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Piper Fellow Recipients 2017

2017 Piper Fellow Dr. Aaron Blocher-Rubin

Aaron Blocher-Rubin “As the incidence of autism has risen, so has both public awareness and funding for certain treatments. That has led to a wave of large corporate entities acquiring smaller agencies that have long provided quality services. This trend may increase overall availability of important services, but the downside is that private equity tends to go where the money is, which means many other needs for individuals with autism will remain underserved. Thus, the role of mission-driven nonprofits is more important than ever, wherein the primary goal is always to identify unmet needs and help families holistically across the lifespan.”
– Dr. Aaron Blocher-Rubin, Founder and CEO, Arizona Autism United (AZA United)

Over the past decade Dr. Aaron Blocher-Rubin has led Arizona Autism United, from start-up to maturity, helping hundreds of autism families daily in Maricopa County. In 2014, he was named Nonprofit Director of the Year by the Organization for Nonprofit Executives. He has a brother on the autism spectrum, a clinical background in autism treatment, serves as president of the Arizona Association for Behavior Analysis, and teaches a graduate course in Principles of Management and Organizational Behavior for Nonprofits at Arizona State University. He holds an MBA in healthcare and a PhD in human services.

Blocher-Rubin’s fellowship will focus on visiting some of the best autism organizations in the world such as the oldest and largest autism charity, the National Autistic Society in London, and a series of organizations serving individuals with autism throughout California and New England. He will complete an executive education program at Stanford University focused on enhancing leadership and strategic thinking skills and will attend the Fast Company Innovation Festival conference in New York City. His fellowship will conclude with a reflection period in a rural area.

2017 Piper Fellow Melissa Elliott

Melissa Elliott “It is an exciting time to be in aging services and Maricopa County’s Area Agency is looked to as a leader in the community for its innovative programs and services. Over the past year we have taken on many new projects challenging me as an emerging leader within my organization. I see this Piper Fellowship as an opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills, grow professionally, and learn from other aging service professionals around the nation so that I may more effectively lead and achieve outcomes within my organization as we continue to pave our way through this era of aging services.”
– Melissa Elliott, Vice President of Programs & Services, Area Agency on Aging

As Vice-President of Programs and Services for the Area Agency on Aging, Melissa Elliott oversees several major programs that serve older adults, persons with disabilities, and caregivers in Maricopa County. The highlight of her career so far has been her work with care transitions and hospital readmission reduction. Her team was recognized as a top performer in the nation and she served as a faculty mentor for other teams nationwide. Prior to her nonprofit work, Elliott worked in skilled nursing facilities as a recreation therapist and social services director and practiced as a home health social worker. Elliott holds a master’s degree in social work from Arizona State University where she now also serves as an adjunct faculty member.

Elliott’s fellowship will focus on building her skills as a nonprofit leader in the areas of project management, budgeting, and overall organizational leadership as she strives to more effectively manage the innovative programs and services the Area Agency on Aging provides to the community. She will visit other Area Agencies on Aging across the nation known for delivering innovative and best practice programs.

2017 Piper Fellow Mary Mitchell

Mary Mitchell “I am deeply honored to be selected as a 2017 Piper Fellow. This Piper Fellowship will allow me to learn from the wisdom of leaders across the United States and infuse knowledge gained into the incredible work of the Girl Scouts. It also will expand my capacity and knowledge on how to create an emergent future that allows for systemic thinking, leveraging of assets, and innovative community engagement practices, as the Girl Scouts strives to remain in the forefront of helping to close the gaps for all girls in our community.”
– Mary Mitchell, Senior Associate of Community Engagement, Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council

Mary Mitchell is Senior Associate, Community Engagement for Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council; she has served the council for more than 20 years. Mitchell leads the strategy and innovation for the council’s community engagement framework and oversees the council direction and focus related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Mitchell completed advanced Executive MBA coursework at Grand Canyon University, as well as executive level studies through the Society for Organizational Learning. She holds a liberal arts degree from Governors State University and an associate of arts degree from South Mountain Community College; she also studied public relations at Arizona State University.

Mitchell’s fellowship will focus on organizational strategy and integration of long-term sustainability practices, broadening knowledge on systems thinking within organizations, closing gaps in service to underserved populations utilizing a volunteer-led model of service, and managing and leveraging emergent opportunities. She will take several learning journeys, visiting and learning from other Girl Scout Councils, and community organizations that are serving and responding to the needs of very diverse populations in innovative ways. She will also attend Naropa University’s Authentic Leadership In Action Summer Intensive, as well as the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

2017 Piper Fellow Stacia Ortega

Stacia Ortega “Recruiting and retaining young volunteers is key to sustaining nonprofit agencies such as Hospice of the Valley. This Piper Fellowship will help ensure the future of organizations that count on altruistic people who give others their time, compassion, and unique talents.”
– Stacia Ortega, Director of Volunteer Services, Hospice of the Valley

Stacia Ortega, Director of Volunteer Services, joined Hospice of the Valley in 2001 to launch one of the first hospice teen volunteer programs in the country. A licensed clinical social worker, she also developed an adolescent grief support program that included a wilderness experience. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work from Arizona State University and is a certified thanantologist. Hospice of the Valley is a nonprofit hospice caring for children and adults with serious, chronic illness nearing end of life. Ortega leads 2,100 volunteers—the size of a large workforce.

Ortega’s fellowship will focus on developing a volunteer model that includes new technologies and modern training approaches for the millennial and boomlet generations. She will visit and meet with executives from for-profit businesses that are highly regarded by the millennial workforce. In addition, she will meet with diverse not-for-profit organizations nationwide to learn best practices for attracting and retaining a millennial volunteer base. Ortega seeks to transform Hospice of the Valley’s current volunteer programming and share her learning with other nonprofits facing similar challenges.

2017 Piper Fellow Essen Otu

Essen Otu “Being able to represent a fellowship that has been a catalyst for place-based transformation for so many years is truly an honor. I look forward to leveraging the Piper Fellowship to position Mountain Park Health Center as a leader in addressing social determinants of health by marrying preventative care and early childhood education.”
– Essen Otu, Senior Director of Diversity & Community Affairs, Mountain Park Health Center

Serving as the Senior Director for Diversity & Community Affairs at Mountain Park Health Center, a medical home for 80,000 patients in metro Phoenix, Essen Otu has managed to successfully blend his passion for giving and creating equitable communities with philanthropy and healthcare. At Mountain Park, Otu is responsible for creating strategies that lead to sustaining an inclusive and welcoming environment for all Mountain Park stakeholders and ensuring the organization is embedded and trusted in the communities it serves.

Otu is also the founder of Real Engagement through Active Philanthropy (REAP), a fund at the Arizona Community Foundation providing support to local organizations serving Black men and boys. He is a graduate of the Valley Leadership Institute, a Phoenix Business Journal Forty Under 40 awardee, and serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Vitalyst Health Foundation. Otu holds an undergraduate degree from Arizona State University and MPA through the National Urban Fellows Program at Baruch College in New York. He takes the most joy in being the proud husband of Allison Otu and the proud father of three beautiful daughters, Sahara, Amel, and Aya.

Otu’s fellowship will provide a platform to explore effective models of multi-sector institutional collaboration while developing strategies to integrate a preventative care and early childhood education model through social determinants of health interventions. His plans include attending Driving Growth through Strategic Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania and Creating and Managing Strategic Alliances at Northwestern University. His fellowship experience will also include visits to Boston’s Neighborhood Villages schools and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s shared-use partnership site to better understand the challenges, lessons learned, and potential impact of successful multi-sector collaborations.

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