Education director for Sonoma County’s Luther Burbank Center for the Arts wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award

Ashleigh Worley


Director of Education & Community Engagement

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts

50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa 95403


Read other profiles of North Bay Business Journal’s 2021 Forty Under 40 Awards winners.

Responsibilities with your company: As director of Education and Community Engagement, I am responsible for the development, execution, and oversight of the daily operations, long-term vision and goals, and tactical strategies for the 20+ Education & Community Engagement (ECE) programs of Luther Burbank Center for the Arts (LBC).

I cultivate and maintain relationships in Sonoma County and beyond to further the arts integration and community engagement work of the Center. I serve as an advocate for the Center and ECE with the Board of Directors, volunteers, and staff as well as out in the community.

I am responsible for ensuring that the LBC's education programming, outreach services and engagement activities, and public use spaces are meeting the needs of our diverse community.

In 25 words or less, how do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty under 40 professional?

I take pride in being a leader, arts education advocate, and innovator in my organization and in the local and national fields.

Years with company: 2.5

Length of time in current position: 2.5 years

Number of companywide employees: 50

Number who report to you: 20

Greatest professional accomplishment: Making the leap from public school teacher to nonprofit director.

Greatest professional challenge: Overcoming impostor syndrome. I consistently need to remind myself that I have been in the roles I have for a reason.

Best advice received: We've all heard the phrase “fake it till you make it”- and while that may be problematic in a lot of settings, it is completely applicable when it comes to attitude and perspective.

As a result of this advice, my mantra has become “It'll be great!” When stressed or concerned, verbalizing the sentiment lightens the mood and frames things positively.

Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: Offering all our virtual school shows and Family Fun Series performances free of charge during the pandemic.

What’s the biggest change COVID-19, the restrictions and the economic impact has had on your work and personal life?

The March 2020 shelter-in-place order immediately halted all in-person work, forcing my team to adjust what we do to be relevant and meet the needs of our community in a virtual setting while working from our homes.

We have had to reinvent not only how we meet, but how we communicate with teachers, families, and our community.

We have found ways to continue all the work from pre-pandemic times: holding virtual summer camps, virtual sing-alongs for adults experiencing early memory loss, virtual professional developments, virtual arts-integrated residencies for schools, and much, much, more.

And what’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from that experience?

The limit to what we can accomplish directly correlates to how big we are willing to think. Approaching challenges with a creative outlook can lead to astounding results and new ways of operating you never imagined were possible before.

What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?

LBC is an organization that recognizes its employees as its most valuable asset. Approximately half of the staff has been with the organization over five years, many of which well over a decade.

Departments each have their own methods of providing a sense of community and camaraderie, from staff lunches to quarterly retreats.

During the pandemic, we have checked in with the entire staff monthly and offered virtual game nights and extra curriculars to boost morale.

Next professional goal: Developing a model of programming that marries virtual and in-person events and opportunities in a way that most benefits the community we serve.

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre education, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Teaching credentials: CA English Credential, Specialization in Drama NC K-12 Theatre Education Licensure NC 9-12 English Language Arts Licensure

Hometown: Bricktown, NJ

Community/nonprofit activities: Staying involved in the local, regional, and national arts education scene through organizations like Creative Sonoma, Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area, California Arts Council, and Theatre for Young Audiences USA.

Mentor/admired businessperson: I have so much still to learn from my colleagues on the senior staff team at LBC. There is such a wealth of knowledge of the industry and nonprofit sector; I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside and continue to learn from them all.

What is your most disliked industry buzzword?

Company culture

Typical day at the office: My staff have been working from home for the past year.

Currently, days at the home-office may include: team/individual check-ins, meetings with grant writers or colleagues, check-ins with community partners, data analysis, copy editing/approving marketing collateral, program development for upcoming events, reviewing contracts and budgets."

In a business sense, what is the greatest thing about being under 40; and then what is the worst?

Best: Others are willing to share their own experiences and perspectives

Worst: Being underestimated

Best place to work outside of your office: Anywhere outdoors with coffee

Hobbies: CrossFit, furniture restoration, painting, general crafting, kayaking, enjoying nature

What you wanted to be when you grew up: A racehorse jockey. I'm also highly allergic to horses, so it probably wasn't meant to be.

#1 thing you want to accomplish by the time you turn 40: Volunteer for an elephant conservation site

First job: Cake decorator

Social media you most use: Instagram

Favorite book: “House of Leaves”by Mark Z. Danielewski

Favorite movie: “Hedwig & The Angry Inch”, “Drop Dead Fred”, “Harold and Maude”

Favorite App: Shop - tracks all of my excessive online orders

Favorite after-work drink: Gin & tonic

Last vacation: A weekend trip to Eureka

What does your mom or dad brag most about you?

When I set my mind to something, I find a way to make it happen.

Ashleigh Worley


Director of Education & Community Engagement

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts

50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa 95403


Read other profiles of North Bay Business Journal’s 2021 Forty Under 40 Awards winners.

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