Michelle Mickle Foster never really intended to go into nonprofits.

She went to school at the City College of New York to study chemical engineering. And for years that’s what she did, working on process designs for polyethylene plants a lab at Union Carbide.

But then she found a love for volunteering. And before she knew it, she had left behind the safety glasses and rubber gloves for the Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action.

“I’m now a social engineer,” Foster said.

Her years as the social engineer running KISRA have paid off — Foster was recently named the CEO of the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, a charitable foundation that serves Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Clay, Lincoln and Fayette counties.

“We want to go to the next highest bar possible and we’re very excited,” said Charlie Loeb, a lawyer at the law firm Jackson Kelly and chairman of the search committee for the foundation. “I think we found our leader.”

The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation received 109 applications from all across the country. The search committee narrowed its search down to 12 people before selecting Foster.

Foster plans to use her unique background as an engineer to her advantage with her new position. With KISRA, that background helped her build a small organization in the basement of a church into one where she had 80 employees.

– See more at: WV Gazette