Julie STRICKLAND-Gilliard ’02, Global Development

A dedicated change agent in the city of Pittsburgh, Julie STRICKLAND-Gilliard ’02 is a community program manager at Global Links, a medical relief and development organization committed to supporting health initiatives and environmental stewardship in Pittsburgh and within the healthcare system. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Proud Haven, a nonprofit that provides support for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, and Pittsburgh Cares, a nonprofit that promotes volunteerism via flexible service projects in the region. A busy mom of four who works tirelessly to better her community and those around her, Julie shares how Ellis alumnae have supported her throughout the years, her best Ellis memory, and her advice to young women in the workplace.
Years at Ellis:Grade 9 to Grade 12
Location:Pittsburgh, PA
Occupation:Program Manager
Education:B.A. History, University of Pittsburgh

Tell me about how you got into your line of work. Did you plan to pursue a career in nonprofit organizations?
I was actually interested in pursuing a law degree while I was in college. After I got married and started my family, I began working in the nonprofit sector and realized it was where I was meant to be. As the Community Partners Program Manager at Global Links, I wear many hats all day long to keep the program running. It takes every single person I work with to make Global Links run efficiently.

Have you sought out advice or mentorship from Ellis alumnae since graduation? How have other Ellis alumnae supported you professionally and/or personally?  
Absolutely. I am still in touch with a good number of my teachers including Mrs. Koenig, Mrs. Newham, and Dr. Dowd to name a few. I am also really close with my Ellis class of 2002 and the classes before and after mine. Ellis is family to me. I’m never really “gone” from campus—Ellis is with me wherever I go. I reach out to my former classmates daily, sometimes for professional or personal advice, and sometimes because nobody really gets me like my Ellis family does. As we have gotten older, we have gone through deaths, births, and marriages together. Through it all, we all have stood with each other no matter what.

Do you have a mentor? How has that relationship benefited you professionally? Can you tell me about him or her?
My father, Bill Strickland, is my mentor. He has spent his life dedicated to the nonprofit sector. I was born in 1984 at a pivotal moment for the organization he founded, the Manchester Bidwell Corporation. Growing up, I had a ringside seat to the organization’s growth and development and have witnessed firsthand its lasting impact on our community. He taught me how to make a difference in our community, both in the Northside and in our global community. He taught me how to never give up. He encourages me to think outside of the box about how to best serve others. Most importantly, he never stopped reminding me (no matter how many times I refused to listen) that I could do anything I put my mind to if my spirit was in the right place.

What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Don’t let anyone tell you how your future should play out in order to be successful. Don’t let anyone define what success is for you. Look to the women around you for support and guidance.  

How did Ellis prepare you for college and career?
When I first came to Ellis in ninth grade, I remember sitting in Dr. Bedell’s class and she called on me but I didn’t have an answer. She pulled me aside at the end of class and said, “at Ellis, you are expected to come to class prepared and be engaged in the conversation.” That was one of the best lessons I have ever learned in my life. The Ellis School is a family that will be with me for the rest of my life. I didn’t need to join a sorority in college—my 2002 classmates and every class from Ellis is my sorority. I know I always have a home with them, and that gives me the strength to take risks. My Ellis family will always be there to support me when I succeed and I fail just the same.

What is your best memory of Ellis?
My best memory of Ellis is actually after I graduated. I came to the Lower School to bake with my baby sister, Olivia Strickland, Class of 2019, and her class. Our mom, Rose, didn’t tell me she didn’t thaw the butter beforehand and I had to hand mix the batter with very firm butter. That memory still makes me laugh!

For Ellis students reading this: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
Value this experience while you are in it. The girl(s) in your class that you don’t have a lot in common with now might end up being some of your best friends and allies in your adult life. Being a part of The Ellis School is a privilege and you represent Ellis, the faculty, staff, students, and alumnae wherever you go.

When you think of Ellis, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Strong women.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Bold. Determined. Loving.

What woman inspires you and why?
My late grandmother, Evelyn Strickland. She taught me what unconditional love is. She passed when I was in middle school but she is with me every day. She was a strong woman who carried herself with class and dignity. Everyone who met her loved her, and she loved everyone she met. She faced many obstacles being a black woman from South Carolina, but she was never angry or bitter. She took whatever life threw at her, kept going, and most importantly, kept loving.

What does ‘Esse Quam Videri’ mean to you?
Don’t talk about it, be about it.