Building a Brighter Future for Children of South Bend
Emily Rupchock, EMNA candidate '20, is putting lessons from her EMNA program to work for children of the South Bend region.
Emily Rupchock has been serving South Bend’s most vulnerable populations for more than a decade. After graduating with a degree from Bethel College in 2005, she took a position at Hope Ministries, a transitional housing program with a recovery focus for homeless individuals in the South Bend community.
“They were just launching their early childhood program,” Rupchock recalls. “I spent three years teaching infants and toddlers, and building relationships with the families that were living onsite. I developed a passion for serving vulnerable individuals and walking with children through toxic stress and trauma.”
After a stint with the Center for the Homeless in South Bend, Rupchock assumed her current role as Director of Ready to Grow St. Joe, a collection of early childhood stakeholders committed to ensuring that all children in St. Joseph County, Indiana, have the foundation to thrive in school and in life.
“My current position gives me the opportunity to work more on a macro level related to early childhood care and education,” Rupchock says. “I make sure we have systems and community partnerships in place locally that serve the most vulnerable citizens.”
Working with—and learning from—one of St. Joe’s biggest community partners
In 2014, Rupchock enrolled in an executive leadership course at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business as part of a professional development opportunity while at the Center for the Homeless. “I left that class inspired and energized,” she remembers. “I was very impressed by the quality of the education and it left me wanting more.”
A few years later, she enrolled in Notre Dame’s Executive Master of Nonprofit Administration program. Her experience thus far has exceeded her initial high expectations. “It’s an intense program, but I appreciate that it’s well catered to folks who are full-time professionals. If you’re in a leadership role in the non-profit sector, it’s incredibly practical. It’s been great to develop presentations for class and then turn around and show them to my board right away.”
Having female advisers and teachers in the program, you can see these women in really significant leadership roles—and even better, you can develop relationships with them. Cultivating those relationships with other women is really meaningful.Emily Rupchock
Fostering female leaders
Rupchock also appreciates the ways in which the program intentionally develops female leaders. “There’s a lot of focus on what leadership looks like at its best—understanding yourself in an effort to understand the folks that work for you and with you.”
She credits the program’s small class sizes with fostering in-depth conversations about topics like gender parity in the workforce. “Because of the small class sizes we’ve been able to have good discussions in our classes around these sensitive topics that are relevant and really crucial to name and acknowledge early on,” she notes.
“In my experience in the nonprofit sector, men have usually been in executive leadership roles and women have been the practitioners,” Rupchock adds. “Having female advisers and teachers in the program, you can see these women in really significant leadership roles—and even better, you can develop relationships with them. Cultivating those relationships with other women in top leadership positions is really meaningful.”
Strengthening her network strengthens the community
Creating a strong network at Notre Dame is not only important for Rupchock’s personal professional development—it could prove valuable for the continued growth and success of Ready to Grow St. Joe.
“The unique part for me is that I’m a local community member,” Rupchock notes. “I’ve worked with the university a dozen times just through community partnerships with Ready to Grow. I feel lucky about the opportunity I have to deepen my understanding of the university’s impact on our local community. It’s exciting to build a brighter future for kids and their families.”