Honoree Spotlight: Maria Schmitt - Board Champion Award
Posted on 10/05/21 in Supporting the Mission by Milestones
Milestones Board member Maria Schmitt has over 25 years of experience in human resources management with a demonstrated history of leading successful teams in the health care and higher education space. As an executive director and division administrator in HR at the Cleveland Clinic, she supports strategic planning, process improvement and fiscal planning. Maria brings her expertise in these areas to the impressive range of volunteer positions she holds in the Cleveland community, including her influential relationship with Milestones.
Since joining the Milestones Board in 2012, Maria has served as chair of the board leadership committee and HR advisory. She also plays a vital role as a member of the executive committee and strategic planning committee, contributing her knowledge of employee engagement, recruiting and human resources to support the organization.
The impact of Maria’s guidance and thoughtfulness as an active Board member is evident in Milestones’ growth over the past decade. In times of change, Maria has been a reliable source of innovative solutions and optimism to ensure the organization meets the needs of the local autism community.
It is our privilege to present Maria with the Board Champion Award at this year’s Annual Benefit, taking place October 14th, at Driftwood Caterers at Landerhaven (virtual tickets still available).
How did you first get involved with Milestones?
In 2011, a Cleveland Clinic colleague asked me if I’d talk to Ilana and Mia about Milestones. She thought my HR experience would be beneficial to them. Upon meeting with them, I immediately fell in love with their passion for helping people on the spectrum. It felt like such an organized nonprofit, which made me want to become a part of this. And so it began. Here we are nine years later.
What are the ways in which you have used your HR and healthcare expertise to help Milestones and the autism community?
I use my expertise in my interactions with board members, in my role with leadership development and on the nomination committee. It has helped me connect with potential board members and welcome them into the organization, and I’ve used it to build a board atmosphere that’s collaborative and engaging.
What has meant the most to you in your time serving as a Board member?
First and foremost as an HR professional, it has been rewarding to see the organization grow in a very structured, thoughtful way. One of the first ways I helped was by thinking about behavioral-based interviewing, providing structure to the organization with an HR handbook and introducing them to the book, "The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni." It was wonderful to offer that HR leadership focus as the organization started to grow and to help them lay out a path for growth.
Milestones has the drive, passion and connection in the community, but helping them with the infrastructure of the organization is what I am most proud of. It’s the special nature of Milestones. It is an honor to have become a trusted advisor and thought partner to discuss issues or concerns.
What do you feel are the most important ways Milestones has impacted our community?
Milestones has been able to pivot to meet the needs of the community. They’ve grown the free autism Helpdesk so parents, professionals and individuals have a place to turn to. They’ve grown the conference so it has speakers who share expertise from all over the country. They work hard to identify the exact work they can do and the changes they can make to better support individuals; it's not work a lot of small organizations do, or at least to the extent that Milestones does it.
As a staff and Board, we are always revising and looking ahead, asking how can we meet this need with the resources and team we have and evolve as needed? For example, Milestones has been diligent in identifying where we want to be to increase minority representation among the staff, Board and the client base. It’s just impressive to me how Milestones continues to evolve in a thoughtful and focused manner.
What are other nonprofits or organizations you have been involved with?
I serve on the Board for Future Heights, an organization that serves Cleveland Heights and University Heights. We put out a newspaper, organize all kinds of community activities and act as CDC housing program rehabbing program.
I’m also proud to be a part of multiple programs at the Cleveland Clinic, such as Leaders as Teachers, the African American Employee Resource Group and their young professionals’ association, Group of Aspiring Leaders (GOAL).
For more information about the 2021 Annual Benefit, please click here. All contributions to this event support the Milestones free autism Helpdesk, a service that connects individuals and families to the trusted resources they need.