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Amplifying Community Voices

Celeste Arista Glover M.A., Community Development and Planning ’13

Celeste Arista Glover ’13 is helping to drive a paradigm shift in philanthropic practices.

Celeste Arista Glover Headshot M.A., Community Development and Planning ’13
Celeste Arista Glover M.A., Community Development and Planning ’13


“In old-school philanthropy, the premise was ‘How can we come in and save you?’” Glover says. “That’s not how my team operates. We listen to the voices of community members to lift up their experiences and amplify their vision for opportunity. We ask, ‘What do you believe would work best in your neighborhoods? What do you want to see happen?’”

Glover is Senior Community Philanthropy Officer at Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT), where she connects North Texas nonprofits with opportunities related to funding, capacity building, and learning. She traces her people-centered approach to the Community Development and Planning (CDP) master’s program at Clark.

“The CDP program  prepares students differently. It focuses on the community’s voice, making sure there is a community leadership component to community development.”

Prior to her graduate-school studies at Clark, Glover was a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda where she served as a teacher and youth advocate. Looking for a bridge to leverage her experiences in East Africa, she was drawn the CDP program at Clark. “I knew I had more to learn,” she says. “And I knew a master’s degree would help me determine the best pathway for my career.”

Glover sees a clear through line from her studies at Clark to her community development work at CFT. “The majority of my CDP classes had an equity-embedded lens, with the voices of the marginalized front and center in every classroom,” she says. “And now at CFT, my team is very community-centered, and we try to adjust our grant-making practices to make sure the community voice is heard.”

Eye-opening experiences

Glover says her time at Clark was transformational. “I had never experienced such a diversity of thought and culture in a learning community. It was eye-opening for me.”

The Texas native embraced Worcester’s vibrant and diverse immigrant communities. “I loved hearing so many languages and seeing so many different religions celebrated together,” she says. “It was a beautiful cultural experience.”

She also welcomed Clark’s liberal and inclusive learning environment. “It was so freeing to be exposed to different ideas,” she says, noting that the CDP program’s small group settings invited rich and illuminating conversations. “Every voice was welcomed. We were given space and encouraged to be part of the dialogue.”

According to Glover, the scholar-practitioners that make up the CDP faculty saw her and her fellow degree candidates as more than students. “They viewed us as student-practitioners,” she says. “It felt like we were their peers. We just happened to be at an earlier point in the learning journey than they were.”

Glover considers the people she met at Clark to be “forever” people. “They influence who I am today,” she says. “Clark is that kind of community, a place where you can learn and engage and authentically be yourself.”