Jane Austin: Applying Her Talents in the Non-Profit Sector

Over 25 years (minus a one year “blip”). That’s how long UST Master of Business Communication student Jane Austin has been applying her talents to a career in the non-profit sector. Perhaps her passion for aiding organizations that “enrich lives and expand worldviews,” as she describes them, is a genetic predisposition. Or perhaps it was the example of parents and grandparents that steered her down that path. Either way, Jane Austin (who bears a fitting name for a communication specialist) has trod a fascinating career path, born of passion and energy for improving the world around her.

Jane grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, surrounded by family members who were active civic leaders and volunteers. It was no surprise that at a young age, Jane engaged in community service and social justice campaigns. She describes her childhood thus:

“Some of my earliest memories are TV coverage of civil unrest of the 60s and challenging conversations around our family dinner table. I learned at a very early age that people can have radically different experiences and perspectives of the world, that things are not always as they appear, and that asking tough questions is critical to being an engaged citizen and community member.”

At St. Olaf College, Jane triple majored in English, History, and American Studies. As though three majors were not challenging enough, she also worked at public radio affiliate WCAL-FM as a news announcer. But Jane claims that her summers were the best part of her college education; she spent her time as a counselor at a Lutheran youth camp, a volunteer at a retreat center in the Cascade Mountains, and a news reporter in Sioux Falls, providing formative experiences for her career.

Jane began her post-baccalaureate career as news director at a Black Hills rock ‘n roll station, which she describes as her one-year “for-profit blip.”  The next 24 years took Jane through various roles, all with non-profit organizations. She spent three years working for an NPR affiliate in Spokane, writing, editing, and hosting daily features and newscasts. Shortly thereafter, she enjoyed eight years as communications director for Resource Center of the Americas in Minneapolis, a nonprofit hub of support for groups advocating human rights in Latin America.  There, Jane also organized educational conferences and cultural events with national and international guests, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum and legendary folk singer Pete Seeger. Next, Jane worked for nine years in Berkeley, California, as communications director at the highly multicultural Pacific School of Religion.

Eventually, Jane made her way back to Minnesota, where she worked at Carleton College as associate director of donor relations, and now directs foundation relations for Wellstone Action in St. Paul, a top national leadership and civic engagement training center.

So why would a person with such an impressive resume return to school? Jane was “hungry to dig into marketing, strategic communications management, media relations, and other hands-on skills and theory courses,” and the UST MBC program provided all those elements.

When asked to sum up her experiences in the MBC program, Jane says, “I’ve found the MBC to be an invaluable tool in strengthening my professional skills and confidence, connecting me to a broader network of talented Twin Cities communicators—both professors and student colleagues—and building a solid base of knowledge about the way businesses and nonprofits operate. The MBC has proven to be the best graduate program in the Twin Cities to equip me for my future professional opportunities and challenges.”

With 25 years of exceptional service behind her, we look forward to seeing where Jane goes next.