Caryl M. Stern began her career in the art world. "I started out with a degree in studio art, and assumed I would spend most of my adult life creating works of art," she says. "I have been fortunate to have actually lived out the 'creating' part -- but not the 'works of art!' " After returning to school and earning her Masters degree, she spent the next 10 years working in higher education, most recently as Dean of Students at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, N.Y. and teaching at the graduate school at Manhattanville College.
She left higher education to join the Anti-Defamation League as the inaugural director of ADL's A World of Difference Institute. She went on to become the ADL's Director of Education and then the organization’s Senior Associate National Director and Chief Operating Officer. Three and a half years ago, she joined the US Fund for UNICEF as their Chief Operating Officer, and was selected to be the President and CEO a year later.
"I was drawn to the US Fund for UNICEF because of my commitment to children, to education, and to equity," Stern says. "As the child of a woman who survived the Holocaust in Austria by being sent here to the US at the age of 6 with her 4-year-old brother, I learned early on what a difference one person can, should, must make in the life of a child. I am proud to be in a position to help make that difference for literally thousands of children."
Stern lives with her family in Bayside, N.Y. The mother of three boys and grandmother of a baby girl, Stern is the co-author of two books, a textbook called Future Perfect: A Model for Professional Development (NACA, 1984) and a primer for parents called Hate Hurts: How Children Learn and Unlearn Prejudice (Scholastic, 2000). She graciously took the time recently to chat with Work It, Mom! about her career and her work-life juggle.
How has being a mother affected the work you do with UNICEF?
Being a Mom helps me to empathize with what other mothers experience, regardless of where in the world I am. I see my own kids in the faces of every child I meet -- I understand the pain women in the third world feel when they are unable to give their children what they need to survive -- and I believe I draw on my personal good fortune as a US Mom every day. Lastly, I learn from my children and they influence me greatly!
The recent case of a 7-year-old boy who was returned to Russia by his American adoptive mother has had a huge impact in the international adoption community. What do you think needs to change in order to prevent situations like this?