Natalie Roper to build on organization’s momentum to reduce “brain drain” in West Virginia
Generation West Virginia (GWV) is pleased to announce Natalie Roper as its first executive director. With an interdisciplinary background in nonprofit administration, grassroots advocacy, and social innovation, Roper will lead GWV’s efforts to continue to serve as a source of action and a voice for young talent across the Mountain State. She began her new position as Executive Director Sept. 29.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors of Generation West Virginia, I am delighted to welcome Natalie Roper as our first executive director,” said Board Co-Chair, Ashley Alford. “Her energy and ingenuity will help GWV move forward in its mission to retain and attract young talent in the state.”
West Virginia has seen for over 50 years the loss of its young talent to more urban areas in neighboring states, a phenomenon often referred to as “brain drain.” According to a 2009 study by Payscale.com, 72 percent of West Virginia University graduates who had been out of school for at least five years had left the state. The loss of young talent presents challenges for sustaining a stable tax base, attracting a viable workforce to advance present companies and recruit new ones, and most importantly drains future leadership in local communities and on the state level.
During the past five years, Generation West Virginia has successfully brought awareness to this important issue. With the vital support of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and partnership with Vision Shared, GWV has gained the attention of leaders across the state. After building a foundation of support, the organization now has the opportunity to build on its momentum and expand its impact to retain, attract, and advance more of the 600,000+ residents in the 18-44 age range from across West Virginia. As GWV’s first executive director, Roper will oversee an organization poised with potential to be not only a strong agent for change in West Virginia but also a model for other states to reverse trends of “brain drain.”
“It’s an honor to join Generation West Virginia – the work of this organization is needed now more than ever,” Roper said. “West Virginia has so much to offer and can’t afford to lose the next generation’s creative solutions, motivation for change, and drive for action. I am excited about the important work ahead.”
Roper received her Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. She has worked at the Farmers Market Coalition in a variety of capacities including communications and marketing, advocacy, and program development to assist in carrying out its mission of strengthening farmers markets across the country. In partnership with the Farmers Market Coalition, Roper worked to scale up the model of Oregon City Farmers Market’s Power of Produce (POP) program dedicated to encouraging healthy eating and lifestyles among children. After founding the POP program in Charlottesville, VA, she used her experience to develop resources and tools to help build capacity of other markets nationally to replicate the program. Representative of the next generation of leaders, Roper’s energy, ideas, collaboration, and most importantly, action, contributed to moving issues forward and to each organization’s present and future success.