Foundation Faces

Jeannie Fenceroy Senior Program Officer

Greater Milwaukee Foundation
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Education: Nicolet High School,UW Madison Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Master of Education (Ed.M.) in Learning and Teaching

Path to Philanthropy:

While teaching middle school in Whitefish Bay, I wrote my first proposal to a local foundation.  It was a small grant request of $250 to bring in an African story teller.  When the proposal was funded, I was so excited because the project enhanced what I was trying to accomplish in my Language Arts and Social Studies classes.

Furthermore, my students benefitted greatly from the storytelling experience.  During my teaching career, I wrote numerous proposals requesting funding for projects to enhance the quality of my teaching. It was then that I realized the positive impact philanthropy can have on
a project; even small ones.

After completing my master’s degree at Harvard (Ed.M.’95), a friend suggested I have an in informational interview with Jeanette Mitchell, whom I had never met.  At the time, she was the Senior Education Program Officer at the Helen Bader Foundation.  I met with her to discuss my interest in pursuing a career in philanthropy. After reviewing my short resume, she kindly, but firmly told me, “You don’t have what it takes, yet.  To be successful in this field, you need to earn more stripes.” Determined “to earn more stripes,” I left our meeting with an exceptional mentor who supported me in pursuing my career goals.

In 2002, my goal of becoming an education program officer was realized when I began working at The Oprah Winfrey Foundation. There, I joined an international team of individuals to develop The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for girls in South Africa. The school was created to educate academically talented girls, from economically disadvantaged communities in South Africa.

Current Position and Project You’re Excited About:

Current Position and Project You’re Excited About Although it was an honor to work in South Africa, I longed to return to Milwaukee and engage in meaningful community work. In November of 2008, I joined the Greater Milwaukee Foundation as a Senior Program Officer.

“Strengthening communities through effective partnerships” is the Foundation’s mission. I am most excited about working on the Foundation’s Leadership Grants, which “improve our community by strategically identifying compelling community needs, convening key stakeholders, and leveraging internal and external resources to address these needs.”  I am especially passionate about the initiatives that support teacher quality.  Good teachers and effective teacher education programs have a significant impact on student achievement, particularly for students who live in communities of poverty. The Urban Education Fellows Program, a Leadership Grant funded by the Burke and Greater Milwaukee foundations, prepares mid-career professionals to transition from careers, other than education, and make a difference in an urban classroom.  The alternative teacher certification program is offered jointly by Mount Mary and Alverno colleges. Urban Education Fellows earn their Wisconsin teaching certification as well as a master’s degree in education, while teaching full-time at a private school in Milwaukee.  I am fortunate and honored to work for an organization that is so committed to addressing the critical needs in Milwaukee.