Ten Questions with Mark Combs

1486577_10203019411672897_1353181293_nTell me a little about yourself – your background and your education. 

I was born in Philadelphia in late sixties, but my mother and I moved here shortly after my birth.  I lived in Illinois for three and a half years from 1992 – 1996, but for the most part, lived in Indiana my entire life.  I grew up in Anderson.  My adopted father worked at Delco Remy, as did my mother, until she decided to go back to school to become a therapist.

Following graduation from Madison Heights High School in the late eighties, I attended Indiana University, cramming four years of college into five.  I began my college career majoring in biology, with the idea of becoming either a doctor or a marine biologist.  However, calculus and I had a bad relationship that ended in an “F.”  We reunited a semester later, and again, it didn’t work out.  At that point I decided to change my major to criminal justice, and soon after, I picked up sociology as a second major.  I don’t know what I thought I’d do with either of these as a major.  At that point in my life, I had other priorities.

My first job out of college was at Allendale Association, an agency located north of Chicago that treats emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children and adolescents.  After three and a half years, my wife and I decided to move back to Indiana to be closer to family.  We ended up settling in Anderson.  At the behest of my mother, I applied for a case manager position at Aspire (then the Center for Mental Health), interviewed, and got the job.

In 2003, I completed my MBA at Indiana Wesleyan University.

How long have you worked for Aspire?

With the exception of a three-and-a-half year period (early 2003 – late 2006), I have been with Aspire since 1996, so about fifteen of the last eighteen years.

What positions have you held with Aspire?

I have been a case manager, residential supervisor, residential coordinator, outpatient director, and grant writer, my current position.

Describe your current position, including your responsibilities?

As Aspire’s grant writer, I am tasked with identification of potential grant opportunities, and development of grant applications.  When I develop a grant application, I often work with lots of other people, including clinicians, management staff, and subject matter experts.  I depend on all of these people to provide me with information that I need for the grant application.  So, in that sense, my job involves a lot of project management.  I also copy-edit a lot of Aspire’s marketing materials, including brochures, newsletters, and press releases.

What does a typical day as grant writer look like? 

I spend a fair amount of time reading and responding to emails.  Beyond that, I spend the remainder of my time working on the current projects, which may include state, federal, or foundation grants, along with award nominations for Aspire employees, for Aspire as a whole, or for a particular program or initiative within the agency.  I may also do some copy-editing, depending on where the Marketing Department is in the monthly newsletter cycle.  Finally, I may assist other staff with completing required grant reporting.

What in your educational background and work experience prepared you for your current position?

All the writing I did as an undergraduate, and as a graduate student, was beneficial in that I was forced to communicate ideas professionally and succinctly.  That, coupled with my love of reading, has prepared me for my job as a grant writer.  Additionally, some of the project management skills and accounting knowledge I gained during my graduate studies have been helpful.

If you weren’t working in this field, what would you be doing?

Probably a Chippendale’s dancer…

Actually, I’d like to think I could make it as a fiction writer.  I have completed the first draft of two novels, but am reluctant to take them out of the drawer for editing.

What is it that drew you to the field of mental health?

I don’t know that I was particularly drawn to mental health, per se.  I sort of fell into the human services field by virtue of accepting a job working with troubled kids soon after college.  When my family and I moved back to Anderson, Indiana in 1996, I took a job as a case manager at Aspire, and have worked in mental health ever since.

What impact do you feel your work has had on Aspire and its clients?

In my current position, I have been part of various teams of people that have developed successful grant proposals, all of which have directly benefited the clients of Aspire.

1378135_10202296336716475_140424044_nWhat things do you do to help you cope with the demands of your job?

I read, ride my bicycle, and I spend time with my wife, kids, and my granddaughter.  I also enjoy fishing and hiking.

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