Marquita Little Numan, a 2009 graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service, is Senior Policy Director for the Alliance for Early Success, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that works with early childhood policy advocates at the state level to ensure that every child, birth through eight, has an equal opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed.
Little Numan joined the Alliance for Early Success in May 2021, expanding on a public service career that has spanned nearly 20 years. She most recently served as a Leadership Officer with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and supported the organization’s mission to advance educational, social, ethnic, racial, and economic equity. Previously, as CEO of the Urban League of Arkansas, she led the relaunch and revitalization of the historic civil rights organization following two decades without a state affiliate. Little Numan has spent the bulk of her career in health policy including working on Arkansas’s historic Medicaid expansion program in roles with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services.
Fittingly, Little Numan started her career in direct service, working with Habitat for Humanity in Dallas, Texas, through AmeriCorps VISTA. She earned her undergraduate degree from Hendrix College and gained her first exposure to the Clinton School while interning in the office of Congressman Vic Snyder. Snyder and his staff paid a visit to the Clinton School in the summer of 2005.
“I thought: ‘This is really awesome.’ That was in the early stages of the Clinton School forming, but I knew I wanted to apply.”
What is the mission and core work of the Alliance for Early Success?
Our mission at the Alliance is to create a powerful, diverse community that informs, accelerates, and amplifies early childhood policy allies’ effectiveness in achieving state actions necessary for each and every young child to thrive. We do this by supporting state advocacy and policy expertise in all 50 states across the birth through eight policy frameworks (early learning, health, and family support).
While providing funding to support organizations in our network is critical, we believe that the greatest value we add to the early childhood advocacy sector is the strength of the Alliance network. We call this the Alliance Effect, where we bring together state advocates, policy experts, the latest research and technical assistance to create this powerful impact and accelerate change.
What is your role as Senior Policy Director? What are the most rewarding aspects of your position?
In my role, I work with state advocates and national nonprofit organizations to advance policy changes that will improve the lives of children and their families. I manage a portfolio of grants to support the important work that these organizations do every day. Additionally, I help lead our work in child and maternal health and racial equity. One of the most exciting projects that I’m involved in at the Alliance is the recent launch of our Early Childhood Emerging Policy Professionals of Color (EPPOC) network. Through EPPOC we are supporting advocates who are working to shape policy for a better future, and also centering lived experiences and building a pipeline of diverse policy leaders.
Your career has spanned several sectors – government, nonprofit, philanthropy – how have the different sectors and experiences impacted your leadership?
The common thread in my career is creating spaces for marginalized people and communities to be heard and advocating for more equitable systems. I believe these diverse work experiences and my lived experiences have helped me become a better advocate by understanding the work happening at the ground level, at state capitals, and in social service programs. As a leader, I place great value in being accountable to these marginalized communities and advocating with them, not for them. I believe fate led to the field of philanthropy to leverage its power to lead transformational change and to partner with others who believe this type of change is possible.
What does public service mean to you? What are the public service impacts you are most proud of in your career?
Public service means working to build a better future for everyone. It means offering your time, talent, and knowledge in service to others. It means disrupting the status quo to create new structures and systems that work for everyone instead of benefiting a select few. It means leading by example and prioritizing people over outputs.
I’m most proud of the opportunities I’ve had to create pathways for the next generation of leaders and professionals. Every career opportunity I’ve had was the result of someone believing in me and making an investment into my life, and I think it’s my duty to do the same. I believe in “lifting as we climb.”
Going back to your time at the Clinton School, what lessons did you learn that have been most valuable for you professionally? What skills did you develop that you continue to use today?
The most valuable lessons were the practical experience through the field service projects. For example, while learning about qualitative analysis, I was conducting parent focus groups in rural Arkansas. So often students complete academic programs with lots of knowledge and theory, but the Clinton School provided real world experiences to apply what we were learning.
I’ll also highlight that the relationships I formed at the Clinton School are one of the most valuable parts of my experience. Whether partnering on a public program to celebrate health care progress in the state, hosting a reception to welcome the National Urban League president, or recruiting students to complete a Capstone project, the support from the Clinton School has continued far beyond the time I spent in the program as a student, and I’m grateful to be a part of the Clinton School family.