FERN TIGER, Principal and Creative Director

B.F.A., M.S., Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY
M.F.A., The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Post Graduate Studies
The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Professional Background

An artist by training (with post-graduate work in man-environment relations and cognitive psychology), Fern’s early interest in the importance of integrating diverse disciplines in order to address contemporary issues led to a career as a strategist —combining the innovative, perceptive, and holistic insights of an artist/designer with the practical and systemic tools of planners and researchers.

Recognizing the need for strong and understandable public information that could address and inform local concerns and public policy issues, as well as the emerging role of nonprofits and governments struggling to engage inquisitive and activist communities in critical issues, she founded Fern Tiger Associates (FTA) in Oakland, CA (www.ferntiger.com) and remains fully engaged as the firm’s president and creative director.

For three decades, FTA has focused on the human aspects of problems and solutions; on the impact of public policies on communities and mission-driven organizations; and on the means by which the successes of one community or one organization can be incorporated into programs in other communities. The firm’s history is filled with projects that have influenced the direction of scores of communities, organizations, and public agencies — helping each to be strategic and effective, and to grow and mature. While the client base is varied, the firm has long been known for its work with organizations, foundations, and governments focused on improving the lives of families and children; increasing civic engagement; improving public services and education; building community; increasing economic sustainability; and supporting philanthropy. With deep roots in progressive issues and a long-standing commitment to the purpose and value of the nonprofit sector, FTA has integrated a unique set of creative and pragmatic skills into all of its work.

Fern serves as director for all complex projects at FTA. She brings to each a thorough and unusual understanding of the role and potential of community involvement and a commitment to educating as well as disseminating information in effective, well-thought-out, and highly visual formats appropriate for each audience. The firm’s scope includes the conceptual development, management, and implementation of civic engagement and communication programs that address complex and sometimes controversial issues, and ongoing organizational and governance assistance.

Under Fern’s guidance the firm has worked with school districts, public agencies, universities, and scores of nonprofit organizations and public agencies as they sought appropriate strategies for sustainability and to advance critical ideas and issues.

In 2004, Fern was appointed to be one of Arizona State University’s first Professors of Practice, teaching graduate level courses in the School of Public Affairs, a position she held through 2012. Since then, in addition to full-time involvement in FTA, Fern is Professor in the Urban Studies Program at University of Washington Tacoma where she teaches advanced level courses in the Urban Narrative, Social Change, and Community-Institution Conflict. Her direct involvement in higher education provides a unique perspective to the potential for public institutions to play significant roles in the economic and social vitality in the regions where they are situated.

Both in her capacity as a professor and as the spearheading force of Fern Tiger Associates, Fern has been focused on five core areas of work, all of which she believes must be seamlessly integrated: community-based research; strategic planning and communication; advocacy documentation; civic engagement; and public policy and evaluation. The firm’s unique interdisciplinary skills (including graphic design, photography, web development, and writing) blur the edges and traditional definitions of planning, research, community development, evaluation, and public affairs.

While it may appear that Fern has moved far from her roots in the world of art, she sees her work as the logical extension of that training, which resulted in problem-solving skills, creative and holistic thinking, and innovative approaches to policy and civic engagement. She believes strongly that investigation, engagement, and participation are essential to address today’s ever more complex problems.

In addition to her focus on the firm, Fern is a frequent speaker on public involvement in decisionmaking, the role of nonprofit organizations in communities, innovative approaches to civic engagement, and university/community relations.

Fern is also an avid traveler, having visited well over 50 countries in North, South, and Central America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.