Meet Our New Development Director

By Garrison Institute

Amanda comes to us most recently as the principal/founder of Avant Grand Consulting where she enjoyed several years working with various non-profit organizations and start-up businesses helping them with fundraising and grant writing, organizational development, strategic planning, educational/best practice workshops, and public relations. 

She has also served as the Chief Development Officer for the FoolProof Foundation and the Walter Cronkite Project.  Amanda also consulted and later became the Executive Director for a non-profit called Oneness, whose mission is to eliminate racism and the promotion of unity through music, the arts, intervention, and education.  She earned her Bachelors in Music from Stony Brook University and also a Masters in Fundraising Management & Nonprofit Leadership from Columbia University. 

We talked with Amanda about her background and what attracted her to the Garrison Institute. 

You started your career in arts education. Why did you transition into development?

My two passions in life were always music and justice. When it came to deciding which direction my career should take, I always came back to both my passion for music and the violin and my passion for truth and conviction through journalism. Ultimately, there came a point in my life and career as a violinist and music educator when I no longer felt my talents and skill set would be best served with an instrument in hand. I felt strongly that the gifts I had received through music would be an asset in how I express creativity, solve problems, and build connections in life. It was a real blessing for me to have the privilege of performing and working with others to help them connect with their spirit through music, but I believe that my work in nonprofits is my calling.

What attracted you to the Garrison Institute?

I was raised in a home where contemplative and meditative practices were emphasized for their personal, psychological, and societal benefits. We were encouraged to travel, explore, question, and think critically, and were also taught from a very young age how the mind and spirit work in tandem. Over the past decade, my own spiritual journey has shown to me the transformative power of compassion, and lead me to an intense interest in studying the meaning and application of compassion through all different spiritual forms and perspectives. I find the Institute’s mission to harness the power of contemplative wisdom and practices to build a more compassionate and resilient future for all to be profound, powerful, and critical–especially during these troubling times.

What are your first impressions of the Garrison Institute?

This is a warm work environment filled with people who care: they care for each other, they care for the organization, and they care for society. Everyone wears so many different hats at the Institute, and I feel that I am in a place where the mission and vision are reflected in the work culture.

What part of our work inspires you the most and why?

The organization’s tagline: “Timeless Wisdom, Timely Action” speaks to me. It is my sincerest personal belief that much of our suffering as a species comes from the disconnect we have with spiritual truth and with the awareness of our innate interconnectedness. We have more access and ability than ever before in history, and yet we seem to lack the inclination to exercise that power in ways that propel us as a society. I believe this is because we have forgotten how to access this wisdom internally, and instead are seeking fulfillment from external sources. Teaching to trust the wisdom of the body, to breathe and pause rather than to react, to be self-aware while remaining present, to reconceive of “me” through “we” is so important. These lessons will help us create a gentler and more compassionate world.

What is the last thing you saw or heard that made you laugh hard?

My infant son, who has recently learned how to focus his strength and ambition, crawled across the bed the other day and climbed his way from my feet to my face, where I was sitting upright. He grabbed my hands and used them as leverage to lift himself up just enough give me a big open-mouthed, toothy, monster-like kiss.

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