Tina Gridiron, Lumina Foundation

TITLE: Strategy Director

FUNDING AREAS: Higher education leadership, access, and attainment

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

IP TAKE: Gridiron has a history of funding policy research on how to get more black and Latino males into the higher education system. Granteseekers shouldn't expect a truckload of funding upfront.

PROFILE: Tina Gridiron has worked as a full-fledged strategy officer at the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation since being promoted from an associate position in 2004. Gridiron specializes in programs that work to remove the obstacles standing between minority and marginalized students and higher education. Her work focuses specifically on male Latinos and African Americans. As stated in a recent press release:

She...manages a portfolio of grants that includes over 50 projects designed to support higher education leadership; improve postsecondary preparation, access and attainment for all students; and increase the educational success of men of color, foster youth and other vulnerable populations.

At Lumina, Gridiron explains in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, "We recognize that our nation's success is integrally linked to Latino student success." An example of an organization that Gridiron works with in this area is Excelencia in Education, Inc. Excelencia first received support from Lumina in 2008, when the foundation gave $9,800 to help fund a policy brief titled "Latino Student Success: Case Study in Institutional Leadership." This brief investigated the performance of 12 Hispanic-Servicing Institutions (HSIs). Lumina grew sufficiently fond of Excelencia to grant the organization an additional $585,000 in unrestricted funding at the end of that year. In 2012, Lumina opened the financial nozzle to Excelencia even wider with another $1.64 million. Lumina's most recent grant to Excelencia was for $255,000.For more insight into the relationship between Excelencia and Lumina, you can listen to a podcast interview that Gridiron conducted with Excelencia President Sharita Brown in 2010 here.

In an interview with Student African-American Brotherhood (SAAB), Gridiron argues that for our nation, the "road to economic success and global participation…requires a rich educated community that must include Black males."

An organization working with Gridiron toward this end is the African-American Male Initiative (AAMI). Lumina first tested the grantmaking waters in 2006 with $100,000 to AAMI, then augmented its initial investment with another $500,000 in support a few years later. In turn, the AAMI presented Gridiron with the AAMI Best Practices Advocacy Award for her efforts to "enhance the college matriculation of Black males and raising visibility about the challenges faced by this population of students...at the national level, and for her support in directing funding to AAMI."

Gridiron seems like a cautious grantmaker who starts with small investments and continually amplifies them when organizations gain her trust, proving to Lumina that they can consistently deliver results.

According to her bio page at AAMI, Gridiron has worked in the student affairs departments at a handful of universities, including California State, UC Berkeley, Stanford, and several other area schools. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science at Berkeley and then piled on two masters at Stanford: One in higher education administration and another in sociology. Gridiron also has tutored low-income students and done HIV/AIDS prevention work with middle school kids during the course of her career.

For the most part, Lumina does not accept unsolicited proposals. However, the foundation does set aside "...a modest amount of grant monies for unsolicited inquiries to encourage innovative ideas that relate to our strategic portfolio," and does announce open grant invitations through its innocentive website.  


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