Staff Spotlight: Shannon Mann-Butler, CFRI Senior Operations and Development Coordinator

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Describe in your own words what you do at UTCFRI:

I am responsible for program development and coordination, conference planning and coordination, university outreach, volunteer and mentor coordination, collaboration efforts on campus and in the community, fundraising for UTCFRI programs and projects while working closely with campus development. I also supervise and provide professional development for UTCFRI undergraduate and graduate students working on multiple projects across our research team.

What are your professional areas of interest/ research interests?

I have a passion for helping people and nonprofit organizations to maximize strengths and opportunities, to thrive in an environment of change.  My professional interests are in community planning involving foster youth, education, substance abuse, mental health, and literacy.

Current projects or one key project?

I have my hands in a lot of things right now with operations and development, but SPARK is a priority project.  I am really proud of the work with SPARK and excited about the programs’ future. The mission of the University of Texas SPARK Program is to empower former foster youth, orphans, and wards of the court. Our program provides the support systems necessary to succeed at the university.  Additionally, SPARK facilitates participant’s engagement with the campus and their community while in college. The SPARK program serves as a resource to help students build meaningful personal and professional relationships, really, it is a family.

If you had to pick one important or exciting thing about your work at UTCFRI what would it be? AND what is the most exciting or rewarding thing about your work at UTCFRI?

SPARK started as a result of meeting some foster youth attending UT and realizing that the UT community is capable of doing more to meet the specialized needs of this population.  Many foster youth do not even consider UT as an option for their higher education experience due to the lack of support and recruitment. UT has had the opportunity to model the SPARK program after well-established programs.  Our goal at UT is to increase the numbers of former foster youth who graduate from UT. We provide case management, informal gatherings, and support during school breaks. SPARK has been appointed the External Liaison for foster care alumni and we are partnered with Horns Helping Horns, the Internal Liaison.  Each year we plan to add on additional program service including academic advising and tutoring as needed, community mentors and internships. We are working with local community groups and nonprofits to add additional financial and community support. We are in the process of appointing Campus Champions in all departments who will serve as a resource and advisors to our youth. CFRI will be providing trauma informed training to UT staff and faculty working with the alumni.

Before working at UTCFRI what was the most unusual or interesting job you had?

I have been in NPO for over 16 years.  I started my career at Big Brothers Big Sisters in Dallas (now BBBS Lone Star) after receiving my BSW from UT. After working there over 8 years I returned to Austin to attend graduate school at UT. I had been working in education, primarily staff development and retention and program development, before joining CFRI in December 2013.

What’s your personal philosophy?

Some things that motivate me include:

  1. I want to live my life in a way that I am leaving the world a better place.
  2. I always try to listen to my inner voice and follow my heart
  3. Dream BIG and help other people do the same thing. I try to remember that I may be the only person offering encouragement and support to someone.
  4. Be persistent about goals while remaining flexible about how we get there.
  5. Don’t stress out over something that I can’t control.
  6. Be brave, especially when I don’t want to and get out of my comfort zone.

What are the three things you can’t live without?

My family: All rolled into one (my husband, my mom, my extended family & friends, my fuzzies). All of them have shaped me in significant ways.

Technology: I sometimes wish that I could get away from it but I am so tied in – connections to family and friends, emails/calls/calendars on smart phones, etc. It keeps me in check.

Down time: I need time to recharge, when I don’t have it I get off track.

How do you define success?

Success is liking yourself and what you do. I think success comes with a peace of mind and is more than knowing you did your best. It’s about becoming the best you along the way and learning and celebrating the mistakes that it took you to get there.

Would you rather be a tiny elephant or a giant hamster? Why?

Probably a giant hamster, but to be honest what is “giant” to a hamster? Are we talking like Elephant sized or gerbil sized?  Either way I would want a giant ball so I could roll around and explore the unknown.

In the upcoming months, our social media platforms and the CFRI blog will be highlighting the staff and students of CFRI. Get to know us and learn more about the passionate people behind the quality research that is used to guide policy and social work practice at The Child & Family Research Institute. #meetCFRI