This summer, I had the opportunity to work at the University of Michigan through the Development Summer Internship Program (D-SIP). Specifically, I served to aid development efforts as an intern at the School of Natural Resources and Environment (now called the School for Environment and Sustainability).
My work for SNRE/SEAS this summer can be broken down into three overarching projects. Project one is a bicentennial initiative, revolving around content contribution to an interactive online alumni database that shares engaging impact stories of SNRE alumni around the world. The purpose of this project is to help market the power of SNRE to current students, prospective students, and alumni, by showing how SNRE makes a greater impact in the world through its alumni. The project is additionally being used as a tool to help alumni connect with one another and current students, along with being a marketing tactic for helping build the overall brand of the school, especially with its upcoming transformation into the new SEAS. Right now, I am creating profiles for 5 alumni and publishing their impact stories on the database. Within a few weeks, I will be gathering all current published stories and relevant data to help strategize engagement strategies and marketing strategies. Through these strategies, I hope to design a path for SNRE/SEAS to use the overarching project to better engage with its surrounding community, show the value and power of the school, and provide a foundation for establishing a new culture of philanthropy and morals at the new SEAS, which in turn leads into my second project.
My second project focuses on designing a new culture of philanthropy for the new SEAS. While the current culture at SNRE has no major issues, there has been a drop in philanthropic efforts and giving back in general at the school, especially when looking at current students and recent graduates. This would be concerning for any institution, but is especially problematic here as SNRE is looking to transition into an entirely new school. If a lackluster culture of philanthropy follows into the new school, this will greatly weaken its power and scope for positive impact on the world. After all, philanthropy is all about giving back and paying it forward; to work for a higher cause and sense of higher development. How can a school embody philanthropy and push philanthropic efforts if its own student body does not possess a strong culture of philanthropy? To tackle this project, I will be performing an evaluation of the current philanthropy culture at SNRE, define the desired end state of philanthropy at SEAS, perform a gap analysis between these two aforementioned cultures, and create a road map of optimal actions to help bridge this gap. By doing so, not only do I hope to lay the ideological groundworks for solving current philanthropy culture shortcomings at SNRE, but I want to inspire and embed philanthropy into the next generation of environmental leaders of the world, so that they may spread it to those they work with and the organizations they work for and create a philanthropic butterfly effect. This project is easily the most daunting of the three and will take up the most of my summer.
Finally, my third project focuses on doing some consulting for a special donor of SNRE and answering some of the donor’s questions. The main focus of his questions are to assess the impact his current contributions have on the school and if there are other ways he can better assist the school. With this, the donor is also interested in learning more about how the school plans on better engaging with current students and recent graduates, along with how the school plans on implementing a stronger culture of philanthropy and the markers it will use to measure the success of the new culture.
I was attracted to this internship for two main reasons. The first is my interest in higher education infrastructure and functioning. Part of D-SIP, outside of my work for SNRE/SEAS, is a professional development and philanthropy education class on Fridays. In this class, I have the opportunity to learn more about higher education infrastructure, how a university functions, and the importance of philanthropy/giving in shaping the future of an education system. With this, I was also drawn to D-SIP for the opportunity to positively shape an academic institution on campus and help contribute to creating a stronger Michigan spirit of giving on campus.