Diane Poff Billas ’08 decided to attend Shenandoah University because of its Bachelor of Science degree in art management. At the time, there wasn’t another university that offered an undergraduate degree in arts management. Billas always liked that the professors really took the time to make sure students learned and understood the course material, and also cared about them as a person.
“That’s one of the main reasons I loved going to a small school; if I ever had trouble with a class, I could just meet with a professor and they would help with the material,” said Billas. “Not many of my friends who went to a large school had that opportunity.”
One of Billas’ fondest memories of Shenandoah was being elected president of the Organization of Arts Management Students. This position helped her refine her leadership skills and allowed her to meet some amazing people, some of whom she still keeps in touch with today.
After graduating from Shenandoah, Billas interned at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which helped launch her career in the the nonprofit world. She worked for The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Curtis Institute of Music, and most recently has accepted a position as the divisional director of foundation relations for The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.
In this position, she and her team are responsible for the submission of grant proposals to charitable foundations and local and state agencies, which are compatible with the overall mission and goals of The Salvation Army. In addition, She is responsible for enhancing the knowledge of Salvation Army staff members throughout Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware in the areas of program design, proposal writing, project startup and report preparation.
In her free time, Billas writes creative fiction and plays the French horn. She has written two books (one contemporary fiction and the other young adult) and is working toward their publication. She has performed the French horn in her local community for ten years.
Billas truly believes that her arts management classes at Shenandoah prepared her for the grant-writing and fundraising career field. “I actually had to write a grant in one of my arts management classes and learn about fundraising at a non-profit organization,” said Billas. “I must say, I haven’t met many other grant-writers who learned to grant-write in their undergraduate education.” She is very grateful for former Director of Arts Management and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Arts Administration Constance DeVereaux for all of her support. She says she never would have learned about grant-writing or improved her overall writing without DeVereaux’s assistance. Billas still references the books DeVereaux assigned her class on occasion.
Billas’ advice to students is: “It’s okay if your life plan takes a different direction than you originally thought. I certainly never thought I would be a grant-writer. I left college thinking I would work in an education department at symphony for many years but after being laid off nine months after college from The Philadelphia Orchestra, I was forced to find another job, and because of this unplanned deviation, I fell into grant-writing and realized it made sense with my skill set and my love of writing.”