Meet Isra Pananon! Isra is a Captain in the United States Army Reserve, Special Advisor to the President at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Master of Social Work candidate at NYU. We’re grateful to Isra for recruiting the support of NRDC for our Evening of Joy and Liberation.
Tell us about your work at the NRDC and how your military background equipped you for your job.
I came to the NRDC in 2015 when my colleague (and mentor) Rhea Suh joined NRDC as its new president. As Special Advisor to the President, a lot of the work I do is executive team management. I conduct personal and professional check-ins to ensure we’re hitting milestones so we are accountable to our donors. We stay accountable by showing results, like moving along important organizational initiatives and policies. The military taught me how to bring it all together; to win, you have to synchronize and trust each other. I spend a lot of time asking myself how do I get people I work with to see other perspectives they didn’t see before. Synchronicity is huge piece, and military teaches that, along with lessons in the accountability of holding responsibility for a body of work.
Speaking of, what’s a project you’ve accomplished at the NRDC you’re especially proud of?
I’m proud of my work around diversity initiatives. In 2016, I helped champion a proposal that designates funding from the President’s Office for internal diversity initiative grants with the goal of catalyzing pilot projects across the institution to develop, replicate, and institutionalize models for advancing DEI. Some of these projects included anti-oppression training, increasing our language capacity to broaden our audience, and collaboration training that empowered staff to overcome cultural barriers to inclusive collaboration. Moving the needle on DEI comes in big and small steps.
Why do you support Sadie Nash?
SNLP’s mission is unique in the fact that you are teaching our young people real life skills and having conversations that don't normally happen during adolescence. Being able to express yourself and talk about your feelings and not be told it’s irrelevant is important. Right now I’m working towards my MSW with the vision that I’ll become a therapist or a diversity initiatives consultant. Wherever I am, I want to hold space for all women leaders, particularly women of color and lift and affirm the voices that will change the future. Sadie Nash does that, and that’s why I support this organization.
Why should others join us at Joy and Liberation?
Sadie Nash’s mission is incredible. And the program shows results. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that we just gotta show up. Whether you give money or come take part as a physical presence. I mean, my brown face, standing in front of formation or in an all-staff meeting, that matters. Get involved!