Name: Michelle Browning
Company: Amaanah Refugee Services
Role: Regional Director of Operations
- What brought you to Austin and how long have you been here?
I work at a refugee services organization, and we were ready to expand beyond our HQ in Houston. Austin had the need as well as the resources to make the expansion happen, and I’ve had the privilege of leading that initiative since August, when I permanently moved.
- How did you get connected to AYC?
I reached out to Matt Glazer months before moving to Austin. I’d seen his name as an NLC Fellow, and I was looking to build network in my future city. I also went to a Coffee Connection before actually living here and decided to join AYC as soon as I moved.
- What are you involved with in AYC or what is your favorite part of AYC?
I’m on the Ambassador Committee and I attend as many AYC events as possible, which is what I like most about AYC. The activities cater to tons of different interests, and I’ve found that I’ll always meet at least one new, interesting person while I’m there (while also seeing familiar faces).
- Where can we find you brunching in Austin on any given Saturday?
Snooze or cocina de Brandon (my fiance, who makes a mean breakfast taco)
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be and what would you use it for?
I’d love to be in multiple places at once, as long as I could still give all activities my full attention. That way I could more effectively do all the things I want to do with my day: learn, create, serve, socialize, and sleep!
- If you could have any celebrity live next door to you, who would it be?
Probably Emma Watson. We’re the same age so we’d clearly become friends, but she’s also an incredible mind and a mover/shaker that I’d like to learn from.
- If you had guests visiting Austin for the weekend, where is the first place you would take them to show them a good time?
Somewhere with tacos, because good times begin with good tacos.
- If you played hooky for a day, where would we find you and what would you be doing?
Seeking out all the random things Austin has to offer- I’d take all the Facebook events and Do512 events and run through them! That’s kind of what I strive for even when not playing hooky.
- When people ask you what you do for a living, what do you tell them?
At Amaanah, I work to develop effective processes for integrating refugees into their new homes and communities. Because refugees are a controversial topic, I occasionally add that the families we work with in Austin have already arrived legally and whether or not you support the US resettlement process, it’s in our best interest to support and uplift this population.
- What technology could you not live without?
I lived in rural Honduras for a year without too much dependable tech, so I think I could make it in most conditions. That said, I really value a reliable internet connection.
- Who inspires you?
One of my coworkers, Ghadah Bayati, inspires me daily. In 2003, her husband was kidnapped and killed in Iraq. She was resettled in Houston with her 3 children as a refugee in ‘09, with little English, few possessions, and no work background, as her husband was quite prominent and provided for the family. You’d be blown away at what she’s accomplished since then. She decided that her story would not be her anchor, but her sail, and she’s touched so many lives through personal grit and an amazingly kind spirit. Also inspiring: my mom, who is an absolute gem of a human being.
- What is your proudest accomplishment?
A few students I worked with in Honduras wanted to create a service club for their community. I became their faculty coordinator, and it absolutely took off. In an area with countless drug, sanitation, and corruption problems, we got over 70 high schoolers to join, volunteer their time, donate their money while serving in 11 service projects across the region in 9 months. It was incredible, definitely a team effort, and last I checked, the service club is still active.
- If you couldn’t live in Austin, where would you want to live?
I studied abroad in Cusco, and it was hard to pull me away the first time.
- I want to learn how to…?
Be a statistical analysis queen. Is my nerdy showing?
- Soup or Salad? Salad
Indoors or Outdoors? Outdoors
Winter or Summer? In Texas…Winter.
Tea or Coffee? Tea
Beer or Wine? Wine
Mountains or Beach? Mountains