Paola Lopez is a Master’s student at University of Strasbourg and a spring 2021 intern with CMMB. In the piece below, Paola writes about a recent virtual event that brought interns and volunteers together with Mary Beth Powers, CMMB’s President and CEO.

Mary Beth Powers Meets Spring Interns and Volunteers

Last month, CMMB’s spring 2021 interns and volunteers had the opportunity to meet up virtually with Mary Beth Powers, CMMB’s President and CEO, to learn about her professional background in the field of global health. Mary Beth shared insights on how to align work with your values and other advice for young professionals interested in humanitarian work.

Watch the video below for the highlights from the question and answer session.


Mary Beth’s professional background extends over thirty years in the global health. After graduating from Georgetown University, she entered the non-profit world with Catholic Reliefs Services in Pakistan as an intern, where she saw firsthand the appalling water and sanitation conditions of Afghan refugees. This experience working with refugees inspired her to pursue a career in public health.  

After returning to the United States from Pakistan, Mary Beth continued her studies and completed a Master’s in Public Health at the University of Michigan. From then on, she worked both in non-profit and business, with corporations like Johnson & Johnson. The majority of her career —  eighteen years — was spent at Save the Children, where she better learned to use advocacy as a tool to change the bigger policy framework at play in global health.

“Because I was so interested in policy, I also started to do more advocacy and policy work — using the voice of Save the Children on key issues.” With Save the Children, Mary Beth advocated for maternal mortality and children’s health by educating the public and political leaders about the importance of addressing issues outside of the United States. Mary Beth carries this same focus on advocacy through an international lens in her leadership role at CMMB, such as in her support of COVID-19 vaccine equity.

“When I heard about this opportunity with CMMB, I felt like maybe this was a calling that I needed to answer.” —Mary Beth Powers

Mary Beth professional path led to CMMB after she participated in an Ignatian spiritual retreat. During the retreat, she decided that she wanted work with an organization that shared her philanthropic and public health professional goals and her Catholic values. “I felt more alignment with who I was spiritually and when I heard about this opportunity with CMMB,” said Mary Beth. “I felt like maybe this was a calling that I needed to answer.”

Mary Beth Powers congratulates the Aurora Prize for their fifth anniversary in October 2020.

Balancing Personal and Professional Life 

As future professionals in the humanitarian world, one intern asked how Mary Beth manages to balance her career goals and personal responsibilities. She reflected on an Indonesian proverb: “When two men are in a boat, only one can stand up at a time,” said Mary Beth. “That just became the philosophy my husband and I had about our careers.”

“When two men are in a boat, only one can stand up at a time.” —Indonesian Proverb

Mary Beth advised to being open to possibilities and always reflect if new opportunity can provide practical outcome or advantage: a new contact, a new skill to develop, or new knowledge. Mary Beth also advised to not be closed off to certain organizations or corporations simply because they are part of the for-profit sector. On the contrary, she thinks this is an opportunity to work with companies who have a large outreach and can make a tremendous difference, such as during her time working with Johnson & Johnson.

“Corporate social responsibility is really important. If you look at the globe, corporations can make a tremendous difference,” said Mary Beth. “I would not think it was selling out if a person with a real passion for public health went and worked inside a corporation — even if you worked on diversity and inclusion in a corporation, even if you worked on public health or corporate social responsibility.”

“If you look at the globe, corporations can make a tremendous difference.” —Mary Beth Powers

Father Matt Malone and Mary Beth Powers meet at CMMB's New York City headquarters in November 2020.

Father Matt Malone and Mary Beth Powers meet at CMMB’s New York City headquarters in November 2020.

Advice to Young Professionals Interested in Humanitarian Work

Mary Beth shared practical advice for young professionals. Concerning degrees, she reflected that a person’s major during college or university does not define their career. There is always space for people of different backgrounds in the non-profit world, as can be attested by the diverse and multicultural team of CMMB.  

Mary Beth’s last piece of advice was specially addressed to women in the field: learn how to public speak. She shared that this is important for becoming a great leader, especially as a woman.

She made us all feel very motivated and spoke with us about what makes her a good leader is being a counsellor — someone that brings people together,” said Aakanksha Kuwar, a Hunter College student and intern with CMMB’s Human Resources team. Knowing how to assert yourself and convey emotions are great assets to have and she encouraged us to train that muscle.

“Having more women in power such as Mary Beth as a CEO of a NGO, inspires not only myself but all the young girls and women in the world that they too could reach these heights,” said Alison Moran, a Fairfield University student and intern with CMMB’s Partnerships team.

On behalf of CMMB’s spring 2021 interns and volunteers, we are thankful to Mary Beth for sharing her time, advice, and thoughts with us. We wish Mary Beth the best on her goals for CMMB, and we are excited to continue advancing CMMB’s mission.  

Learn More About CMMB’s Volunteer Opportunities