By Trisha Manaka MA ’10
Vanessa began her career as a non-profit professional in Washington D.C. after graduating Stanford with distinction and honors in 1986. As a Humanities Special Programs major, Vanessa explored her interests in Feminist Studies and received her Masters in Modern Thought and Literature. She says, “My experience at Stanford supported me in discovering who I was.” While living at Chi Theta Chi, a co-op on Alvarado Row, Vanessa acquired vital skills that would be useful in non-profit and government. She says, “I learned about group decision making, leadership, and getting along with different people.”
In 1988, Vanessa returned to Southern California and dedicated her career to making a positive impact on the South Bay community. She advocated for the needs of low-income and uninsured populations as the Director of Development at South Bay Free Clinic (now known as South Bay Family Healthcare). She has been an active community member in Redondo Beach, including serving on the Redondo Beach Youth Commission, the Redondo Beach School Board Health Curriculum Committee, the Redondo Beach Green Task Force and is a recent graduate of Leadership Redondo. In 1996, she was elected to the board of the Beach Cities Health District, a public agency providing health and wellness services. She has made many decisions promoting fitness, nutrition and purpose that contribute to improving the health of community members. For example, she helped bring the Blue Zones Project to the Beach Cities Health District in 2010. In 2016, the Beach Cities became the first Blue Zones Certified Community and was recognized for businesses, schools and community members working together to make healthy choices and for an improved quality of life, including significantly reduced rates in smoking and obesity.
Vanessa’s political work in community health became personal when she was faced with her husband, Morgan Kramer’s cancer diagnosis in 2015. Even previous to his cancer treatment and then hospice care, Morgan and Vanessa realized the importance of having advanced health care directives, which are legal documents that tell loved ones about end-of-life care. “We approached it with open eyes, mindfulness and bravery,” she says. Her experience with her husband’s death influenced her to support BCHD in developing a “Live Well, Die Well” program. “Helping people have these difficult but vitally important conversations with their loved ones is a health service and can help us all live more fulfilling lives while we are still alive. We can help all members of our community, whether or not they are currently experiencing health challenges, to make their wishes known ahead of time,” she says.
Vanessa coped with her loss by writing and publishing poetry, which inspired her to help others who were grieving by teaching writing workshops at The Gathering Place, which is an organization that supports children, adolescents, and adults through bereavement. She continues to teach writing in her free time. She says, “Helping students learn, grow and change is incredibly rewarding.”
Vanessa Poster ’85, MA ’86 is the owner of VIP Consulting, a full-service boutique consulting firm that provides support for passion-based nonprofits in strategic planning, fundraising and capital campaigns. She has been an elected board member of the Beach Cities Health District since 1996 and is currently President Pro Tem. She was an SPWLA Board member from 1993-1996 and 1998-2000, and helped establish fundraising for the SPWLA Fellowship program for current Stanford women who are interested in exploring non-profits in the Los Angeles area during the summer. Recently, she enjoyed interviewing Stanford candidates through the Outreach Volunteer Alumni Link (OVAL) program, and recommends the experience to fellow alumni.