You learn a lot over more than two decades with the same employer. In the case of original CIRI shareholder Marie Stewman (Alutiiq), that includes discovering what it’s like to walk a mile in the shoes of the president and CEO.
Marie started working at Southcentral Foundation (SCF) when she was still a student at East Anchorage High School. “I was part of School-Within-a-School [a program that emphasizes integrated and project-based learning], and that led to me becoming SCF’s first high-school intern.”
Marie’s position entailed starting SCF’s newsletter from scratch. “I was young, and it was a huge responsibility, but I’d grown up surrounded by writers,” she explained. “My mom wrote for the Homer News and has always been a writer. My aunt is novelist Dana Stabenow. SCF set me up with great mentors and a great network; I got to know so many nonprofit leaders, and our board members were very supportive. I sat on nine different committees and acquired a lot of knowledge.”
Marie spent most of her childhood in Seldovia, a village southwest of Homer, Alaska. Accessible only by airplane or boat, growing up in such a secluded area “was amazing,” she said. “We had total freedom. You could play outside all day and pop into a neighbor’s house for dinner. It was a very different world. We didn’t have to worry about crime. It was a very safe, tight-knit community.”
Moving to Anchorage in her early teens was a dramatic change, but it allowed Marie to attend a large, diverse school that offered many extracurriculars. Her two-year internship with SCF led to an interest in journalism, which included stints at both the Tundra Times and Alaska Newspapers Inc. She returned to SCF in 1996 as a public relations specialist, which included serving as editor for the newsletter (now the Anchorage Native News), creating marketing materials, and event coordination and management.
From 2007-2013, Marie served as manager and administrator of SCF’s Family Wellness Warriors Initiative (FWWI). A program that seeks to address the devastating problems of domestic violence, abuse and neglect in the Alaska Native community, FWWI equips individuals and communities with education, tools and skills to reverse the escalating levels of domestic violence and child maltreatment using culturally appropriate strategies.
“Marie has been a strong voice in the fight to end domestic violence and child abuse and neglect,” said Ileen Sylvester, vice president of Executive and Tribal Services for SCF. “She has helped create awareness of how personal experiences with domestic violence, abuse and neglect can negatively impact the way we relate to others and the way others relate to us – an awareness that has created a ripple effect throughout the Native community and fostered healthier relationships between families, friends and colleagues.”
Now director of planning and grants, Marie is responsible for ensuring SCF’s programs and services receive maximum benefits from grants that are consistent with organizational values, goals and needs. In 2017, she received her Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program certificate from Alaska Pacific University and became part of SCF’s Executive Leadership Experience (ELE) cohort, a two-year program for employees who want to build their leadership skills and develop a clear understanding of the organization from the executive level. SCF President and CEO Katherine Gottlieb mentors all ELE participants through one-on-one meetings and shadowing experiences.
Dr. Gottlieb is Marie’s mother.
“The great thing about ELE is that it provides the tools and opportunities most relevant to each person’s professional resume,” Marie said. “Even though the CEO is my mother, I had no idea how much I’d learn until I walked a mile in her shoes.”
A self-described workaholic and a mother of three, Marie nevertheless makes time to volunteer in her community. “She leads by example for her children,” Sylvester said. “Oftentimes, the community will see the whole Stewman family out volunteering their time together.” Marie continues to volunteer with FWWI and is a longtime dancer with the Princess Warriors dance group.
After 22 years with SCF, “you really get to know the people you work with, the people you serve,” Marie said. “It feels like Anchorage is such a big city, but it’s really neat to see how we can serve each other in different ways. The ability to build strong, lasting relationships – it’s why I stay.”