Rekha Grennan joined the Board of Cultural Vistas in 2020, in the midst of the global health pandemic, where she brings 20-plus years of experience in leading global, cross-sectoral collaborations. She got involved with Cultural Vistas because the mission of building mutual understanding resonates with her personal and professional journey. She enjoys putting her expertise to work on behalf of the Cultural Vistas mission, while also learning from staff, alumni and others on the Board. She is the Chair of the Development Committee and is helping us lead the way in creating an inclusive culture of giving — read on to hear what inspires Rekha about giving back through the Cultural Vistas community.
Name: Rekha Grennan
Relationship: Cultural Vistas Board Member and Chair of Development Committee
Current location: New York City
Occupation: Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) Strategist
How have international experiences shaped your professional pathway?
I have always loved to travel and explore. As an American child of immigrants from India, I traveled to India early on for family visits and eventually lived there for a time. That experience was transformative – it is a very different thing to be a resident trying to assimilate. That experience helped me find my purpose and gave me the intercultural tools to adapt to new situations, people and customs. As a professional, I leaned on that cultural agility to work in international disaster response and corporate social responsibility work in sub-saharan Africa. I am now applying these skills in a policy context for business clients that operate globally and have many different cultures to straddle.
What inspired you to join the Board of Cultural Vistas?
Serving as a non-profit Board Member is a relatively new experience for me and thus, it is an opportunity to both serve a valuable mission and to learn from the staff, alumni and other Board members at a fairly unique vantage point. It is humbling to utilize your knowledge in new applications and see a multiplier effect from your efforts. I was fortunate to join the board at such a transformative time and to see how my skill sets could support the evolution and growth of the organization. In addition to Chairing the Development Committee of the Board, I also serve on the Intercultural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ICDEI) Committee. This committee includes staff members and board members who are helping to build a sustainable lens for ICDEI in all aspects of the organization. This work resonates deeply with me and I believe we have amazing opportunities ahead for Cultural Vistas work in building an even broader community.
How can donors navigate social issues to ensure their donations have impact?
I believe the first thing we all need to do is take action. Oscar Wilde once said:
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”
This has been a long-held belief of mine. To be good stewards, advocates and philanthropists we first must engage and if we can, seek to learn. We need to test our values by putting them to action and pushing for outcomes.
As a non-profit, Cultural Vistas has an obligation to not only count inputs and outputs, but also demonstrate outcomes. At times, we will need to do so in a qualitative manner, but our focus has to be on the need and the mission at all times so we can show results. This is something that Cultural Vistas has committed to as a primary goal in its new strategic plan. Staff are now working to document the value chain and ultimately, gain a quantitative and qualitative understanding of the organization’s larger scale impacts on society.
What excites you about the future of Cultural Vistas?
I’m excited about the Thurgood Marshall College Fund partnership which is spearheaded by my fellow board member, Dr. Joyce Payne – she is dedicated to expanding international opportunities within their network of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Cultural Vistas is a good home for this partnership and I’m excited to be a part of it.
As a board member, I am inspired by the mission, diligence of the staff, thoughtfulness of the leadership and my fellow board members commitments as we seek to re-orient in a post-Covid, Black Lives Matter world. We know we have work to do to expand access to intercultural experiences to a broader spectrum of society. In doing so, we have a key role to play in creating truly inclusive pathways nationally and globally. And yet, the beauty of the mission is that we get to see both immediate short-term impact through the human connections these programs create, and the longer-term impact of building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive society.
Amidst uncertainty nothing is more exciting than working toward solutions.