Leaning All the Way In

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VETERAN JODIE GRENIER FIGHTS FOR WOMEN WARRIORS

Jodie Grenier ’18 (MA) has been through some things in her life. The daughter of blue-collar parents, she joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. By the time that 9/11 occurred, she was an intelligence agent whose job was to “protect and mitigate troops on the forward lines.” She knew it was only a matter of time before she and her fellow troops “would be going somewhere.”

She was right. She deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom I and II, where she provided unit commanders with real-time actionable intelligence, mitigating threats to troops. In 2005, she was honorably discharged from active service and promoted to staff sergeant in 2006 in the Reserves. She spent a decade in intelligence and national security, ultimately serving as an intelligence advisor in Camp Pendleton, training unit commanders, Marines and sailors.

University of San Diego alumna Jodie Grenier '16 (MA).

USD alumna Jodie Grenier ’16 (MA).

But ultimately, she became frustrated by the glass ceiling she slammed into. “I loved my job, but the law said that women were only allowed to be in certain jobs,” she explains. Her preference would have been to work in counterintelligence, but that wasn’t a possibility for a woman. “I realized I’d reached my peak and that I was no longer going to be fulfilled.”

Her parents assumed she’d simply get another job, perhaps as a police officer. “They thought it would be a seamless transition,” she recalls. “But I wasn’t interested in another regimented lifestyle.”

Instead, she worked on obtaining her undergraduate degree while working as a bartender and waitressing. “It was a humbling experience,” she says. “I mean, I’d been in the same unit with General Mattis, and now I was telling customers the daily specials in a pizzeria.”

But she kept at it, changing majors a number of times before she ultimately earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology. “Of the five best decisions of my life, that’s one of them. I understand human behavior, and that set the framework to launch me into the nonprofit sector.” She worked with a start-up nonprofit, the Marine Reconnaissance Foundation, for a few years, ultimately becoming a board member and vice president.

When she was hired in 2016 as chief executive officer for what is now the Foundation for Women Warriors, Grenier had just been accepted into the School of Leadership and Education Sciences’ Nonprofit and Leadership master’s program. To say she juggled her time is an understatement: There was class two or three nights a week and a bi-weekly commute to and from Los Angeles from her San Diego home for a time. Weekends were spent buried in homework.

“School prepared me for the quarantine,” she says with a laugh. “I hardly ever left my house.” And she loved every minute of it. “It was serendipitous, the most amazing experience I have ever had, because when I got this position I had the unique ability to take what I was learning and immediately deploy it. I had that advantage over others in my cohort.”

The organization, then called Military Women in Need, turns 100 years old this year. Grenier wanted to bring it into the modern age.

“I saw a resurgence of women’s empowerment,” she says. “I wanted to bridge the gap between women veterans and civilian women.” With the organization at a turning point, Grenier rebranded it as The Foundation for Women Warriors and stabilized the nonprofit’s budget.

She gives full props to her USD master’s program. “What I learned helped me transform this organization into a fiscally sustainable entity and to be more impactful. The whole faculty prepared me not just to lead an organization through a time of change, but through a pandemic. That’s a testament to the type of education I received.”

Not surprisingly, she’s seeing an uptick in need from women veterans — whose top four concerns are education, employment, housing and childcare — given the economic downturn sparked by the pandemic.

While the challenges are many, Grenier is up to the task. “I’ve dealt with so much change in my life, and I really leaned in on everything I’d learned. Little did I know how valuable it would be.”

Learn more at http://foundationforwomenwarriors.org/

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