Since 2011, Catherine Morse has shared her passion for early childhood and commitment to community service with the UWATX Board of Directors and Success By 6 Leadership Council. Now, we are proud to announce that Morse, named an ABJ Woman of Influence in 2011, begins an 18-month term as Vice Chair of the Board before taking on the role of Board Chair in 2015.
When I’m thinking about my role in all of this, it’s about being an evangelist – an advocate that shares the knowledge I’ve gained to drive solutions.
– Catherine Morse
What inspired you to get involved with UWATX?
Three years ago, Samsung Austin Semiconductor made a $1M gift to Success By 6 to celebrate expanding our business in Austin and to provide support for the community after the recession. It also opened the door for my relationship with United Way for Greater Austin.
Before that gift, I didn’t know much about United Way or Success By 6. Since then, I’ve met the inspirational leaders here – Debbie Bresette as President and Sue Carpenter leading the charge for early childhood – and I’ve learned so much about the need in this community. When you look at the data, it’s shocking, and I continue to be involved because those numbers move me to action.
How do you see UWATX’s role in the community, now and in the future?
Today, United Way is a powerful convener, pulling together nonprofits, businesses, individuals and government on key issues, setting goals and making sure everyone is working towards common ends. That’s really significant because it allows us to move the community forward, to really find solutions.
In the future, I think that role will grow. United Way has a unique opportunity with the Navigation Center, we can see the trends and data up close, which means we can analyze that information and drive real solutions. It excites me to think about the potential of changing the outcomes, changing the future of our community through data-driven solutions powered by United Way.
When thinking about the future of our community, how do you hope Austin will look in 20 years? What are you concerned about for Austin’s future?
I see Austin continuing to be a city of choice for employers and professionals, a vibrant city that’s committed to the plight of our most vulnerable community members, a city with a state-of-the-art mass transit system – something that’s efficient and carbon neutral. I hope we’ll be a city with even more green spaces, like the Waller Creek project.
But I also worry that we won’t deal with the challenges we are already seeing. We have a population of low-income children that’s skyrocketing and, as a community, we have to respond. We know the solution to this challenge – we have to have quality early care.
This realistic solution won’t happen if we don’t get more people informed and passionate. We’re a city with a lot of smart people, but we need to get focused if we want an educated, competitive workforce and a thriving city.
How much of your passion about these big changes comes from personal experience?
My personal experience only recently intersected with the mission of Success by 6. Previously, my passion arose from the compelling data connecting early childhood intervention with economic development.
Several months ago,, a close friend of mine became the guardian of a young child whose mother was incarcerated. When this young boy joined her family, he clearly had not had an enriching environment.He hadn’t been read to, his mother did not have the education to support him, and he was behind developmentally. But in just three months in a quality preschool program, this boy has grown by leaps and bounds – it’s amazing to see first-hand. So that inspires me too.
But, honestly, it’s the data – I am compelled by the ROI for early childhood programs, by the need in our community.
What accomplishment have you been most proud of, either professionally or in your work with the community?
Three years ago, I added Director of Public Affairs to my role as General Counsel of Samsung. As that time, no Samsung leader served on a nonprofit board. Today at Samsung, we have 13 leaders serving on nonprofit boards and many more are active in the community. That’s what I’m most proud of.
What makes Austin greater for you?
The Colorado River – it’s the basis for Town Lake, Lake Austin – it’s where a lot of the beauty in this city comes from.