brand and will be able to grow internationally in the coming years.
You earned your bachelor’s degree in French and Spanish. When you were young, did you see yourself pursuing a career in the humanities? When did you decide to pursue a career with educational nonprofits?
My original goal was to become a professor of French language and literature. When I completed my PhD, the economic climate was not favorable to that choice and so I looked at other options. Given my background in education and my organizational and creative skills, I thought that continuing education in nonprofits might be a good match. I took that chance, and it turned out that it was.
Throughout the years NYSSA has vacillated between hiring executive directors who are finance professionals or those who have extensive experience managing educational nonprofits. As someone who has worked for nonprofits in highly technical and widely varied fields, do you think professional educators/administrators approach things differently than former practitioners?
I have worked in engineering and risk management associations without any prior knowledge of those technical areas. As an educator, what I bring to the table is an understanding of adult learning and the process of creating materials, courses, and workshops that build skills, knowledge, and attitudes for the participants. As an association executive, I bring to the table experience working with membership, marketing, finance, and government agencies that are the essential components of any association.
You have a great deal of experience in launching online initiatives and expanding the global reach of the organizations that you’ve worked for. Do you think that NYSSA has the potential to expand its brand globally?
My goals are to expand online learning to include not only the videos of live programs but also online self-study with a learning management system accessible 24/7/365. NYSSA definitely has the potential to expand globally—expanding membership to include the involvement of more students and academics, and growing the global connections with other countries involved in the investment community.
What, in your experience, is the key to running a successful educational nonprofit?
The key to running a successful educational nonprofit is to understand the needs of your customers, give them what they want, and find cost-effective means of meeting those needs.
In an upcoming issue of the Finance Professionals' Post, Amy Geffen will respond to questions submitted by NYSSA members. To submit a question to Geffen, contact the editor. (Names of those who submit questions will be withheld in the final interview.)