5 Questions With Morgan Berman, Executive Director, Life Science Cares Philadelphia

1. What did you want to be when you grew up? How did you get from there to here? 

I think the earliest thing I ever wanted to be was a marine biologist because I thought that meant getting to just go swimming in the ocean all the time and frolicing with dolphins and mermaids. So that was the starting point. When I got a little older, I wanted to work in the nonprofit world specifically with women’s reproductive health. I felt connected to the cause because of the lack of access my own family members had experienced before Roe and knew about the harrowing experiences they had suffered. I worked at Planned Parenthood and did a couple of different roles there in marketing, development, and patient services. 

I wound up wanting to have more freedom and creativity in my work and to blend impact with business so I went back to graduate school, started my first business MilkCrate, learned a lot from that, and got really involved in the startup community. Eventually, I was finding ways to tie my non-profit background with the kind of for-profit skills that I had developed. I launched another startup, Glitter (which is now being run by my business partner Brandon Pousley), and then somewhere in there got connected to the hiring firm for the role I have now. I was immediately drawn to Life Science Cares because I wanted to find a way to connect the impact that a funder could have on nonprofits and use analytical impact and outcome-driven focus on the work. So that’s what really led me to what I’m doing today.

2. How are you helping to build a more connected community?

BioBuzz’s mission is simple: to be more connected. Our regionally-focused storytelling, programs, events and experiences create, connect and amplify impact across the life science workforce in growing biohubs. We vibe with people who value community and connection like us. We’d love for you to share how you’re building a more connected community… and any support that you need from our community to continue to accomplish this mission.

It’s a great question and really appropriate for Life Science Cares. I often call myself a matchmaker between our corporate partners and the nonprofits that we support. So our nonprofits obviously are getting financial support through our grant program that’s made possible from the contributions we collect (from our corporate partners and board of advisors). But we also are creating connection and engagement through volunteer opportunities, drives, and different fundraising with our nonprofit partners, as well as the Project Onramp program, which is bringing first-generation college students to work at our corporate partners as paid summer interns. So lots of different community building, workforce development, connections, and development. This community building is definitely a key part of our work and our impact as an organization.

3. What are you currently buzzing about?

So currently I’m buzzing from a new program that I just enrolled in. It’s called Leadership Philadelphia. It’s the CORE Program and I’m really enjoying the initial sessions we just had, which included some improv work with 1812 Productions. We did team building with Outward Bound and I’m getting to know my Junto members; it’s been just a really exciting kick-off to a program that I can already tell is going to lead to more insights into myself as a leader and ways that I can be a better leader and create an even better team for the Life Science Cares Philadelphia affiliate. So I’m really excited about that.

Even more pressing is our next big fundraiser, Mini Golf For Good, which is coming up on September 21st. So I’m really excited about that. That’s what the team is really focused on right now as well as kicking off the next cycle for recruiting employers and students for summer 2024’s On Ramp program.

4. If you could travel back in time, what early career advice would you give yourself?

Or what career advice would you shout from the rooftops now?

I’m glad that I tried out so many different things early on. I think it really helped me learn what I liked and didn’t like, what I was good at, and where I would like to develop further. I would definitely encourage myself to keep testing out all those different things. Other advice and something that I say all the time to folks who are really passionate about something and say that they want to start their own nonprofit or start their own company, I often encourage them to first go work at an organization already doing that work. Sometimes we get blindsided by our own passion and don’t realize that there are already so many organizations doing the kind of work that we ourselves say we want to do and we can learn so much when we’re early in our career to be on the ground floor of an organization like that. So that’s early career advice I share all the time that feels valuable to both the recipient and hopefully the industry too.

5. Fun Question: What art form most speaks to you?

The first thing that came to mind is ‘sculpture.’ I’m a very visual and tactile person. I love making sculptures. It’s been a long time since I made one though. Too long. The physical experience of molding something or crafting it with your hands and how it can evolve as you try and make it fit together – it’s a particularly mysterious practice. I also love that sculptures can transform an inhabited space. I mean, I love two-dimensional art, but three-dimensional art can really become a part of the design and architecture of a room and transform a room in a way a canvas on a wall can not.

So that’s definitely something that I really enjoy. I guess the thing that I’m spending the most time thinking about in terms of design right now though is landscape design, creating a space with plants and natural materials that is both welcoming and environmentally friendly, but as well as positive, for example, working with native species, pollinators, and things like that. Like, how can you create a beautiful, comfortable outdoor space that’s actually restorative? These are things I get to think about now in my new (and temporary) suburban lifestyle.