I began my journey in the nonprofit space 6 years ago back in India. At the time, I had spent a year in for profit consulting and had already begun to burn out with the long hours, constant travel and repetitive client meetings. I was looking for a change and came across an organization called Make A Difference (MAD) which was working with adolescent teens in shelter homes and connecting them to strong mentors through a mentorship program. Four years later, I saw myself emerge from MAD with a very different perspective on the world and promised myself that I would remain connected to the nonprofit space as I continued my career. With this in mind, I was excited to be associated with the Board Fellows Program at Booth.
Over the last year, my classmate Lindie Wang (’19) and I have been non-voting members on the board of the GCE Lab School in Chicago. As part of the program we have had a regular seat at the table for their monthly board meetings and have had an almost Schrödinger’s view into the inner workings of a board within the nonprofit space. GCE is a relatively new lab school with an emphasis on experiential learning. With its small class sizes and focus on ensuring today’s students understand the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals through its course work, it sets itself apart from the traditional models of teaching in most Chicago public schools. As an international student from India, a country that tends to focus on academics, leaving little room for much else, it came as quite a pleasant surprise to me to see a different pedagogical model being adopted successfully.
In order to understand this space, the culture, and the environment, I spent a lot of my first few months involving myself in not just the classes, but also the field experiences, the management workshops and the fundraisers. With unfettered access to all these opportunities I was able to see how all the different moving pieces worked together to run a young school that was trying to bring about change to education. However, this effort to forge a new path also comes with its own set of unique challenges, ranging from brand awareness to curriculum approval to scholarship disbursements. Through board interactions, I learned the fine art of channeling the energies of twelve accomplished individuals who brought in their own unique perspectives to every issue. Spending time with parents helped me understand the rapidly changing landscape of urban America as they look to educate their children. Working with middle school counsellors painted a picture of the different types of influencers that work with children to direct them towards a particular school. And finally, working with children helped me reconnect with my work back home with Make A Difference.
Lindie and I have been working with GCE on redesigning their admissions arm, factoring in the right marketing messages and allowing me to implement all my knowledge from my Marketing Strategy class. Being able to leverage the teachings at Booth in a real world environment almost immediately is one of the reasons I fell in love with Booth.