When Stephanie Mutchnick volunteers with an organization, she likes to immerse itself in it completely. “I like to get involved in things where I feel like I can make a difference and use my skills,” she said, “so I tend to go deep in the volunteer activity instead of doing a lot of different things.”
Right now, Mutchnick’s focus is on Jewish Family & Career Services, where she is now serving as president of the Board and has been an active volunteer for 10 years.
Originally from St. Louis, Mutchnick is an engineer with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University and a masters in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University. Although professionally, she has “never done the work of a classical engineer … I’ve always brought that approach to problem solving to places where you typically find MBAs. So my background is in corporate strategy, product and program strategy,” she said.
As she takes the helm at JFCS, she brings a diverse wealth of experience to inform her leadership. She’s worked for large corporations, including General Motors, and smaller ones like a start up in the San Francisco Bay area.
“When I graduated from college, I was a Peace Corps volunteer for a few years,” Mutchnick said. “I taught math and science at a secondary school in Ghana. … it was a very formative experience and a great adventure at the same time.
“I’ve always been involved volunteering in some capacity,” she continued. As a high school student, she volunteered at a nursing home with Alzheimer’s patients. “I used to do volunteer work with breast cancer patients when I was in graduate school just helping them try to make sense of all the information that they get when they have a diagnosis.” That work was ground-breaking and today, a growing number of oncological practices are turning to patient advocates to help patients navigate the trauma of the diagnosis, the mountains of information and the difficult choices that must be made.
Mutchnick and her husband, Ian, a pediatric neurosurgeon, arrived in Louisville in 2003 so he could do his residency at the University of Louisville and his subsequent pediatric fellowship in Cincinnati. “We were planning on leaving after that was over,” she said, “but a position was available at Kosair and we just decided to stay. Louisville was a good fit for our family.”
A year or two later, Mutchnick began the journey that led to her current position with JFCS. She decided to participate in the Jewish Federation’s Young Leadership Development program. YLD was a two-year program – a year of meetings during which participants learned about the community and were able to hone their leadership skills and a year of service as an intern on a Jewish agency board.
“I was placed as a board intern at JFCS,” she explained, “and that was the year they were doing a strategic plan. It was the first time they had done a strategic plan in quite some time …. Since I had some background in that, I joined that committee as an intern.
“It was such a great way to get to know about what the organization does,” Mutchnick continued. “That was the year that they recommitted to the mission and vision of the organization and had all the intense discussions about identity and principles. I was deeply interested, deeply moved by both the individuals who were around the table and by this organization that had a commitment in these broad areas.
“It was kind of like the best success story for the Young Leadership Development program,” she added. “I came in and saw how the organization worked and … because I was able to sit in and be a part of that committee, very quickly I got … a broad knowledge of what the organization was working on and so have continued to serve since then.”
The presidency of JFCS is a two-year commitment and Mutchnick is eager to take this high-functioning agency to the next level. “There’s a lot going on at the organization and I hope to … continue the great work that’s been done in leadership. I’m really inspired right now by how strong the board is and how engaged individuals are.”
Board members not only attend meetings and contribute there, she observed, but they are bringing their interests and skills to many other parts of the organization, she observed. “We have board members who are leaders of various advisory committees that aren’t typically board roles. And there are board members who are hosting parties in their houses to help people understand what we do with senior services and things like that.”
Mutchnick hopes to facilitate and grow that kind of commitment among other Board members and volunteers, and to increase understanding within the community about what JFCS does, how the agency can meet their needs and how they can find a niche for them to volunteer and use their skills.
JFCS Executive Director Judy Freundlich Teill and Mutchnick share “a strong suspicion” that if more people had a better understanding of JFCS, it would be easier and more attractive for more people to engage and connect with the agency.
“The staff there at JFCS does a great job at helping people be volunteers and helping them be ambassadors,” Mutchnick added, “both because they have great experience and they make volunteering a worthwhile endeavor.”
In addition to her responsibilities at JFCS, Mutchnick is Board treasurer for the Virginia Chance School.
The Mutchnicks have two children, Gabe, 14, and Mimi, 9.