Skip to main content

Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

Meet the Academy: Gillian Townsend

Business Development and Philanthropy Specialist

What is your role and primary responsibilities at the Academy?

My official title is the Academy's Business Development and Philanthropy Specialist. Now, what exactly does that entail, you might ask? Well, it's a bit of a mouthful, but it's also incredibly exciting. I handle everything from scoping out new projects and identifying those strategic partnerships that make magic happen to crafting competitive bid and grant proposals that help us secure the resources we need to shine.

I transitioned into this role about a year ago; before that, I was a Senior Research Associate on the Academy Studies Team. I mainly dabbled in the world of federal oversight. I was fortunate to work with several federal OIGs, and I wholeheartedly believe in the invaluable, albeit often overlooked, role they play in our government's efficiency. Fortunately, I'm still involved in this domain and am a member of the Academy study team conducting our ongoing initiative with the USAID OIG.

But wait, there's more! I'm also part of the Academy's Strategic Communication team. I help coordinate posts on our website and proudly hold the title of "Editor-in-Chief" for Management Matters, the Academy's daily newsletter.

So, to sum it up, I wear multiple hats, and my role is a delightful blend of strategy, development, research, and communication. It's like working on a thrilling puzzle with multiple pieces, and every day brings a new and exciting challenge.

What do you like best about working at the Academy?

It has to be the people! I feel like I've hit the jackpot when it comes to coworkers. They're not just colleagues; they're my daily dose of laughter and unwavering support. We have a bunch of funny, brilliant, and absolutely wonderful folks here. It's like working with a cast of characters from a sitcom, but in the best possible way!

And let's not forget the learning part. I'm constantly learning new things from these amazing and passionate people. It's like having access to a treasure trove of knowledge, and I can't get enough of it.

Which of the 12 Grand Challenges in Public Administration resonates the most with you?

Recently, I've found myself particularly drawn to two of these challenges:

Firstly, "Develop New Approaches to Public Governance and Engagement." This one strikes a chord with me because I firmly believe that our government systems should work together like a well-choreographed dance. I come from a family full of public servants, with some dedicated to federal roles and others committed to local governance Trust me, many a family dinner has turned into passionate discussions about how life would be so much smoother if these systems could talk to each other and collaborate more effectively. It's like getting your whole family to sit down for a harmonious Thanksgiving dinner—challenging, but incredibly rewarding.

The second challenge that's been on my radar is "Make Government AI Ready." Now, I'm not exactly a tech wizard, but the recent advancements in generative AI have absolutely fascinated me. Even just playing around with Chat GPT for fun has blown my mind! It's like having a superpower at your fingertips. But with great power comes great responsibility, right? This technology is a game-changer, and it's crucial that we put the right support and guardrails in place to ensure it benefits society as a whole.

Why is public service important to you?

As previously mentioned, I come from a family full of civil servants, and the importance of supporting your community is a key value I was raised on. In particular, my mom, a dedicated children's librarian, instilled in us the profound importance of public service and being an integral part of a community. She showed us that public service isn't just about doing a job; it's about making a positive impact on people's lives, especially those of our youngest citizens who are the future of our society.

But beyond family and personal experiences, my belief in public service is rooted in the fundamental principle of advancing the public good. I genuinely want to contribute to a world where safety, health, and well-being are accessible to all, where neighbors look out for each other, and where we can all play a part in building a thriving civil society.

What is your favorite hobby or interest outside of the office?

First up, I'm a voracious reader on a mission to conquer my annual goal of finishing 52 books. As the child of a librarian, reading has always been my favorite escape, and I'm always on the lookout for the next captivating story.

But it's not all about quiet reading nights for me. I am undeniably obsessed with watching live music. This summer, I was one of the fortunate few to snag Taylor Swift tickets, and it was nothing short of magical. I've also been lucky to catch several other shows this year, with a handful more lined up before the year's end. Right now, I'm buzzing with excitement about my tickets to Hozier and Reneé Rapp! DC truly spoils us with its vibrant music scene, and I'm here for every beat.

Now, the most crucial role I play outside of the office is being the fourth-best player on the Academy's rec cornhole team. Yes, you read that right, we take our cornhole pretty seriously! And if that's not enough, I double as a killer second base player in my rec kickball league. Whether it's tossing beanbags or making game-winning plays on the kickball field, I bring my competitive spirit and a whole lot of fun to the mix. It's all about balance, after all!

What is your favorite travel destination, either past or future?

One place that holds a special spot in my heart is Suva, Fiji. I spent a semester of my undergraduate years studying at the University of the South Pacific. It was a transformative experience where I did so much, learning about the geopolitical impacting the Pacific, hanging out with the Survivor production crew, and watching a whole lot of rugby. It was a transformative experience, and the memories I made are truly priceless.

But if I had to pick an all-time favorite, it would have to be New Zealand. It's like a traveler's paradise with a little bit of everything – vibrant culture, stunning beaches, majestic mountains, and more. I find myself recommending it to everyone I meet. It's like the ultimate travel package, and you can't help but fall in love with its diverse beauty.

Over this past summer, I had the chance to explore the Azores, and let me tell you, those islands in the middle of the Atlantic are nothing short of remarkable. It's like discovering a hidden gem, and I can't stop thinking about the breathtaking landscapes and unique culture.

At the end of the day, I think I just love the ocean. Any place where I can swim, snorkel, scuba dive, and just read and relax on the beach is my idea of paradise. So, whether it's Fiji, New Zealand, the Azores, or any other coastal destination, as long as I'm by the water, I'm in my happy place.

									 Gillian Townsend
Back to NAPA News Article