Meet Our Alumni
When Natalie Self was accepted into the Coro Fellows program, she initially signed a 10-month lease on an apartment in St. Louis. “I didn’t know much about the area and had every intention of leaving when it was over,” she says. Surprised with what she found, she’s still here nine years later. “I saw that this was a place, even as a young professional, where you could really make change and invest your time.”
What drew you to the Coro Fellows program?
As someone graduating with a liberal arts degree, I knew I was passionate about social change, but not sure about what direction I wanted that to take. The Coro Fellows program offered a unique learning experience. You’re not just learning or practicing, you’re really contributing. I was drawn to the challenge – I wanted that push to be a better professional and leader.
The unique access you’re afforded in FOCUS programs is a huge benefit. I found the the ability to build relationships across programs, especially as a young professional, to be very helpful.
What impact have you seen in your professional life?
I use the tools of inquiry that I learned in Coro every day in my career and personal life. In addition, the strong reputation of the Coro Fellows program brings with it a certain level of built-in trust. It’s allowed me to to take on more responsibility and jump into challenges, which allows me to have a greater impact.
The relationships that you build last long after the program. My class of Coro Fellows are like family. Even when we haven’t seen each other in a year, we just pick up where we left off. They care about me – not just as a professional, but as a person.
That’s the thing about FOCUS alums, if you need something, there’s no question they’ll help. It’s also fun to see where people are making their mark. I went through the first class of Emerging Leaders, and now some of my classmates are executive directors at nonprofits and leaders in business. The ability to collaborate across industries and get to know each other deeper is key. It gives you a foundation to consider new partnerships and possibilities.
Tell us about your current work.
In my role at BioSTL, I’m currently managing the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective, a regional initiative to build an ecosystem to support entrepreneurship. All those skills I learned in Coro – understanding systems and power, breaking down silos, building relationships – are essential to this work.
I’m also continuing my consulting business, Practical Diversity Solutions. I was always interested in the intersection of community building and economic development. My consulting work has allowed me to pursue this passion and carve out a niche, working with public spaces organizations to make sure equity is built into the process.