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Recipients' Perspective: Impact of The Inaugural Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship

Fri, August 22, 2014 1:48 PM | Laura Parshall
Katherine Reisz-Hanson is Heather Reisz's sister, a member of the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship Committee, and a marketing communications consultant. In this piece, she interviews the recipients of the inaugural scholarship in her sister's name.

Recipients' Perspective: Impact of The Inaugural Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship

“The conference felt very family-like. I got the sense that people really care for each other; this is not just work to people.” That is how Monique Bourgeois Miller describes the feeling at the 2014 NEDRA Annual Conference in Boston in March. Monique was one of two inaugural winners of the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship, which covered her costs for attending the conference.

Scholarship Honors Mentoring

The scholarship honors the mentoring spirit of Heather Reisz, an active and devoted NEDRA volunteer and former board member who passed away in May 2013. “Heather had a particular fondness for newcomers to the profession….Thanks to Heather’s free sharing of knowledge, support, and advice, there are numerous people in the field who have her to thank for their success,” noted former NEDRA President and board member Rick Snyder when the scholarship was launched.

The Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship enables newcomers to the field of prospect research to benefit from the knowledge of more experienced NEDRA members. The award provides for lodging and registration and defrays travel costs for the awardee to attend the NEDRA Annual Conference and pre-conference Research Basics Bootcamp, as well as a one-year NEDRA membership.

Inaugural Recipients

During a luncheon at the 2014 NEDRA Conference the first annual Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarships were awarded to Monique Bourgeois Miller, Prospect Researcher at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, and Laura Koo, Assistant Director of Research at The Art Institute of Chicago.


For Laura, receiving the scholarship was particularly personal and meaningful having been hired by Heather in November 2012. Heather had moved from Boston (and the position of Director of Research and Prospect Development at the Museum of Fine Arts) to Chicago a year earlier when she accepted the role of Director of Research at the Art Institute with the mission to initiate a research group within the development department.

In her scholarship application Laura recalled that “Heather took a chance on how green my research skills were, as I was 100% self-taught. At the time I received the job offer, I was feeling incredibly stuck with my career and struggling to find my focus and move away from being a generalist within a fundraising department. Heather’s faith in me helped me gain faith in myself.

Part of being a ‘green’ researcher meant that, using Heather’s terminology, she was going to ‘train me up.’ I was incredibly excited to have her as my mentor. Up until that point I had never done a true capacity rating, my real estate valuation skills were rudimentary, and I had zero expertise in interpreting a prospect’s stockholdings. And while Heather and I thought we had all of the time in the world for her to train me, after I had been on the job for only 6 months Heather very sadly and unexpectedly passed away.”

“While I know that Heather loved her time in Chicago and the researchers she met here, her heart was always back in Boston and she spoke so highly of NEDRA and her involvement with the organization,” said Laura. “It was great to meet so many of Heather’s friends and colleagues at the conference.”

A Wealth of Information

After attending the Annual Conference, Laura noted that many of the presenters were from larger institutions than the Art Institute and had larger research staff. She commented, “it was a good opportunity to see the big picture and then think how to apply the same tactics to our smaller museum staff.” She particularly appreciated the session Partnering on Prospects: The Role of Prospect Research in Strategy Development presented by Amy Gingle and Sarah Guarino, both from Massachusetts General Hospital.

Monique, who applied for the scholarship a year into her first job as a prospect researcher, recalled that “All the sessions were very helpful, but I learned new things and was able to ask better questions after Jeffrey Ouellette's session on copyright [Intellectual Property: Rights, Reason, and Research!]. I also enjoyed Christopher Haight's session on venture capital and private equity. The session that discussed the art and science of rating [with Susan Das from Rutgers University Foundation] was also really informative and enjoyable.”

Monique continued, “I also just really appreciated the casual conversations with everyone and talking about different strategies and systems people have in place at their institutions.”

Since attending the conference, Monique said “When a new challenge arises in my day-to-day job, I have a wealth of information to draw from…This has been immensely helpful for me. I also sometimes reach out to more experienced NEDRA members when I have a question that I'm having a hard time answering.”

Supporting New Researchers

Traveling from Chicago, Laura noted that she met several other people at the Annual Conference that were not from New England. “A lot of people don’t have a chapter like NEDRA or a lot of resources, so [being able to attend the conference] is a nice opportunity,” said Laura.

“I think the fact that my scholarship application was successful also helped me establish myself as a prospect researcher,” added Monique. “It's always good to have one's work recognized by an outside organization! The conference and the award have given me more confidence in my work.”

Laura and Monique were selected from a group of very qualified applicants. NEDRA is continuing to raise  funds for the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship so as to be able to continue offering multiple scholarships to the Annual Conference and the pre-conference Research Basics Bootcamp for a number of years to come. Donations can be made at any time on the NEDRA website.

If you have been in prospect research (or related fields) for less than two years and would like to attend the 2015 NEDRA Annual Conference (April 16 & 17 at the Sheraton Portsmouth, Portsmouth NH), keep an eye out for the call for Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship applications later in the year. Inquiries can be made to office@nedra.org.


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