5 Questions With…Tara Arras

While Tara Arras officially succeeded Mary K. Carrasco as assistant head of school for advancement on July 1, she has spent the past few months on campus getting to know the Sidwell Friends community. Now it’s your opportunity to officially meet Tara, who will be leading the School’s advancement efforts—including the comprehensive campaign. Below, she shares her excitement about the opportunity to strengthen the School’s financial foundations, achieve campaign goals, and get better acquainted with students, faculty, parents, alumni, and friends.

You have worked in fundraising for over 20 years, most recently as the chief development officer at Catholic Charities DC. What inspired you to make the shift to Sidwell Friends? 

I care deeply about advocating for social justice and positive change in the world. Throughout my entire career, there has been a through line with social justice in each mission I have served. An academic environment has a unique lens as it relates to social justice. We have a collective responsibility to educate students and community members about the power we have to inspire the drive to make a difference.

Here at Sidwell Friends, we have that opportunity to do so through shared learning experiences and applied action. My personal beliefs are aligned with Quaker values and I was really attracted to the opportunity to be a part of an intimate community of thought leaders. 

You’ve arrived at Sidwell Friends at an interesting point in time, with the comprehensive campaign continuing to gain momentum and the School community still coping with the effects of the pandemic. What excites you about joining Sidwell Friends now, and what possibilities and challenges do you foresee? 

The pandemic has created chaos, heartache, and sheer exhaustion. Like everyone around me, I’m sensitive to the emotions we are all still experiencing. I am an optimist though, and I like to find the good in all things. I have seen the deepening of empathy among my colleagues and family members; I have prioritized the small moments of connectivity, even if on Zoom; and I have sought out and valued genuine laughter. There is nothing more uplifting than a real belly laugh!

It’s these feelings that ground my excitement to be a part of a school community. There is a special intimacy created among students, parents and family, faculty and staff, and alumni. I really appreciate those connected bonds and value them even more so as we continue to move through and beyond the pandemic. I look forward to learning more about the community, meeting all of the people (young and old) who make it hum, as well as deepening my knowledge of the Sidwell Friends culture overall. 

You had the chance to experience Sidwell Friends this spring as you transitioned into your role. What stood out to you about the students, the School, and the community? 

There is a strong sense of resilience here at Sidwell Friends School. I have witnessed key leaders wrestle with complex information that is constantly changing and using smart and thoughtful decision making to ensure the safety of everyone on campus. I have watched with compassion as students and families agonized over their options and accepting their decisions with hope and unsettled relief. And I have observed alumni and friends struggle with disappointment when historic and beloved events were cancelled or transitioned to digital platforms. But I think this common thread of resilience rooted in the values that connect us all is beautiful in and of itself. 

What do you find most enjoyable about working with donors to achieve their philanthropic goals? 

I really enjoy connecting with people and understanding their desire to make a difference. As these relationships form and deepen over time, it’s truly an honor to help someone achieve their goals to effect change. I most enjoy celebrating those moments when there is this sense of sheer gratitude for the opportunity created and ultimately implemented for the greater good. Oftentimes, these relationships become familial, which is heartwarming. 

When you’re not on campus or visiting with parents, alumni, and donors, where would we find you and what would you be doing?

I’m the mom to two middle-school age daughters (Molly and Kelly) and joyfully play the part of chef, driver, homework reviewer, and soccer cheerleader. And if I’m not on “mom duty,” you can find me tucked away somewhere cozy reading a good book, window shopping, exercising (my new sport is water jogging as I continue to recover from a broken foot), or researching healthy recipes that my husband and daughters won’t complain too much about.


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