YNPN Twin Cities is led by a dedicated board of nonprofit professionals. In November, we put out a call for new board members and we were thrilled by the number of talented young professionals that responded. After a competitive nominations process, we're excited to introduce to you our newest board members.
In this two-part series, we asked the new board members to grill interview each other, so that we could get the nitty gritty on who they are. First up to bat, Alison Griffin and James Faghmous.
Alison Griffin interviews James Faghmous
Alison: What brought you to YNPN?
James: Two things. First, my current work deals with Muslim and minority nonprofits and these communities are lacking a young, active community. YNPN will empower me to encourage young members of these communities to get involved and take control of the agencies that serve them. Secondly, YNPN provides an opportunity to learn from energetic, talented and engaged professionals.
How would other people describe you—using only adjectives?
James: I would hope they'd say I'm funny. I'll say 'creative,' and well I don’t like to say 'perfectionist', so maybe 'thorough'.
Alison: What do you do for a living?
James: I'm a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota. I do research for a living—computer science applications to track and understand climate change. And I teach when they need me to.
Alison: What do you really want to do for a living?
James: I'm in a soul-searching phase of my career. I really love to teach, but academia nowadays requires a lot more than just being able to teach and research. I'm also a CEO and co-Founder of Muslim Buddy—a nonprofit dedicated to empowering underserved groups by building healthy organizations that address their community's needs—and I'm considering going full-time once I finish my degree.
Alison: Where would you like to live? And why?
James: My wife is from LA, so living there would be good for the in-laws, and the weather is nice. But I'm from New York City and would love to teach at my alma mater, City College of New York. But home is slowly becoming the Twin Cities, especially now that we have a son.
Alison: Who are your role models or who do you look up to?
James: Obviously my parents—they instilled the service mentality in me. I have role models who are also very important to me, like Oxford Professor Tariq Ramadan, who has helped improve western relations to Islam. More recently, I've looked up to President Barack Obama and how he handles problems and himself in the face of adversity.
Alison: What's your favorite Twin Cities Restaurant?
James: Big pizza guy ever since I moved here. Maybe I took it for granted when I lived in New York and now it's more nostalgic (like how all of a sudden I also watch Sex In The City and go to Yankees games when they're in town). Grand Pizza in St. Paul or Northeast Minneapolis' Crescent Moon. They're Afghan Pizza is amazing.
Alison: What’s one item on your bucket list?
James: Get to a Timberwolves game. Used to be a season ticket holder, but I can't seem to get anyone to go with me this season.
Alison: What’s one new thing happening or has happened in your life?
James: Being a Dad. It's amazing. It's hard to imagine that you could have the type of feelings you have for your children. Like the other day, I got upset because I didn't get to interact with him all day because I was working and he was sleeping.
James Faghmous interviews Alison Griffin
James: Alison, tell me about what you do for a living?
Alison: In July 2010, I joined Rise, Inc., an organization that strives to promote self-reliance and employment among people with severe disabilities. I serve as their AmeriCorps program coordinator. In addition to my work at Rise, I also waitress (a big passion of mine) at Village Pub in St. Anthony, MN.
James: That’s interesting! So tell me, what was your most outrageous experience as a waitress?
Alison: One of my co-workers asked me if I could donate a urine sample! I’m not sure what he needed it for, but I had to respectfully decline.
James: You joined Rise, Inc. in July 2010, where did you come from and why did you chose Minneapolis as your new home?
Alison: Well, I’ve been moving a lot lately. In the past five years, I’ve lived in 11 states for no more than 6 months in a given state. Most recently, I moved from Indianapolis, IN where I was field director for Organizing for America (OFA). After three grueling years in politics, I decided it was time to step back and anchor myself somewhere. I chose Minneapolis because I wanted to be in the Midwest with its vibrant nonprofit and volunteering scene.
James: So it seems that you value nonprofits and volunteering, why did you chose YNPN-TC specifically?
Alison: After leaving OFA and moving to Minneapolis, I was in the process of looking for a job when I started attending YNPN events. I started volunteering with YNPN, and then finally decided to join the board in early 2011. I chose YNPN because it was an organization that I connected with on so many levels, especially with its members.
James: Talking about learning experiences, what are the skills you hope to utilize in your new role with YNPN? And which skills do you hope to improve while on the board?
Alison: I really enjoy working on data-driven membership management and engagement. Also given my experience with so many communities, I really want to advocate how great Minnesotans are and work on sharing their awesomeness with other communities. I also really want to hone skills I haven’t gotten a chance to utilize yet likr social networking, which YNPN takes seriously.
James: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Alison: Oh gosh! I move so much that five years seems like an eternity! Let’s see... I hope to complete Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and Masters of Public Policy (MPP) degrees. Maybe start a family, and hopefully live closer to my brother who has two adorable children and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
James: Given your extensive travels, what was the most surprising city you’ve been to?
Alison: I would say Ashville, NC. Great city! It’s beautiful, has great food, great music, and comfortable weather. I might have to go back there in the future.
James : What are your champion causes/issues? Why?
Alison: I’m at the point in my life where I am reflecting on which causes I should spend a lot of time, money, and energy on. I think volunteering—especially empowering and inclusive volunteerism—is what gets me going. Maximizing the potential of others, which I try to do in my role at Rise, is also something I am very passionate about.
James: So what’s the most fun thing you’ve done so far in the Twin Cities?
Alison: I’ve been living the TC experience since moving here! As soon as I moved, I purchased my first road bike and I’ve been biking quiet a bit. We also started home brewing and community gardening. These activities really made the TCs feel like home.