Allison Hollander-Malen, AM '10
Armed with a master’s degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and years of front line experience in volunteer and nonprofit work, Allison Hollander-Malen is passionately invested in helping individuals, families, and communities achieve a better quality of life.
She started volunteering as a preteen in her hometown in Metro Detroit. After helping out at a preschool, at summer camps, and in mentoring programs as a teen, she started years of volunteering at shelters serving homeless youth. “My interest in nonprofits stems from the places I’ve volunteered, some great people I worked with, and the people we were serving.”
While double majoring in psychology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Allison worked at a youth shelter and began volunteering on the shelter’s crisis line as part of a service learning course. “I eventually became a shift supervisor at the youth shelter, training other volunteers, and leading the service learning class as a facilitator,” Allison said. “When I moved to Chicago, I knew I had to find a youth shelter because I just loved this work.”
Arriving in Chicago, Allison spent two years working with Teach for America, helping with their recruitment and selection processes. “My experience at Teach for America was invaluable,” Allison said. “I had been a volunteer for years and wanted to learn how these organizations functioned from the administration side. This was my first chance to be on the management team of a large nonprofit.”
Even though Teach for America was a demanding job, Allison combined her day job with volunteering at the Night Ministry in Chicago’s West Town on the side. “I was in the office all day, never seeing the ground-level impact of my work,” she said. “I wanted to maintain a balance, stay personally involved with the people we were serving." At the Night Ministry, she worked with homeless youth, including pregnant and parenting teens, teaching resume building and interview skills. She also began facilitating a bi-weekly healthy relationship group for female residents. At the same time, Allison was a volunteer at the Broadway Youth Center in Lakeview, testing youth clients for HIV and STDs.
Her future became clear. “When I was working at Teach for America and volunteering, it all came together for me. I knew what I wanted, and I knew the School of Social Service Administration was the right program. I saw the opportunity to get a strong education in management – where I felt my career was going – while also continuing to work closely with the populations the nonprofits were serving.”
Upon acceptance at SSA, Allison received the Leila Houghteling Scholarship, which, she explained, enabled her to focus on her studies. She elected a concentration in administration, and divided her elective courses between management courses and youth and family studies.
The program combined classes in administration with intensive field experience in nonprofit and government agencies. In year one, Allison was happy to be placed at Youth Organizations Umbrella in Evanston.
In her second year, she worked in the Office of Policy and Advocacy in the City of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services. Here, Allison drafted sections of the state and federal policy agendas, assisted with the development of new legislation, did policy research, and analyzed youth programs and food access issues. Additionally, Allison co-authored the report evaluating the City’s summer youth employment program that was featured on the Department of Family and Support Services website. She loved it. “I had never done policy work like that before and I had the opportunity to participate on so many different levels.”
After graduation, Allison was eager to put her education to work in a job that combined program design and management with direct service. She found what she was looking for with Colorado Youth for a Change (CYC), a nonprofit organization in Denver that works to address the youth high school dropout rate in Colorado. Having been at CYC for the last eight years, Allison started as an Education Intervention Specialist, working directly with youth in a high school through CYC’s Educational Intervention Program.
“One of the important elements of the program was prevention,” she said. “I worked with ninth graders who had failing grades, supporting them in order to get back on track to graduate.”
Allison continued to move up in the organization over the years, becoming Program Manager and then Program Director. As Program Manager, she oversaw the Educational Intervention Program, including hiring, training, and supervising staff; directing program implementation; and analyzing and evaluating programmatic data and effectiveness. In addition to these responsibilities, as Program Director she also took on the design, implementation, and management of a newer program as well as more supervisory duties. Throughout this career evolution, Allison credits SSA with preparing her to effectively combine both the clinical and administrative sides of her roles at CYC.
“There’s the clinical element of working directly with youth, and the management side of my role, which involves thinking about what kind of data we need to collect and how to train and support other staff. SSA helped me marry these two sides.”