Hello Fellows: Meet Antonia Coleman
Wilder employees have the opportunity to apply for Kingston Fellowships, an honor awarded annually based on accomplishments, commitment to human services and leadership potential. In March 2016, Wilder awarded fellowships to 11 employees spanning a variety of professional backgrounds. The fellowships help these professionals to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas and develop innovative programs to address community concerns.
In “Hello Fellows,” we introduce Wilder’s Kingston Fellows. This week, we catch up with Antonia Coleman.
What is your role at Wilder?
I’m the housing coordinator in Family Supportive Housing Services. I provide work direction to our housing specialists and housing staff when program managers are unavailable to ensure that our housing services are implemented in an ethical and integral manner most conducive to supporting the growth of participants across programs. I’ve worked at Wilder for a little more than three years, starting as a counselor.
Working in housing feels good to me. It feels like this is where I’m supposed to be; I’m passionate about it. I believe in serving people with integrity and serving people as if they were your own family member.
I enjoy being able to providing people with a lasting and positive experience when they interact with me. Even if I am in a hurry, I try not to let clients know it. When they come in, I want them to have my undivided attention and to experience something different than what they’ve often experienced in other systems.
Tell us about your background before coming to Wilder.
For 13 years I was at Project for Pride in Living (PPL), working as the Children Services and Parent Education Director in a Co-Occurring/Dual Diagnosis housing program. I came to Project for Pride in Living by accident. I used to be a teacher for students with Emotional Behavioral Disorder (EBD) and Learning Disabilities. I volunteered at PPL, and then worked there on contract for three years before I was offered a fulltime position.
I liked my work at PPL, but I had decided to go back to school and my role at PPL had a work load that was not conducive to academic success. Due to my previous interactions with staff through collateral work at PPL I began to entertain the idea of leaving a safe work space and working at Wilder; just then a position opened up I applied and three years later here I am!
What will you use the Kingston Fellowship to achieve?
I used the fellowship to complete a mini MBA at the University of St. Thomas. The mini MBA is a fast-paced version of the degree, and includes a snippet of each area of study; I finished in November. In my previous job, I did a lot of budgeting, but never had any formal training. The certificate provided me with an opportunity to obtain formal training to understand my responsibilities within my role and how they affect the entire organization, make sound and ethical business decisions, be reflective, manage budgets amongst an array of other skills sets; overall the training provided me with a different lens.
The Kingston Fellowships are aimed at filling unmet needs in the field of human services and human services research. What unmet need is your fellowship filling?
While there are lots of opportunities for growth and learning, I’ve noticed that there are not a lot of minority women at the table when it comes to direct service. When we talk about day-to-day operations and women of color with financial experience, we’re underrepresented. Now I have the language to be able to engage and facilitate some of those conversations related to finances. While I still need practice and more knowledge, this skill set supports me in being a good steward over my departmental funding.
Do you have an experience about diversity and cultural competence that you have encountered in your work?
We work with housing, so we work with everybody. Having the opportunity to meet with someone and learn just a snippet about them and their culture is a gift. I appreciate when others feel comfortable enough to share something so personal with me.
Antonia Coleman is the Housing Coordinator in Wilder's Family Supportive Housing Services.