Graduating Impact: Seven years of preparing emerging leaders

Image source: University of Pennsylvania

Image source: University of Pennsylvania

Monday, May 13, 2013 marks the University of Pennsylvania’s 257th Commencement. Each year our team  at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy goes through the transition of saying farewell to another graduating class of remarkable students, while we welcome another incoming class of talent.

Given our university home, and that we have two faculty members on our team, we hold a unique position to drive social change. Through undergraduate and graduate coursework, advising student practicums and independent projects, and research assistant roles and internships, we strengthen the field overall by preparing the next generation of philanthropic and nonprofit leaders. Now in our seventh year, we continue to strengthen our mission of maximizing the social impact of philanthropy by teaching and graduating impact.

Many of our Center alumni—or “CHIP’s Off the Block”—have gone off to places such as Google, McKinsey & Company, Bain, Boston Consulting Group, Arabella Advisors, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Broad Foundation, Planned Parenthood, JHPIEGO, medical and law school and other PhD programs, as well as even started their own enterprises. Included below are the voices of social change as they describe the lessons they’ve learned while working and learning at Penn.

An Emerging Nonprofit Leader

Balanced Scorecards have become the most important management tool that my organization has gained. They have provided us with the ability to assess our performance effectively and create realistic goals for our future while also helping us create a unilateral, cohesive goal for our organization.- Catherine Peralta, Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership candidate, Penn School of Social Policy & Practice

“CHIP’s” Off The Block

Working at the Center has helped me recognize the importance of working for an impact-conscious company. Even if I don’t go into the nonprofit world, I want to be a part of an organization that cares about making a difference for others. – Mallory Suede, Penn School of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2013

At the Center, I really learned to be part of a team. I’d done group projects before—dozens of them—but none where the project required sustained effort over a full year, or where the people involved were so committed to seeing it through. I was lucky to gain frequent feedback on my project (mostly from people at the Center, but also from partners and Penn faculty), and I learned how to incorporate that feedback, as well as derive clear direction from often diverse opinions. That ability to synthesize input and information will, I am sure, serve me well in the future.- Eesha Sardesai, Penn School of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2013

A year after graduating, I am now in China as a Fulbright Scholar studying programs for autistic and intellectually disabled adolescents and adults. Researching global health and development at the Center taught me what questions to ask when assessing different models of providing these services, especially in regards to sustainability, scalability, and maximizing social impact. These are frameworks I use everyday in my research and I will always be grateful for all that I learned from my motivated and inspiring mentors and teammates at the Center.- Meghan Hussey, Fulbright Scholar, Penn School of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2012

Working at the Center taught me to always have impact and potential innovations on my mind. Now that I’m in medical school, I am involved with our free student-run clinic for uninsured individuals and am doing research on a visiting doctors program for homebound patients. I constantly think about how the impact of such community health initiatives can be assessed, with the end goal of improving access to and quality of care for underserved populations. The Center instilled in me the drive to keep evaluating and improving programs.- Masha Jones, Penn School of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2011. (See Masha’s blog on The Impact of Food Access.)

The most salient practical lesson I learned during my time with the Center is how to think about the relationships and inherent tensions between funders, providers, and recipients, and how to think about what impact means for each of these groups. This lesson helps me in my current work on the evaluation of educational aid programs because I am more familiar with the interrelationships among these three stakeholder groups. I can now navigate these nuances, facilitate information sharing, and ensure that the specific needs and concerns of the three groups are adequately represented in the evaluation.- Katherine Summers, PhD Candidate, Florida State University, formerly of Penn Graduate School of Education, co-author of Haiti: How Can I Help?

The Center taught me the fundamentals of high quality research, which have held me in good stead in my current economic consulting job, and will continue to do so as I start business school this year. I learned to synthesize and distill key points from large amounts of qualitative information, as well as focus on the numbers, while being mindful of the caveats and biases. I also learned to leave no avenue unexplored when searching for information. Additionally, I learned to present my research in a manner relevant to my audience.- Sagar Shah, Wharton Class of 2010