Making a Difference with Michelle Geoffroy '11

November 21, 2016

Michelle Geoffroy

Michelle works at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Was your major at Simmons and what's your current job title?

I majored in English literature and minored in leadership. I'm the Agency Training Coordinator at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

What is a typical day like at your job?

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is that every day is different. I plan several workshops for our member agencies — the food pantries and meal sites we distribute food to — across our service area each quarter. These can be anything from best-practice sharing discussions on how to run a client-choice pantry, to formal trainings on grant-writing and volunteer recruitment. Geographically our service area is quite large, so I do a lot of driving, but I don't usually mind, it's just so pretty to drive around out here!

I also do a lot of advocacy work on state-level policy related to food insecurity, so I get to spend a lot of time calling and emailing and meeting with our state legislators to ask for their support for our priorities. I'm a former legislative staffer, so I'm very comfortable with this kind of work, and it's actually really fun! It's very fast-paced and exciting, and I feel like the work that I do really makes a difference in the lives of the people that we serve.

What was the job application process like for you?

My first job I kind of stumbled upon by chance, my college internship supervisor told me that she knew of a staff opening in a State Senate office, so I applied. When the offer came it was kind of a surprise, given my level of experience, but I think a confident interview, a strong writing sample on a topic of interest to the Senator and a good recommendation from my internship supervisor helped a lot. I had that job for three years, and it gave me the knowledge and experience to do the advocacy work I so enjoy in my current position. My former boss and co-workers are still good friends.

My second job search was harder. I moved to Western Massachusetts with no job lined up and no connections, but I knew I wanted to work in the non-profit sector, so I networked my heart out both before and after my move. I scoured Idealist, researched organizations, volunteered — and after being intermittently employed through a temp agency for about a year, I finally landed a position as an Americorps VISTA at The Food Bank. When my VISTA term ended, they hired me for a permanent position, and let me tell you, after a year of poverty-level wages, when I got my first paycheck, I cried.

What is your favorite part of your job?

All of it! There is literally no part of my job that I do not enjoy. I love the people I get to work with, the impact of my advocacy work and getting to know our member agencies and see how different programs operate. I even love learning the technical stuff about agency contracts and compliance and how to use our internal database. I feel very lucky to have found a position that I find engaging and challenging in a field that I'm passionate about.

How did you know the organization was a good fit for you?

When I moved to Western Mass., The Food Bank was on my shortlist of target organizations and I started volunteering there on a regular basis. When I got the interview for my VISTA position, I remember being asked if I understood that this would mean a year of poverty-level wages and whether I was ready to commit to that. I told my interviewer that I was "pretty sure" this was what I wanted. Then I looked her in the eye and corrected myself. "Let me rephrase," I said. "This is what I want."

How did Simmons help prepare you for your career?

The critical thinking skills I learned as an English major were a big help, especially when applied to social justice issues like poverty and food insecurity — and Simmons definitely made me more aware of those issues. In terms of job searching, my Humanities 370 class was a huge help. It was basically a whole class on writing your resume and cover letter and practicing interview skills. We did informational interviews, a skill that came in handy when I moved to Western Mass. and was trying to get the "lay of the land" regarding the non-profit sector. There was also my food pantry internship, another part of Humanities 370, which led me to discover my passion for food security, and thus, my current career.

Tell us about your experience with the Girl Scouts

It was actually a Girl Scouts conference, held at Simmons, that led me to Simmons in the first place. I knew right away that Simmons was right for me.

Girl Scouts was my introduction to service. Through the projects my troop did for our community and the values I learned as a Girl Scout — being honest and fair, friendly and helpful, kind and respectful, and making the world a better place — have stuck with me my whole life. I think my experience at Simmons reinforced those values, because that's what Simmons women do, right? That's part of what being a Simmons woman is about.

Both Girl Scouts and Simmons helped give me the sense of confidence and empowerment that I now have as a young professional. My entire career has been in government and non-profits and I cannot conceive of any professional path that doesn’t consist chiefly of a life of service to others. And I have both Girl Scouts and Simmons to thank for that.

What's your Simmons moment?

Walking across the stage at my graduation. The sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing how hard I worked to get there, feeling the support from my family and being surrounded  by so many incredible women. The future stretched out before us, all that possibility, and knowing that we would all go on to do such incredible things... that's my Simmons moment.