Jessica Bird

M.A. in Nonprofit Leadership and Management

About Me

Originally I am from Kansas City, KS, but came out to San Diego in 2004 to get my Bachelor’s from Point Loma Nazarene University in Theatre and Music. After graduating in 2009 I have worked consistently at theatres across San Diego primarily at San Diego Repertory Theatre starting as a Production Fellow, then Casting Director & Artistic Associate, and now Producer in Residence. Other theatres I have worked at from directing to stage management are The Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company, Scripps Ranch Theatre, Cygnet Theatre, Playwright’s Project, and MOXIE Theatre.

What do you hope to do with your degree?

With my degree I plan to be more equipped in the field to manage a theatre company that is both artistically and institutionally strong while being an innovative player in the nonprofit sector at large.

How did you hear about SOLES and why did you choose to enroll?

I heard about SOLES for the first time in Pat Libby’s kitchen. Her husband is a local playwright, and I was playing a role in one of his plays for a reading in their living room. During dinner, I mentioned that I wanted to run a theatre company someday and Pat started telling me all about this program at USD that I should apply to. At first I was very hesitant and didn’t even want to hear about it. “Grad School?! Non-theatre related? No way!” But little did I know that 6 months later, I would find myself in my first class with Pat for Nonprofit Fundamentals. The more I had thought about it, the more it made sense. I felt I was getting good on-the-job training at theaters artistically but all of them struggled with how to manage and run the organizational side of things, a common trait in many nonprofits. So if you can’t find it on the job, what do you do? You go back to school. And I have never regretted it once.

Are you currently working?

I work full-time by combining a few part-time jobs at two different theatres: San Diego Repertory Theatre as NNPN Producer in Residence, consultant for Scripps Ranch Theatre, and director for various theatre companies and schools.

How has your SOLES education impacted your career?

Before enrolling in the program I had good instincts on the job but didn’t always have the skills or research to back it up. With the knowledge and tools I have learned in my classes I am now a more confident and strategic professional who not only trusts her instincts, but backs up decisions with more research.

Which class has impacted you the most?

There is not one specific class that has stood out to me as having more impact over another. They build upon each other in a very systematic way. Without an experience in one class I wouldn’t be able to understand the depths of another class. They feed upon each other in a symbiotic way that I believe creates a deeper impact than any single class could accomplish. Sometimes I don’t even know where to attribute my learning as I believe it is all interconnected.

Are there specific SOLES faculty, staff or administrators you feel have contributed significantly to your success?

When I started the program, I also started the most difficult job I have had thus far in my career. During my first semester in Fundamentals I would run in right when class started or a little bit thereafter with a dazed glaze over my eyes. Every week Pat Libby would check in to see how I was doing, and one day, after I was expressing struggles I was having at work, she said, “Why are you giving away all your power?”

I stopped. She was right. I was running around like a maniac and trying to fulfill unattainable demands. Since then, I have strived to put more boundaries into my work life and learned how to communicate with my boss more effectively. I continue to feel supported by Pat even though I no longer have any classes with her and am grateful that she takes the time to still check in.

What is your dream job?

My dream job would be running a theatre company that invests in its community in an innovative way that uses the arts to also promote the betterment and healing of individuals and the community at large.

Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective students?

If you are thinking about it, do it! But “Why?” you say? Well, it is one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation, but other than that, you deserve to invest in your growth as well as in growth of the nonprofit sector as a whole. We need more people like you to take the leap and give themselves the tools to help change the world. You will feel more competent to do so after this program.