It was not until this summer that Benjamin Triscuit ’14 (Erie, Pa.) truly understood what it means for an organization to be a nonprofit.
He interned at the Gertrude B. Fox Environmental Center in Bethlehem, Pa., where he designed a full exhibit on the importance of insects in the environment, helped write grant proposals, and greeted visitors. His experience was enhanced by the College’s Nonprofit Leadership Development Program. This wasn’t Triscuit’s first taste of the nonprofit world – he interned last summer at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pa. – but it was the first time he learned how leaders transform ideas into real community change.
Funded by a three-year, $12,000 gift from National Penn Bank (formerly KNBT), the Nonprofit Leadership Development Program is sponsored by Career Services and provides weekly lunch-and-learn sessions with local nonprofit leaders for students completing summer nonprofit internships. Leaders discussed topics such as using volunteers and training boards of directors, collaboration among nonprofit organizations, leadership and communication, corporate social responsibility, and development, marketing, and fundraising. Sessions were held on campus as well as at community sites including the Luckenbach Mill, ArtsQuest, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners in Bethlehem and the Nurture Nature Center in Easton.
“The leaders inspired me to work harder in my own internship,” says Triscuit, a biology major. “Each seminar came with a new lesson, a new skill to add to my leadership arsenal. I’m excited to see how these new skills will make me a more effective leader on campus and after graduation.”
International affairs major Rebecca Slotkin ’14 (Verona, N.J.) has been mulling over a career in nonprofits for a while, but this summer she immersed herself in community outreach. As an intern at the Nurture Nature Center, she gave tours, worked with the weekly summer kids’ craft program, and helped with events. She even created a new Science on a Sphere program about hurricanes that premiered at the end of August. Science on a Sphere is a room-sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six-foot diameter sphere, comparable to a giant animated globe.
Connecting town and gown is one of the most beneficial aspects of the leadership program, says Molly Sunderlin, assistant director of career services: “The students became aware of some of the great things that are happening in the Lehigh Valley. Sometimes college students can be sheltered from the community they live close to, but because they were able to hear from local leaders and learn about the incredible things the organizations do, it creates a stronger attachment to place.”
Slotkin credits her mentors at the Nurture Nature Center with helping her identify community connection as an important part of her career goals. The lunch-and-learn sessions demonstrated the variety that exists in the nonprofit world, which surprised her. She never thought of working with nonprofits through the corporate world, for example, until Peter Gray, Northern Region president of National Penn Bank, spoke on corporate social responsibility. She also learned what it takes to stage the Easton Farmers’ Market when its manager, Megan McBride, spoke on development, marketing, and fundraising.
“There wasn’t a session that I didn’t learn something or didn’t enjoy,” says Slotkin. “It was great to hear from people who took what used to be small projects and turned them into community improvements, like the farmers’ market and Safe Harbor shelter. These people are taking action and making a difference right now.”
Triscuit is considering a career in the nonprofit sector after learning about the diverse opportunities available. He plans to put his minor in environmental science to use by working directly with the community to foster sustainability and environmental stewardship.
“My internship and the Nonprofit Leadership Development Program have taught me that there is always an opportunity to be a leader, no matter the challenge,” he says. “It was inspiring to hear how leaders in the Lehigh Valley have been able to empower their community through their nonprofit organizations.”
Other participating students included psychology majors Kristin Anderson ’14 (Newburgh, N.Y.), Katie Graziano ’15 (Easton, Pa.), and Anna Porter ’16 (Branchville, N.J.); government and law major Anna Baruzzi ’14 (Old Lyme, Conn.); biochemistry major Kelly Carpency ’16 (Allentown, Pa.); economics major Brandon Turner ’14 (Bayshore, N.Y.). Economics major Aimee Smith ’14 (Washington, N.J.) interned for Career Services, coordinating sessions and speakers, marketing the program to students, researching session topics, and maintaining a blog. Bonnie Winfield, director of the Landis Community Outreach Center and associate dean of intercultural development, also assisted with programming.