More than three weeks before she starts her job as the new chief executive officer at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Elizabeth Folcarelli is already forging local alliances.

On a house-hunting trip to the Vineyard Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Folcarelli both found a West Tisbury rental and discovered a potential Community Services partner at the nearby Misty Meadows Equine Learning Center, where she met with executive director Sarah McKay.

“Oh, my goodness, what fabulous work they do,” Ms. Folcarelli told the Gazette. “I was full of thoughts standing there in the barn with Sarah, thinking of the populations of the Island.”

The therapeutic approach at Misty Meadows, which fosters respectful relationships between humans and horses, can benefit many people, from troubled children to caregivers with compassion

fatigue and even overworked executives, Ms. Folcarelli said.

“I think there’s an expansive amount of opportunities there, and I’m really excited to learn more. It was a great first visit,” she said. “It really started my thinking about the potential.”

Ms Folcarelli has also begun meeting with retiring executive director Julie Fay and other key staffers, as well as members of the nonprofit’s board. She’s also winding up her current job as chief operating officer at Gosnold Inc., in Falmouth, where she lives with her Cairn terrier Vito and West Highland White terrier Monte.

Piling work on top of work is nothing new for the energetic Ms. Folcarelli, who earned a Ph.D in organization and management from Capella University in 2015.

From start to finish, it took 10 years to complete her doctorate while working full-time as a top executive at service non-profits in Massachusetts and her native Rhode Island.

“My dissertation took more than more than five years,” said Ms. Folcarelli, who was CEO of Worcester-based Youth Opportunities Upheld for more than three of them.

“For the five years, pretty much every weekend I was behind the desk from sunup to sundown.”

Even once the dissertation was finished and defended and her Ph.D in hand, Ms. Folcarelli has not slacked off, filling her free time with exercise, outdoor activities, cultural events and playing music.

For much of the first decade of this century, she was a principal flautist with the Rhode Island Wind Ensemble and still practices the flute every day, Ms. Folcarelli said.

“I find it grounding,” she said. “I play for enjoyment, but I do some of the technical skill-building things like scales and basic etudes.” Along with the flute, Ms. Folcarelli also likes to challenge herself with strenuous boot-camp workouts. “I think they’re both stress relievers,” she said.

Now 56, Ms. Folcarelli grew up in the Chepachet village of Glocester, R.I., in what she calls the snow belt of the Ocean State. “Foster-Glocester, no school today” was always the first cancellation announced on local media when she was growing up, she recalls.

Attending Foster-Glocester district schools, she became a classical flautist and champion baton twirler, performing and competing around the region. These early disciplines instilled in her the ability to perform under pressure,

Ms. Folcarelli said, and an equally crucial sense of humility.

“When you have those experiences as a youth, both things happen: You’re succeeding, and you’re falling down in front of people,” she said. “When you fall down, you get back up, and you’re doing it in front of people.

“I think that’s necessary for executive leadership,” Ms. Folcarelli continued. “You have to be able to be yourself and make some mistakes, and be okay with that and move forward in a constructive way.”

After graduating with the highest academic honors from Rhode Island College, Ms. Folcarelli found work at Fellowship Health Services, a national non-profit specializing in behavioral health, where she ultimately became chief executive in the Northeast after attaining her master’s degree in health care administration from Salve Regina University in Newport.

At Gosnold, which specializes in treating people with addictions, she began in 2015 as director of quality management and quickly rose to vice president of operations before becoming COO in 2018.

Asked why she chose a career in human services, Ms. Folcarelli said she finds it meaningful, challenging and rewarding.

“It really is the transformation of people, and people’s lives, from a position of vulnerability to an orientation of strength,” she said. “When you bear witness to that progression, even at the highest level of the organization . . . it’s routinely energizing to be a part of it.”

Organizational thinking is one of the chief skills Ms. Folcarelli brings to her new position, and her experience is timely as Community Services, and the Island, respond to the coronavirus pandemic: That five-year Ph.D dissertation was on the topic of how health care nonprofits weather strategic difficulties.

“How organizations respond to strategic hardship is directly correlated to their viability later on,” said Ms. Folcarelli, who studied nonprofits with budgets of $10 million and more — just over the current Community Services budget of $9 million.

“It’s not a pleasant read, I admit it,” she said. “I had more than 40 hypotheses.”

But, she said, she is proud of the result, and her findings are relevant in the light of the current pandemic.

“The coronaviurus requires nonprofit organizations to dig deep and figure out a way to deliver on their mission within new parameters,” Ms. Folcarelli said.

“What’s interesting about that is [for] many nonprofits that really have dug deep . . . the organization, culture, connection and cohesion is stronger because of the work that’s occurred during Covid-19,” she added.

“People have become more creative at problem solving. We found that to be true at Gosnold. Julie said the same thing about MVCS and Sarah said the same thing about the equine center.”

Ms. Folcarelli officially starts her new job August 10 and moves into her West Tisbury home August 17. Until then, she will be crisscrossing Vineyard Sound between the Island and Falmouth, where Monte and Vito will remain until she finds a pet-friendly rental.

“Eventually, they’ll be Islanders,” she said.