Written by Sophia Lopez.
Lisa Elmore – Austin native, almost – Broadway star, and all-around hilarious human being – is this year’s Outstanding Member Honoree.
Currently a Project Director at TMF Health Quality Institute and immediate past president for WCA, Lisa has progressed from being an enthusiastic volunteer to stepping forward into the organization’s three-year leadership arc. Focusing on key areas such as philanthropy, membership recruitment, volunteers, programming, and financial reporting, Lisa continues to lead the expansion of WCA.
I was quite excited to sit down with Lisa and get to know her a little more. Here are some of our interview highlights:
WCA: Tell us about your current position. How did you get here?
I am a Project Director at TMF Health Quality Institute, a 501(c)3.
Originally, I wanted to be a Broadway star! I was going to run off to New York and take Broadway by storm. And then I realized that to be an actress, I’d have to be very, very poor. And work a whole lot. Thankfully, I realized this while I was still in college.
Last April, I was promoted into my prior manager’s role as Project Director. We work with the Vaccines for Children program, contracted with the state of Texas. Essentially, it’s a lot of management of people and training my staff to ensure that this project will continue to run smoothly. Because it’s a federally administered program, I have staff all across the state that visit doctors’ offices and ensure vaccines are stored properly; there’s a lot of regulation. We pull immunization records to determine whether providers are contributing to the national goal of immunizing at a 90% rate. We check to see if individual providers are even close to that.
WCA: How did communications and Women Communicators of Austin enter your life?
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and knew I didn’t want to be a therapist or social worker. So I asked myself, “What did you like about psych?” I realized I enjoyed my social psychology classes. When I started doing my research on the subject, it kept leading me back to communications, so I decided to go back to school for communications. I started out at Texas State and at one point, volunteered at a General Wesley Clark fundraiser. I ended up working alongside a woman in a nursery, and we started talking about my studies and academic path, and she recommended I look up Association for Women Communications. Well, a little later, after I had joined as a student member, AWC sent out a call for volunteers and Julie Tereshchuk reached out to request assistance at the monthly luncheons, and that’s how I got connected.
I ended up moving to Washington, D.C. for a while and a friend that I introduced to the organization before I departed, Rachel Jordan-Shuss, became WCA’s President. When I moved back, she looped me back in.
WCA: You’ve served on the Board several times. What is the most memorable position you’ve held?
I have! I served as VP of Special Programs, VP of Membership Recruitment, and Secretary before getting looped into the President cycle.
I’d have to say, my most memorable term has been my current year as Past President, but perhaps that’s because I’m in the midst of serving it. Definitely my years as Past President and my year as President. One of the most memorable moments occurred during Board Retreat. Stacy Armijo of Pierpont Communications spoke and she said something that has stayed with me until this day. She said, “Don’t waste my time at Board meetings with stuff I can read. Use me in a capacity where I can benefit the organization.” And I thought, that’s it. And I took that, and that’s how I structured the Board meetings during my term. It was very liberating. It allowed the meetings to be more meaningful, and has allowed us to have more interesting conversations. Creating something new and leaving something behind, to me, that’s really exciting.
WCA: What in your opinion is the biggest challenge facing WCA today?
We are still a working Board. Many do not realize that the Board of Directors are volunteers. Moving away from that structure is a goal and a challenge. While this is a very Board-specific point, it does impact the rest of the organization. What membership may want, we may not have the capacity to do. I think it’s important to stress that volunteerism is important and helpful. Even the smallest tasks help us move forward. With our new philanthropy piece, we are hoping that the conversation becomes more two-way and engaging, and encourages more people to step up and join in.
WCA: What has kept you so invigorated after all of these years?
It has always been the connections and friendships I’ve made over the years. When we broke away from National, I realized that we could create something different, that we could shape an organization and move it in a more relevant direction. We are only going to get better with time. I’m excited for new members to come in and serve and introduce new ideas on this Board.
WCA: What is the best advice you have received?
I was an intern at the time, back when I thought I was going to pursue public relations, and I worked with former WCA President, Marika Flatt, Founder of PR by the Book. I was terrible. Poor Marika, she really did try. It just wasn’t a fit. At the end of my internship, she evaluated my performance, my strengths and weaknesses, and one of the things she said to me when reviewing my weaknesses stuck with me. She told me that I needed to learn to trust myself, to trust my instincts, that oftentimes my instincts were great. That has stuck with me for the past 15 years. Whenever I am beginning to doubt myself, I think back to that evaluation and I think “I DO trust myself Marika!” (laughter).
WCA: What do you love to do for fun?
Broadway musicals! I love going to the theatre, and I will go see local shows when I have the downtime. I actually just saw the musical The Carole King story. It was amazing! Who knew that Carole King and her husband wrote so many songs together. They pretty much wrote the whole decade!
WCA: What do you have planned next?
I’ve hit a level in my career where I’m happy. I’m becoming more of a homebody, settling down roots, and thinking of a family.