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The Impact of the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship

Wed, September 28, 2016 3:08 PM | Laura Parshall

For this article, Tim Wilson, NEDRA board member and Associate Director, Prospect Management/Development at Harvard Business School, interviewed past recipients of the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship. Read on to see what kind of impact that scholarship can have!

The Impact of the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship

By Tim Wilson 

NEDRA prides itself on being a supportive, informative, engaging, and fun convener for all professionals in New England’s prospect research, management, and analytics community. One of the most moving signs of the spirit of NEDRA has occurred each of the last three years at our two-day annual conference. Conference attendees meet at lunch to honor the memory and legacy of Heather Reisz, and to celebrate the awarding of two scholarships in her name that are given to newcomers to our profession. A longtime prospect researcher and director, Heather “had a particular fondness for newcomers to the profession,” as her memorial page on NEDRA’s website notes. Heather “was an active and devoted volunteer and board member of NEDRA” who “had an infectious love for the work she did, and served as a mentor to many. 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.”

Now, thanks to the generosity of Heather’s family and many members of the NEDRA community, Heather’s legacy of support continues through the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship. NEDRA News thought it would be interesting to check in with a few of the Scholarship recipients to demonstrate the impact of the Scholarship and highlight how being a member of NEDRA has positively impacted recipients’ careers.

Monique Bourgeois Miller was one of the two inaugural recipients of the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship, awarded at the 2014 annual conference. Monique began her prospect research career at Hampshire College in late 2012 and is now a senior research analyst focusing on institutional research at Amherst College, where past NEDRA president Suzy Campos is the director of advancement research. She credits her supportive supervisor for encouraging Monique to apply for the Scholarship to support her career and professional development. When asked about her reaction to winning the Scholarship, Monique said, “It was very surprising! I’m from Newfoundland, and I’ve more recently worked in institutional research as opposed to prospect research, so I felt a bit like a stranger, but it was a wonderful surprise. People were so welcoming!”

Receiving the Scholarship before her peers and Heather’s family was a powerful moment, Monique added. “You could feel the love in the room. It was very emotional. Heather’s friends and family were present. It was obvious to everyone there that Heather was well respected and well cared for. Receiving her scholarship was a huge honor. And I still have Heather’s pin!” she added, commenting on a commemorative gift handed to Scholarship recipients during the conference.

For Monique, being one of the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship honorees cemented the impact that NEDRA can have in people’s careers. “NEDRA enables us to search out connections and turn to people for advice. The learning opportunities, the conference, and connections have given me a lot of work-related inspiration. And it’s also fun being a NEDRA member.”

The following year, 2015, Becca Elwin of the Conservation Law Foundation was one of two Scholarship recipients. Becca’s supervisor at the Foundation, vice president for development Kate Saunders, had a background in prospect research and encouraged Becca to join NEDRA. “I experienced personal growth and development as a researcher after attending Bootcamp and the conference. The most valuable thing I gained from this experience was taking what I learned and bringing it back to my organization and implementing my newfound understanding to better our research and prospect management program.” Asked to describe how being a recipient has impacted her career, Becca noted, “If I hadn’t received the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship, I may not have been able to attend Bootcamp and the annual conference. I now realize how unfortunate that would have been for both my professional development as well as the development of the prospect research and management program at CLF.”

Like Monique, Becca positively described attending the 2015 annual conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with the benefit of the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship. “Over the course of my three days in Portsmouth, I learned that there are many different methods, philosophies, and strategies for how to conduct a prospect research and management program at any given organization – and that each has its merits and difficulties.” Becca also stressed the feeling of collegiality and how convening together leads to comforting discussions of commonalities. “At the conference, I learned that my fellow researchers struggle with the same things I had been struggling with and continue to struggle with today. I learned that I am part of a greater community of researchers who are genuinely open and willing to help learning researchers find their way.” Reflecting on her conference take-aways, Becca added, “I feel more confident in what I know and what I can do.”

Becca recalled feeling overwhelmed by receiving the Scholarship. “I think we’re all kind of feeling that way as researchers—we don’t seek out attention.” But the spotlight led to “many conversation-starters at the conference.” People coming up to congratulate Becca “brought me right into the community that maybe I didn’t feel as connected to earlier, which was wonderful.”

As a Scholarship recipient, Becca has found it easier to demonstrate the value of attending conferences or other training sessions after returning from her first NEDRA conference. She was at the 2016 conference as well. “I felt more comfortable this year. It was great to see other researchers getting recognition through the Scholarship!”

If you are new to our industry, please consider applying for the Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship—or if you have someone on your team who is entering our field, encourage them to apply. Please check the NEDRA website for updates on application forms and deadlines ahead of the 2017 annual conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. And thank you to the many generous donors from our NEDRA community for your support of the Scholarship! Over the past several years, you have helped to surpass NEDRA’s initial goal of raising $10,000. This will allow NEDRA to provide Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarships to two recipients each year for the next ten years! 

It is inspiring to think of the impact this will have for the careers of at least 20 future recipients, as well as the six recipients so far, and to envision the impact these individuals will have in the industry and in NEDRA for many years to come. Additional donations are welcome at any time, helping to ensure that Heather’s spirit of generosity and her passion for our work will live on.


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