Emily Ball Cicchini

  • Name
  • Emily Ball Cicchini
  • Title
  • Executive Director
  • Organization
  • BookSpring
  • Years as Executive Director
  • Almost a year, but the organization has been here for over 40 years.

  • What does your organization do?
  • BookSpring creates life-transforming experiences between adults and children through book donations and motivational activities such as parent book clubs and reading aloud to children. We partner with over 30 schools, 30 medical clinics, and 20 childcare centers in the Central Texas area, and engage hundreds of volunteers to support the continuum of early childhood literacy services in Central Texas.
  • How did you become interested in this work?
  • BookSpring combines three of my lifetime passions: language, young children, and social equity. I’m also driven by the notion that everyone should have access to knowledge and information in a variety of formats. For a while, this became an interest in Open Educational Resources on the Internet, but I have come back to young children because of the strong potential for long-term benefits for them and for society. I believe that all people deserve the chance to become the best that they can possibly be. Reading, rich conversation, and self-expression, all core components of language and literacy, are excellent ways to do this. Possible disadvantages such as poverty, minority ethnicity, physical or mental ability, gender and age should never prevent someone from pursuing their best selves and making a contribution back to society. Collective lifetime learning should be the ultimate pursuit of humanity.
  • What drives your passion?
  • A stubbornly optimistic and idealistic streak that wants the world to be a better place.
  • Did you have a mentor or role model?
  • I have been fortunate to have many role models and mentors, and continue to collect them as time goes on! I have always admired Cookie Ruiz from Ballet Austin as an executive director, and I am thrilled that Suki Steinhauser from Communities In Schools is my current One Voice mentor. I am thrilled to be working on a doctoral degree with Dr. Dawna Ballard at the University of Texas at Austin, a communication scholar who studies the social impact of our perceptions of time. My former boss, Dean Joe TenBarge at the University of Texas Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services, is a terrific and collaborative leader, and he really prepared me and encouraged me to take on a leadership role. My husband and son are both role models for me. I could go on and on about the people that I admire.
  • What's the biggest challenge in your work?
  • Staying focused on and making decisions that will bring the most potential value for our partners and the children they serve. Keeping perspective when there are wins and losses. Events seem to be both bigger and faster when you’re an executive director than when you’re managing a project or program.
  • What's the best advice that you have ever received?
  • To keep defining what it is that we do best and stay within that scope. We are great at knowing, finding, and distributing great children’s books. We’re really good at training, professional development, and organizing events and volunteers to support a lifelong love of reading.
  • What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?
  • - Listen hard and well to your staff.
    - Measure and use every resource that you are given carefully and wisely.
    - Appreciate your board and encourage their advice, expertise, and personal interests.

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