Susan is the Manager of Community Engagement at the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership. She has worked in Balboa Park since 2001 and was recently nominated for San Diego Magazine’s 2018 Celebrating Women Nonprofit Visionary award. Susan is dedicated to creating opportunities for families to visit Balboa Park, and truly exemplifies what it means to be a Park team member.
How did you start working in Balboa Park?
I was hired in 2001 as the manager of the Passport to Balboa Park program, and as Coordinator of Christmas on the Prado (which became Balboa Park December Nights in 2002). These two part-time jobs were vastly different, and I hit the ground running, with a steep learning curve and many memorable adventures! My last year as a staff person for December Nights was 2004, and I continued to manage the Passport program until 2013. By then, I had moved along with the program to the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, and was honored to serve on what was then known as the “Park Pass Task Force” (a group in the Park working on the nuts and bolts of what would eventually become the Explorer program). I worked as part of the Explorer team through the fall of 2014, when the Community Access Pass program was initiated.
What is your favorite part about working with the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership?
When the BPCP was in its beginning stages (about 2003), I shared an office for a little while with the first Executive Director. It’s been a privilege to watch the Cultural Partnership grow, and now to be a part of it. I’ve always thought that every past work experience provides a valuable resource for future work, and the relationships I have developed in the Park, with so many creative and talented professionals over the years, have definitely helped with my current work at the Cultural Partnership. It’s an exciting time to be in the Park, with so much going on, and so many great people working to promote arts and culture in our community.
Tell us about your work in community engagement, more specifically, the Community Access Pass?
The Community Access Pass program is designed to provide the Balboa Park experience to underserved, economically disadvantaged, and at-risk families through the use of the annual Explorer pass. We work through partnering nonprofit organizations in San Diego to distribute passes to families that will benefit from this opportunity. Currently, we are actively engaged with more than fifty nonprofits in distributing passes, and we always seek potential new partners. Last year, we inaugurated the Military Appreciation Pass (MAP) program, serving active duty military families in San Diego County. For both programs, we have a limited supply of free passes to distribute each year, and we have a continuous waiting list with the MAP program.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in community engagement?
Definitely working with the CAP nonprofit partners, meeting and communicating with our CAP and MAP pass recipients, and hearing of their experiences and adventures at the Park. It is gratifying to know that the passes are being used, and truly appreciated, by families that might not otherwise have the opportunity.
Your dedication to Balboa Park and the nonprofit community was recently recognized by your nomination for San Diego Magazine’s 2018 Celebrating Women Nonprofit Visionary award! Congratulations! Can you tell me about this nomination and what guides your vision and dedication to the Park?
The nomination was a complete surprise, and a great honor! It is also very humbling, as I have so many current and past role models in the Park. Most of my work at the Park has been accomplished through collaboration with others, who have brought so much knowledge and creativity to the process. I have said before that with my current position, it is the cultural institutions providing the admissions, plus the donors and sponsors, that make the CAP program possible; I’m just the lucky one who gets to distribute the free passes in the community.
What do you like to do outside of the Park?
My first love is traveling, and the destination list keeps getting longer. I love music, concerts and musical theater. I just finished two years singing with the San Diego Master Chorale, and really enjoyed it.
Favorite song, TV show, movie, book?
I can’t pick just one song or movie as there’s too many to mention, but my favorite TV Show is This is Us. As for books, I love history, historical fiction and biographies. I’m so much more interested in reading history, now that I’m not having to write a paper or study for a history test.
If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
A bird with a lot of energy and strong wings. I’ve always wanted to be able to pick up and just fly anywhere in the world.
What is your favorite spot in Balboa Park?
Anyplace where I run into an old friend or former colleague, and we have the chance to catch up! The Park holds many great memories for me.