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Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate A Class Unto Herself

A nonprofit leader and a poet with an entrepreneurial mindset, Trapeta B. Mayson ’15 EMBA masterfully blends her experiences to pursue her life’s mission.

“I want to leave the world better than I found it.”

An Excerpt from “On Sunday They Will Come”

Immigration Raid Likely Starting Sunday

Will it be before or after Mass she wonders Should they avoid the market Should they play checkers first Should mommy cook all of the week’s meal Like her usual routine Or leave it Since they are coming on Sunday

–Trapeta B. Mayson ’15 EMBA In December 2019, the Free Library of Philadelphia selected Mayson as the city’s next poet laureate. Although she may be the first MBA ever to hold this cultural position, Mayson says her experiences in the Villanova Executive MBA program have enabled her to contribute more to her community and her craft.

Focused on Community

Mayson has spent her career in the nonprofit world, mainly at organizations supporting mental health, intellectual disabilities and substance abuse, as well as working with the arts at the Please Touch Museum. Today she serves as the chief program officer for COMHAR, Inc., where she develops programming for 11,000 individuals with mental health challenges and intellectual disabilities in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. “My work is my mission. It’s about helping people live the lives they want to live.”

It’s a calling, much like her other career as a poet.

Mayson started writing in the fifth grade but became serious about it in high school. In her 20s, she knew she wanted to pursue writing but didn’t call herself a poet until her 30s, when she found her voice and discovered the importance of making writing accessible. “For me, writing and poetry is about truth telling,” Mayson shared. “It helps me process what I see in the world and then I try to turn it into a more universal experience.”

Fulfilling Her Purpose

Some in Mayson’s circles questioned how an MBA could support her nonprofit work or her poetry, but Mayson saw the Villanova EMBA as the means to contribute more to both. “I’ve always thought like an entrepreneur,” Mayson explained. “Artists are always looking for ways to make a living and sustain themselves. A solid foundation in business and leadership has allowed me to contribute more.” Even before becoming the poet laureate, Mayson was well regarded as a teaching artist in the Philadelphia literary community. She created programs for children in schools and juvenile detention centers, as well as people in shelters or correctional institutions, using poetry as a way to explore their stories and their choices.

Now, Mayson will grow her reach further. During her term as the city’s poet laureate, she plans to focus on mental health and young people, using poetry as part of the healing process. She also wants to bring together poets and visual artists to create exhibits in libraries throughout the city. Another project will focus on culture, food and poetry in partnership with the Reading Terminal Market. Plus, she plans to pay tribute to the legendary Toni Morrison. All this, plus her day job, in the next two years.

Mayson isn’t letting time quell her ambition at all. “Art has a way of calling you to make it happen,” she concluded.