Alumni pay it forward to future nonprofit Crusaders

"I wanted to learn more about the nonprofit sector-and the opportunities that it could offer me," explains Alexander M. Vera '13, a computer science and studio art major from Pomona, Calif., who was one of 32 student participants at the Non-Profit Careers Conference (NPCC), held on campus, Jan. 14-18.

Sponsored by the College's Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, the Office of Career Planning and the Center for Interdisciplinary and Special Studies (CISS)-and taught by Holy Cross alumni, faculty and staff-the five-day event introduced students to the wide range of careers available in nonprofit and public service settings.

"We have many students considering a nonprofit career, but uncertain about exactly how or whether to pursue this path," explains Michelle Sterk Barrett, director of community-based learning. "The NPCC offers [students] the opportunity to reflect upon whether a nonprofit career is right for them and to learn how to enter the nonprofit world if they would like to do so."

In addition to participating in valuable professional development, vocational discernment and leadership workshops, students conducted on-site case studies at local community agencies, including the Catholic Schools Foundation (CSF), Notre Dame Health Care Center and the YWCA. For this exercise, students identified and presented solutions to a real problem facing their assigned nonprofit.

"I think it is a fantastic opportunity for students to explore nonprofit careers in a really practical way," explains presenter and case study host Lynne Sullivan '94, the senior program officer at CSF.

Sullivan was one of 24 alumni who took part in this year's conference. And, according to Lauren Buckley '09, assistant director of community-based learning, "alumni participation is crucial to the success of this conference because it adds a 'real world' element."

"I enjoyed the opportunities to meet and converse with alumni," acknowledges Timothy J. Nowak '15, of Staten Island, N.Y. Vera agrees, adding, "They were honest about their experiences and their struggles, and it made me feel that I could work in a nonprofit organization and enjoy my job as much as they do."

It may be said, too, that the alumni got just as much out of participating in the NPCC as the students. "I think alumni derive a lot of satisfaction from bringing up the next generation of nonprofit leaders," observes Amy Murphy, director of career planning.

"I graduated knowing I wanted to live the [Holy Cross] mission not just in who I am but also in what I get up and do each day. I have found that mission in organizing with Child First Authority and the Industrial Areas Foundation," says presenter James M. Stuart '09, adding, "I welcomed the opportunity to share that with current students."  ■

—Kimberly Staley '99