In his role, Anslem Elumogo-Gardner blends leadership skills and a passion for community-based nonprofit work
Since earning an MBA from the Daniels College of Business in 2017, alumnus Anslem Elumogo-Gardner has combined his passion for the community-based nonprofit world with extensive leadership skills and experience, working for organizations focused on mental health, criminal justice, workforce development and community empowerment. And, last summer, Elumogo-Gardner took on a new role as the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s (MCA) first-ever chief of staff.
Elumogo-Gardner got his start in the nonprofit world working in community and in-home health care, before moving to Denver in 2011, when he worked in human services as the program director for Youthtrack. But in order to take his career to the next level and ready himself for more senior leadership positions, Elumogo-Gardner started looking for an MBA program that would complement his experience and align with his goals, which he found in the Daniels College’s professional MBA program.
Being surrounded by peers with finance, tech, startup, nonprofit and a variety of other backgrounds offered new perspectives and opportunities to brainstorm on solutions to social and economic challenges. “We could all meet, convene and talk to each other about the business challenges of the world,” Elumogo-Gardner said, “But also the social problems of the world and how they overlap.”
After graduating from DU, the Kansas City native moved to Chicago, where he took a position with Genesys Works Chicago, a nonprofit that provides computer science, accounting and information technology training, as well as internships with Chicago-based corporations, to high school seniors from the city’s south and west sides. Witnessing the impact of career opportunities arising from a community-based nonprofit, Elumogo-Gardner said, helped shape his career path going forward.
“We had heaps of evidence that shows that [creating career opportunities] is transformative and can start building generational wealth in this country,” he said. “They got exposure, they built relationships, they got experience and they were driven to four-year degrees and ultimately landed back with those corporate partners.”
Elumogo-Gardner went on to serve as the national director of programs at Momentum Advisory Collective, a nonprofit that provides culinary training and internships for youth involved with the justice system, and later became the vice president of operations and program impact at the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, a community development organization that provides business, housing, financial counseling and support to the southwest Chicago community.
In summer 2022, Elumogo-Gardner transitioned to his current position as chief of staff at the MCA, where he assists in managing the museum’s daily schedule, community partnerships and pan-institutional projects. While the new role might seem like a departure from his past experiences, Elumogo-Gardner said an underlying commitment to empowering communities is still front and center. “It’s what I’ve done, but it’s in the arts,” he said.
Art, he says, is one of the many avenues through which targeted development can build, strengthen and empower communities. Through internship opportunities, apprenticeships and securing funding for local artists, Elumogo-Gardner said, art can be made open and accessible, and create opportunities for all.
His focus on creating opportunity, Elumogo-Gardner said, was instilled by his parents at a young age. “They both understood, more so my mom, that opportunity happens within the rooms that you occupy,” he said. “I’ve seen communities and met individuals who are extremely smart and extremely talented, but their ceiling is cut off or limited because they don’t have a four-year degree, or because they don’t know the right people to get jobs with the skills that they have. I knew that what I wanted to do had to align with matching people that look like me, from historically underserved or disinvested communities with opportunity.”
Across the organizations he has led, Elumogo-Gardner has turned his passion for matching people with opportunity into his own style of leadership. “The best leaders know how to maximize their people, maximize what they’re good at, bring out the best of it and understand why they’re there,” he said. Emphasizing people’s motivations and passions, he said, not only bolsters productivity and ensures smooth operations but also builds understanding and two-way trust—key factors in the success of any organization.