Tory Martin: Aimée, welcome to the Johnson Center! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Aimée Laramore: This is a tremendous season of transition and I am excited to embrace the director of learning services role and continue a career commitment to the love of humankind.
From economic development to capacity building for nonprofit organizations, my career has offered tremendous opportunities to operate at the intersection of faith and giving, while working with diverse life-giving medical, community, higher education, and philanthropic entities. Philanthropy is both an art and a science, and I enjoy the transformational work that happens at the center of this expansive field.
I enjoy writing, art, and expanding the definition of philanthropy in my personal and professional life. My favorite role is that of mother to three amazing hybrid adults, Lydia, Noah, and Andrew, and wife of one dedicated community investment banker, Aaron.
Originally from the Glass City — Toledo, Ohio — a significant portion of my career has been spent in the mighty midwestern region. Raised in Ohio, I am both a Purdue Boilermaker and Toledo Rocket, with a decade of life spent in greater Detroit, Michigan before relocating to Fishers, Indiana. I have been blessed to travel the country as a trainer, consultant, and philanthropic strategist, teaching governance, fundraising, and a culture of generosity.
What do you see as some of the philanthropic sector’s most pressing learning needs?
Tell us about a trend in philanthropy that you find intriguing or inspiring. How about trends across higher education or adult learning?
While I am increasingly inspired by the new voices within philanthropy, I am particularly attentive to the decreasing number of American households that give to charity, the increasing gap between wealth holders coupled with the economic trends that illuminate the challenges facing the working class, and far too little attention given to the leadership of donors of color at the forefront of innovation.
My deep interest in how we measure, teach, and model a culture of generosity includes an astute awareness that education will never eliminate the racial wealth gap. I am intrigued by the opportunities to both examine existing trends and bring witness to ways we can shape a more inclusive and responsive giving ethic, including a more robust examination of the power of transformational practices.
“I am intrigued by the opportunities to both examine existing trends and bring witness to ways we can shape a more inclusive and responsive giving ethic, including a more robust examination of the power of transformational practices.”
Over the last decade, specifically, my investment in adult education has provided clarity about the impact of life-altering debt, the necessity for life-long learning, and the many societal shifts that mandate a new orientation to serving the needs of our distinct constituency audiences across the nation. At the end of the day, our understanding of both degree-based learning and skill-based learning must shift to meet the needs of students, with attention to the true costs of higher education. Our value proposition in higher education must be at the forefront of strategic planning for the future.
How do you anticipate integrating these larger forces into the Johnson Center’s professional development offerings?
I am overjoyed to take a deeper dive into our publications, program offerings to advance competency models, and professional development curriculum for philanthropy professionals. There is absolutely no question that people across the country are seeking responsive education and training that allows them to thrive in the nonprofit sector.
From emerging professionals deciding to enter philanthropy to our foundation colleagues and nonprofit professionals seeking career-defining growth opportunities, we are poised to design and deliver continuing education experiences that are second to none. The Johnson Center’s research and practitioner experience will allow us to lead the world in professional development offerings. I am thrilled to lead an exceptional team in innovation, inclusion, and professional impact.
How does this position fit in with Grand Valley State University and serve students?
My orientation toward long-term societal success is a theology of both/and. The future of our society depends on the next generation of leaders; their understanding of mission, vision, and economy; and the diversification of philanthropic practices that authentically reflect the actual world we live in. It is our responsibility to fully prepare students to lead, transform, and philosophically advance the philanthropic sector. The Johnson Center has positioned this role to both educate and empower professionals; we learn and we grow together.
The definition of insanity in life is to continue to do what has always been done and expect different results. As director of learning services, I am most excited about the opportunity to embrace, educate, and equip thoughtful leaders at every stage of their nonprofit journey.
“[P]hilanthropy at its best benefits from self-assessment, renewed investment in innovation, and willingness to dream new and generous dreams.”
We live in a society that can be obsessed with youth and early career achievement, without appropriate appreciation for learning investment, professional preparedness, and the needed interdependence within the nonprofit field. The future is limitless because of our understanding of intergenerational and interdisciplinary success. We hold a core belief that philanthropy at its best benefits from self-assessment, renewed investment in innovation, and willingness to dream new and generous dreams.
On a personal level, what nonprofits or social causes are closest to your heart?
Oh, my goodness, there are so many nonprofit and social causes that are close to my heart! That’s how I have stayed in this field; and these connections give me unparalleled joy.
My personal philanthropic interests include a life-long commitment to Black Philanthropy, equity in education, and community wellness. If there is any opportunity to expand mental health services for young people, I invest and advocate unconditionally. I believe at my core that Spelman College transforms lives and I’m dreaming with my daughter about a permanent legacy there. You can find me openly rooting for Dayspring Center, a homeless shelter for families; the gap scholarship of the Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Foundation; and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Educational Advancement Fund.
I am honored to serve on the Board of Visitors for Howard University School of Divinity and serve as an Advisory Board Member for the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. I am a charter member of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., Circle City Chapter, and a proud life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am the proud daughter of an artist and educator. In my free time, I love writing, beautiful fountain pens, all things art and photography, and traveling with my family. If there is a garden, gallery, theatre performance, or museum to be explored, I am likely visiting with my Goddaughter, Journey.