Master of Public Administration, 2010
By Meghan Davis
Like many young dancers, Megan Cottle dreamed of working for a ballet company. She wasn’t after a life on stage, however; the new executive director of the Birmingham-based Alabama Ballet says she is thrilled to work behind the scenes.
“It’s a labor of love,” says Cottle, who recalls playing the role of the littlest mouse in childhood productions of The Nutcracker. In 2011, she helped lead the Alabama Ballet through a banner staging of the Christmas classic, which earned a five-star review in the Birmingham News and met 115 percent of the company’s ticket goal.
Cottle grew up watching her parents work in health-related nonprofit organizations, which inspired her interest in the field. “It’s not just going to the office every day,” she says. “I love being in the building where the art happens.”
After helping her mother with a fund-raising event as an undergraduate, Cottle was hooked. She served as development and communications coordinator at Better Basics, which advocates for child literacy in Birmingham, and then climbed the ranks at the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. She says she particularly enjoys bringing together the interests and energies of the many people who contribute to a nonprofit organization such as the Alabama Ballet. “I can feel the waves of excitement and passion from the students and the dancers,” she says.
Cottle says her courses at UAB taught her vital skills and introduced her to a diverse group of fellow nonprofit professionals. “There’s a real-world aspect” to the M.P.A. program, she says. “It’s very hands-on. What you do in class can benefit something you’re already doing for your job.”
Community-based events and collaborations with other Birmingham arts groups, including the Alabama Symphony, will be top priorities as she settles into her new role, Cottle adds. “This is the most generous city in America,” she says. “Everyone cares so much about the nonprofit world. There’s a wonderful group of arts supporters who sustain great programming here.”