Meet Monica Rao: Opportunity Neighborhoods Project Manager eager to work with Detroit residents

Meet Monica Rao, Global Detroit’s new Opportunity Neighborhoods Project Manager. Over the past several years, Global Detroit has built trust with residents in Southwest Detroit, Hamtramck, East Davison Village, and Banglatown by responding to the specific needs of the residents. Global Detroit is expanding upon its work to-date by building neighborhood capacity and strengthening connections between immigrants and their African-American and Latino neighbors.

Monica, a second generation immigrant of Indian descent, was raised in suburban Philadelphia. She graduated in 2010 from Haverford College with a Bachelor’s in psychology and completed her thesis in experimental cognitive neuroscience, which was later published in Cognitive, Behavioral and Affective Neuroscience in 2011.

Working as an operations consultant for four years in Washington D.C , Monica managed the business side of a large federal IT implementation. After learning about government contracting in depth and streamlining business processes on this project, she felt the need return to her original career path in mission focused business management, and sought something more deeply aligned with her personal values: environmentalism, civil liberties and human rights.

Monica moved to Detroit to work on Rashida Tlaib’s campaign to be elected for U.S. Congress to fill the seat vacated by John Conyers. Monica drew on her past experience volunteering for political campaigns to help push the campaign forward. She worked as the Deputy Finance Director in charge of executing the fundraising strategies. “The campaign was what I  expected it to be and more, it was stressful both emotionally and physically, but totally worth it. It felt so good being a part of something so important. Rashida’s win made it even more fulfilling!”, said Monica when asked about her campaign experience.

After the campaign, Monica learned about an opening at Global Detroit. She applied, was interviewed and got hired! Steve Tobocman, the Global Detroit director says that, “Monica is passionate, hard-working and committed to making a difference. She has that rare gift of both having strong organizational and data skills, while being driven to work with people and communities to impact their lives. Monica is a perfect fit for our Opportunity Neighborhoods work.”

As the Opportunity Neighborhoods Project Manager, Monica hopes to use her management and capacity building skills to efficiently track projects, keep data useful and effective,  manage success on projects, and help build on the work that Global Detroit is already doing in these neighborhoods. “It feels meaningful to join Global Detroit. Becoming part of an organization that has its hands in the development of the region and focuses on the community is exactly what I needed. As a daughter of immigrants, I know how they benefit this country and vice-versa.”

Outside of work, Monica loves to sing in choirs and also volunteers for her alma mater through Haverford’s young alumni board. She enjoys discovering the multitude of independently owned businesses in Metro Detroit, and sampling some of the best international food in the country.

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