November 12, 2020 | By Olivia Dahlquist | Back to blog

Hello Bolz Center blog readers! I’m Olivia Dahlquist, and I’m so thrilled to be introducing myself as part of the first graduate student cohort for the new MA in Arts and Creative Enterprise Leadership. Thanks to those of you who took part in making this program come to life, and to those who are following us on our journey to become leaders in the arts and nonprofit fields.

As an undergraduate student at UW-Madison, I studied Community and Nonprofit Leadership, Gender & Women’s Studies, and Global Health. Soon after my graduation in 2018, I became the Assistant Director of UW-Madison’s 4W Initiative: Women & Wellbeing in Wisconsin & the World, a campus-wide effort to promote gender equity and wellbeing. A year ago, I never imagined I would get the opportunity to complement my professional position with highly relevant coursework in the reputable Bolz Center for Arts Administration – nor did I ever believe I could complete both roles simultaneously and be granted funding to support me!

Well, “never say never,” right? One year later and I’ve found myself immersed in an invigorating educational experience with my MA classmates and newfound colleagues – albeit all on Zoom! While the virtual landscape has presented some challenges (mostly in that my corny jokes don’t translate well online), I’ve been amazed by the shared learning, networking, and discovery my classmates and I have been able to achieve together. It is wonderful to see how we are each growing into our own unique management and leadership styles, complemented by our personal interests and professional expertise.

For me, the MA courses and accompanying professional development opportunities have been a welcome addition to my work with the 4W Initiative. The program has provided access to so many new resources – new language, processes, and people/organizations – that I can draw upon in my own work. Additionally, the coursework has challenged my own complacency, encouraging me to think differently about traditional nonprofit management processes and improving my confidence in areas like budgeting and financial management.

What’s especially exciting is that I can directly integrate my MA coursework into my professional role, particularly in 4W’s upcoming spring conference cosponsored with the Wisconsin Women’s & Gender Studies Consortium, WWGSC. This year’s event, “Resistance and Reimagination: Gender, Change, and the Arts,” will be held virtually April 8-10th, 2021. As part of my final project for MHR 632: Arts Entrepreneurship I, I will be curating an interactive, virtual gallery featuring works of art from participants in the conference, members of the 4W network, and beyond. Content will be organized thematically and will encourage attendees to engage with artists and each other, as well as create their own work. My hope is that this virtual gallery will not only amplify diverse voices and subject matters, but serve as a space for shared learning and connection, helping us to 1) deconstruct and reimagine life and society; and 2) make collaborative change around gender and wellbeing.

Altogether, the MA ACE Leadership program has added immense value to my 4W work and my own feminist activism. 4W has helped me to conceptualize gender as a starting or leverage point toward the inclusion of all historically marginalized identities and acknowledge that gender justice is inextricably linked to racial, environmental, and economic justice. The MA ACE Leadership program has offered even more nuanced ways of thinking about and acting upon justice and equality. Particularly, it has reinforced how art can be both a convener and catalyst for making transformative social change. We as Bolz Center students, nonprofit leaders, and arts administrators, have the privilege of using the arts to influence civil society, the private sector, the policy realm, and other change agents. I embrace this responsibility and look forward to a career in which I can leverage the arts in pursuit of a feminist agenda that uplifts women, families, and communities.