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Q&A With Board Member Libby May

  April 21, 2024

A member of the International Institute of New England’s Board of Directors since 2021, Libby May is a communications executive specializing in K-12 education and higher education issues. She currently serves as the Chief External Affairs and Communications Officer for Southern New Hampshire University, where her work includes internal and external communications, media relations, events, alumni engagement, community relations, and government affairs. Libby supports IINE’s continued growth through her deep commitment to strengthening the Greater Manchester community and ensuring more equitable opportunities for all.  

We spoke with Libby to learn more about her passion for welcoming refugees and immigrants, how she strives to be an effective board member, and what excites her most about IINE’s future.  

Can you share a bit about yourself? 

I grew up in Washington, DC and spent most of my career there, working with nonprofit and advocacy organizations in the field of communications. So, I’m not a New England native, but I was drawn here for my current role—as the Chief External Affairs and Communications Officer for Southern New Hampshire University—which I have held for the past nine years.  

I’m really proud and feel very lucky to work with nonprofits. My first job out of college was at a PR firm, and I didn’t love it. I remember someone telling me around that time, “Think about what gets you out of bed in the morning and follow that instinct.” It was the best professional advice I have ever received. For me, the answer was clear: working with nonprofits to tell their stories and bring more good into the world. There’s nothing better than working beside passionate individuals to further a mission.  

Another big part of my background is that I am a mom to two young kids. Raising them has fueled my work – in education and the nonprofit space, as a whole. I want to help build diverse, welcoming communities for them to grow up in.  

Tell us about your journey to the International Institute of New England.  

In 2017, Southern New Hampshire University opened the Center for New Americans to serve the needs of immigrants in Greater Manchester. We wanted to acknowledge that there were many other groups in the area supporting this population, while identifying opportunities for us to fill in any gaps. We began to partner with other organizations to provide language, education, and wellness support – this was my first introduction to the International Institute of New England.  

From the start, I was so impressed by the organization’s commitment to providing wraparound programming. When an opportunity came around to join the Board, I was excited to become even more connected to the community.  

What do you consider the most important contributions of a board member? 

I think one of the most important things a board member can do is lean in. Read the materials, understand the team’s work, ask great questions, be there and be involved.  

I think particularly with nonprofits, which don’t tend to have large staffs or budgets, board members can really make a difference. In a way, I use my expertise  to be an unpaid consultant. So whether that means helping brainstorm A/B tests we can run on email campaigns or weighing in on social media vendors, I try to draw on my professional expertise and act as a voice of support.  

As a board member, I always try to listen to the team and voice that their work matters – it’s powerful for people.  

Looking forward, what excites you most about IINE’s future? 

I’m so proud of how IINE is always willing to pivot to meet the needs of the populations they serve. I loved watching IINE create programming for Afghan women—how they recognized the women’s unique needs by asking the right questions and brought together people and resources so organically. The staff at IINE are genuinely curious. They ask, “What can and should we be doing differently?” Seeing this adaptability makes me hopeful about the organization’s future.   

Of course, I’m especially excited about the work in New Hampshire specifically. As I shared, I’m not from New Hampshire, but I have come to really respect the grit of the people here. The NH nonprofit community, in particular, is made up of incredible, hard-working people who are doing collaborative, boots-on-the-ground work to support new arrivals. I walk into a building every day where I’m reminded that this state was built on the backs of immigrants. For folks in New Hampshire, no matter how many generations removed they may be from when their families first came here, they remember those journeys, and they recognize the determination and strength it takes to come here, put down roots, and build a life. I think New Hampshire folks see themselves in immigrants – we all share the desire to work hard to support ourselves and our families.  

What inspires your philanthropy? 

My parents always instilled in me that as members of a community, it’s our duty to give back. You don’t walk through a door without holding it open for the person behind you. You never know when you will need someone else to hold the door for you.  

It’s these values that have fueled my work with nonprofits and my philanthropy overall. It’s what I aim to instill in my young kids as well. They’ll tell you, Mom always says you can be anything in the world, just have a kind heart. We all have a responsibility to give back to the world that we live in.  

IINE’s Board of Directors includes corporate and community leaders from across New England. View our members and leadership team here.


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