Dodge Q&A: Meet our new grants manager

March 6, 2018

The Dodge Q&A series is designed to introduce you to Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation staff as they share what they’re learning and thinking about as they visit with nonprofits around the state. They’ll also reveal a few things about themselves you might not have known. 

Last fall, Dodge welcomed Marisa Benson as our new grants manager. In a recent conversation, Marisa shares her interest in systems management, how she nurtures creativity, and what she tells people about New Jersey when she’s on international arts trips. 

Can you tell me a little about your background? 

MarisaBensonI am passionate about making transformative experiences happen, whether that be through program management, systems management/design, or community engagement. I started with an interest in the arts and over time transitioned to program and systems management. My career has been at the crossroads of the arts and diplomacy. It is exciting to see the impact of funding and capacity-building initiatives and to learn about the networks/systems which support them in both local and international communities.  


How do you nurture creativity in your job and in your life? 

At work, I try to apply different perspectives when approaching an issue and seek input when needed. I would love to learn how to take graphic notes, I think it is an inspiring way to keep a record of events. In my life, I immerse myself in arts, through creating, performing and participating. I think it is important to experience diverse offerings of art, meet new people, and go outside one’s comfort zone often.  

Do you have a favorite book, movie, or exhibit you’ve seen so far in 2018? Tell us a little about it.  

My favorite films so far have been Human Flow, Ai Wei Wei’s film on the refugee crisis and Paddington 2. Human Flow speaks to the gravity of the refugee situation. If there is one film for people to see in their lifetime, I would say Human Flow is that film. Paddington 2 is a great film on admirable, peaceful interaction and it stars a cute bear! 

We hear you prioritize travel in your life, and have visited Kenya, Hungary, Oman, and the Philippines for arts-centered learning trips recently. When abroad, what do you tell people about New Jersey? 

New Jersey is a place where there are systems and resources in place to foster community engagement. There are diverse landscapes throughout the state. The state includes a good balance of city, suburban and rural areas and opportunity for most to receive a quality education. In New Jersey, there is funding support available for nonprofit organizations to apply to and most organizations tend to diversify their revenue streams. I also mention that there are organizations/people here that might be willing to collaborate on projects and note the importance of building bridges between communities.  

Do you have a question for Dodge staff? Send it to Meghan Jambor at and it may appear here in a future Dodge Q&A.