David DeCoursey Fellow
David DeCoursey led Leadership Greater Chicago for 25 years as Executive Director after his participation in the first Class of LGC Fellows in 1985. After his death on December 18, 2014, and in honor of his memory, the organization established the David DeCoursey Fellow Fund, which supports the participation of a Fellow from the nonprofit, government, or education sector who might not otherwise have the means to participate in the program. The inaugural David DeCoursey Fellow Fund was awarded to Bridget Altenburg, Class of 2016.
Chief Operating Officer, National Able Network
How did you learn about LGC?
I heard about LGC from a friend who was a West Point graduate and LGC Fellow. There’s not many of us women graduates at West Point so we keep in touch and met for lunch to have one of our “how can we make the world better” discussions. She told me about LGC and I had just started at Able, so it made me think about what I could learn in terms of consolidating the nonprofit community. I decided to apply.
I was thrilled to learn about the David DeCoursey Fellow scholarship after I applied. While nonprofits are always strapped for cash, Able is government funded, so it is very restricted in terms of how we use our funding. I wouldn’t have been able to participate in LGC without the scholarship.
What do you hope to gain from the LGC experience?
A better understanding of the very interconnectedness of the issues facing our city. I’m somewhat familiar with the education world and have been able to see many communities and get a sense of their problems. I am looking forward to meeting experts in a variety of fields that will give me a chance to start to think about what can I do and what my organization can do to improve issues facing our city.
Even in just the one month that I’ve participated in LGC, we’ve had candid conversations about things you usually don’t talk about…it’s already helpful in terms of thinking about solutions and not just problems.
What do you hope to apply to your work with Able?
I’m hoping to learn where collaboration is working well and how we can collaborate better with partners and support them better. We can provide more support than a traditional nonprofit because we have a larger infrastructure than many small nonprofits and can support other nonprofits so they can focus on their work.
Tell us about your background.
I currently run the veterans program and an IT program for people who are looking to make a career change at the National Able Network, a workforce agency. Prior to working at Able, I was the executive director of Chicago Cares for three years and before that worked at the Academy for Urban School Leadership, which gave me a taste for the nonprofit world and importance of collaboration.
My background is eclectic and includes experiences in the corporate, nonprofit, and military worlds. I grew up in Germany as part of a military family and finished high school there before being accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point. After graduating from West Point in 1995, I chose to become an engineer officer, which at the time was the closest to combat allowed for women. Eventually, I was deployed to Bosnia, Croatia, and then Albania to support the air war in Kosovo in 1999.
After earning an MBA from Columbia Business School, I worked in the corporate world at Bally Total Fitness. I then realized I wanted to use my corporate experience to help nonprofits operate more efficiently.