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tessitura's innovator series

Truly integrating volunteers and interns into your organization

Nicole Smith demonstrates the power of building meaningful volunteer and internship programs

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Nicole Smith, wearing a red dress. She is standing in profile and her head is turned toward the camera.

Nicole SmithManager of Volunteer and Internship Services, The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County

TitleTruly integrating volunteers and interns into your organization


Read/View Time19 min

The concept of ubuntu roughly means “I am, because we are.”  

Nelson Mandela describes it as “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others.”

In this Tessitura’s Innovator Series talk, delivered live at the 2019 Tessitura Learning & Community Conference, Nicole Smith describes how the concept of ubuntu underpins her work as the Manager of Volunteer and Internship Services at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Fla.

The Arsht Center’s volunteers range in age from 18 to 94, represent 29 different countries, and speak over 10 different languages. They bring experience from over two dozen different professions, many at the executive and C-Suite level. Last season their volunteers and interns contributed over 44,000 hours to the organization — the equivalent of a million-dollar in-kind gift.

A group of about ten people, all wearing white shirts, gray vests, and red neckties, standing close together, facing the camera and smiling.

How do they foster such dedication? “We purposefully and mindfully make sure our volunteers are woven into the fabric of our organization,” Nicole says. From surveys to town halls to the annual Volunteer Appreciation Month, the Center makes sure to foster communication, caring, and connection. 

“Through communication, caring, and connection we were able to foster ubuntu — a deep understanding among our volunteers, interns, and staff about how we all need to work together to help one another further the Center’s mission.” 

Scroll up to watch Nicole's talk, recorded live at the 2019 Tessitura Learning & Community Conference in Chicago.

Nicole Smith, wearing a red dress. She is standing in profile and her head is turned toward the camera.

Nicole Smith

Manager of Volunteer and Internship Services

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County

Nicole Smith joined the Arsht Center in 2012 as a Marketing Coordinator and remained in that role until she joined the Volunteer Services department in 2014.

She is currently responsible for managing 300+ volunteers in all aspects of the business including recruiting, training and team building. She also leads the Center’s Internship Program which serves 13 departments and offers a life-changing immersive learning experience to approximately 20 interns per semester. In addition, she is an Accountability Coach for the Center’s Apprenticeship Program and has worked as a mentor with the School-to-Work Big Brother Big Sister program for two years. Her experience working with volunteers and interns in sports and entertainment, radio, TV, and the performing arts has spanned nearly 20 years.

Smith is also a published author, motivational speaker, and accountability coach. Of Panamanian descent, she received her bachelor’s degree from Oral Roberts University and is the single mother of a 21-year-old Tuskegee University student-athlete. Her hobbies include reading, dancing, and teaching others how to build resilience that makes a difference in everyday life.


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