Nadia Brigham, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

TITLE: Program Officer

FUNDING AREAS: Racial equality, poverty, family economic security

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Brigham learned at a young age that poverty is often a result of structural issues that public policies can reinforce, making it challenging for a child raised in poverty to improve his or her circumstances.

PROFILE: In March 2014, Nadia Brigham was promoted to program officer in the Racial Equality program for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Brigham began as a program associate in 2006.

Brigham specializes in projects that address the structural causes of poverty. While Kellogg invests in projects globally and throughout the United States, half of Kellogg’s domestic grants go to recipients in Michigan, Mississippi, and New Mexico, states with high poverty rates and a need for economic and social investment.

Fortunately for Kellogg, Brigham is an expert on all things Michigan. She hails from Benton Harbor, Michigan, a city with a poverty rate of about 47.6%, well above the 15.9% national average. Brigham was struck by the economic and racial disparities she encountered as a child in western Michigan, where being bused around the area for school-integration purposes showed her that socioeconomic realities can change dramatically from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Brigham has since committed herself to tackling the underlying causes of poverty, in the interest of halting the cycle that traps so many of America’s youth, particularly in Michigan. She studied social work at Michigan’s Grand Valley State University and worked for the Hope Network and the United Way before joining Kellogg in 2006.

Michigan must be happy to have kept a daughter as successful as Brigham. The state is among the worst in the country when it comes to bleeding talent. Michigan is home to some great schools, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, but many graduates leave the state for places with better job prospects. In 2010, Michigan ranked 47th among U.S. states in terms of net migration and 48th in terms of net migration for people with bachelor's degrees. Since about 2000, annual net migration numbers for Michigan have been negative.

At Kellogg, Brigham is the primary point person on about a dozen grants annually, ranging in value from $7,000 to $2 million. Most of Bringham's grants go to poverty-reduction programs (including faith-based and educational services) based in or focused on Michigan.

Some of the recent grants that Brigham has overseen include a $360,000 investment in Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, which will go toward providing entrepreneurial training for low-income women of color with the goal of helping program participants achieve financial security. Brigham and her team also directed $360,556 toward the National Equity Project, an organization based in Oakland, California, that is using its Kellogg funding to reduce racial disparities and success outcomes for vulnerable children and their families in the Grand Rapids area.

In addition to overseeing Kellogg grants, Brigham is the co-lead for Kellogg’s New Options Project, a $27.9 million initiative to bring meaningful career opportunities to disconnected (that is, out-of-work and out-of-school) young people between the ages of 16 and 24. By assimilating youth who have not yet achieved conventional success into a larger society, New Options aims to stop potential poverty cycles for individuals and their families, hopefully creating positive social and economic outcomes for current project participants and future generations.

In recognition of Brigham’s service to improving the well-being of youth in western Michigan, Brigham is a 2012 recipient of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Grant-Making Guru Award. The award is given by the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Greater Grand Rapids in recognition of community leaders under the age of 40 who are making a positive impact in the nonprofit sector.