Introducing CHIP’s Student Workers

If you’ve stopped by CHIP’s offices or attended one of our events in recent months, you may have noticed a few new faces in the crowd: our team of undergraduate and graduate students!

As part of the School for Social Policy and Practice, educating the next generation of philanthropy, nonprofit, research, and policy leaders is central to CHIP’s mission to grow the field of high-impact philanthropy. One way we do that is by bringing on current Penn students from across the university, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, who are interested in learning more about the social impact sector.

We’re very pleased to introduce our current student affiliates — Zela, Alex, Jesus (Louie), and Louisa — who come from a variety of personal, professional, and academic backgrounds and bring a wide range of multidisciplinary perspectives to their work at CHIP.

We also are currently hiring students to work with us for the summer– learn more and apply here!

Zela Mbofana is currently a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences double majoring in international relations and communication. Originally from Harare, Zimbabwe, Zela was introduced to the nonprofit sector through a consulting internship where she worked with organizations focused on addressing issues related to education and homelessness in Atlanta. “It was very fulfilling,” she said. “It felt very good to see the impact of the work I was doing on the ground working with those nonprofits.”

This experience piqued Zela’s interest in the social impact space and, ultimately, brought her to her position at CHIP. “When I was seeking out work for the summer and CHIP came up, I thought, ‘This is perfect! Literally perfect,’” she remembered. While she was initially drawn to the work and the opportunity to continue learning about the social impact sector, she was particularly excited about the chance to collaborate with CHIP’s team — after her first interview, Zela  said, she came away feeling like “these are people I would really love to work with.”

As an Applied Research and Marketing Assistant, Zela’s responsibilities include conducting research on the philanthropic sector, contributing insights to the 2024 High Impact Giving Toolkit, and exploring industry-wide giving trends. In addition to being highly informative, her work with CHIP has helped her better understand her career goals: “I’ve learned a lot about myself through the work, but also about what opportunities exist out there for me to be a helpful individual in society.” After graduation, Zela plans to pursue a career in consulting and, eventually, earn a graduate degree in business or law that she might foray into a career in the nonprofit sector.

Outside of her studies, her thesis, and her work at CHIP, Zela enjoys baking — cheesecake and brownies are her specialties — and exploring the sights and sounds of Philadelphia, particularly the Reading Terminal Market in Center City and the historic Old City neighborhood.

Alex Keswani is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences majoring in political economy with a triple minor in law & society, psychology, and cinema & media studies. Alex, who was born and raised in New York City, was initially introduced to CHIP through an event several years ago at Kelly Writer’s House — from that point on, he knew he wanted to be involved.

“I remember seeing this event hosted by CHIP, not knowing [at the time] what CHIP was, but the event really caught my interest,” he recalled. After the event, Alex was excited to learn more about CHIP’s work and frequently checked the website for job opportunities. And his persistence eventually paid off — “I found this job the day it was posted!” he said.

As an Applied Research and Marketing Assistant, much of Alex’s work to date has involved conducting due diligence research on exemplary organizations in the social impact sector, including many of those highlighted in the 2024 High Impact Giving Toolkit. Drawing on both primary and secondary sources, he uses CHIP’s criteria as a guiding framework for evaluating the organizations’ impact. And while Alex is not yet sure where his career will take him, he knows his work will be impact-oriented and mission-driven.

“CHIP has showed and taught me that whatever I’m doing, I want to make high impact,” he said, noting that social impact work is not necessarily limited to any one industry. “There are so many ways to give back. You can make high impact in medicine, entertainment, et cetera. No matter what industry you’re in, you have so much opportunity — as long as you’re actively looking for it.”

In addition to balancing his studies and his work with CHIP, Alex is taking advantage of all that Philadelphia has to offer in his final year at Penn. When he’s not working or studying, you can find him exploring Philly’s diverse restaurants with friends and appreciating the city’s many arts and culture offerings.

Jesus Luis Zuniga IV (Louie) is pursuing a dual master’s in international educational development and nonprofit leadership in the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Policy & Practice, respectively. Originally from Houston, Texas, Louie studied economics as an undergraduate at Amherst College and began his career working in investment banking. A particularly transformative volunteer experience prompted him to pivot towards a career in the social impact sector dedicated to improving access to education. After two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, Louie took a job with Latin American Leadership Academy, a social entrepreneurship educational nonprofit in Colombia.

Louie has applied both his professional experience and graduate studies to his work as the SP2 Practicum Student at CHIP. As a practicum student, he had the option of working with a variety of Philadelphia-based nonprofit organizations — but after learning about CHIP through an instructor in SP2, he jumped at the opportunity to get involved. Louie was especially excited about interning at CHIP because the position allows him to apply what he’s learned in the classroom and contribute to impact-oriented research on philanthropy. “Working at CHIP is an opportunity to not just study in a class or make one grant, but be in a thinktank where this is what they do every day,” he said.

Currently, Louie is researching the increasing use of donor-advised funds (DAFs) as a vehicle for philanthropic giving, and the larger impact of DAFs on the social sector writ large. When he graduates in May 2024, he hopes to use this in-depth, applied knowledge of the philanthropy sector to inform his work as a nonprofit professional. “I think good leaders in the nonprofit sector need to be well-versed in philanthropy,” Louie said. “The more I can understand about philanthropy, the better professional philanthropist I can be.”

In addition to his dual master’s program and his work at CHIP, Louie is a 2023-2024 Lipman Family Prize Fellow. And when he’s not working, he enjoys hosting dinner parties, visiting the many restaurants that make up Philadelphia’s vibrant immigrant food scene, and getting involved with Penn’s ballroom dance community.

Louisa Lincoln is a PhD candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and political science and holds a master’s degree in communication from the University of Pennsylvania. Before coming to Penn, she worked in a variety of business development roles at nonprofit media organizations including NPR, PRX, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WisconsinWatch).

Louisa’s professional background has informed her research as a graduate student at Annenberg, where she studies sustainable funding models for nonprofit news and public media organizations in the United States. She is particularly interested in the relationship between nonprofit news organizations and their philanthropic funders, which is the focus of both her dissertation research and her work at CHIP.

Louisa was introduced to CHIP through her involvement in the Lipman Family Prize Fellowship as both a fellow (2021-2022 cohort) and program coordinator (2022-2023 cohort). Her interest in the social impact sector compelled her to start working with CHIP, which has given her an opportunity to apply her doctoral training and subject matter expertise to contribute to the Center’s ongoing research. As an Applied Research Assistant, Louisa work involves supporting CHIP’s marketing and communications materials — including this blog post! — and contributing to research on guidance for high-impact philanthropy in the democracy & society issue area.

When she’s not reading or writing about nonprofit journalism, Louisa can often be found on the many walking, running, and biking trails all around Philadelphia. She particularly enjoys long runs on the Schuylkill River Trail, visiting the Clark Park farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, and tasting her way through Philadelphia’s many independent craft breweries.