Students in Government secure coveted spots as United Way loaned executives.Every year, the United Way of Central Alabama pursues an ambitious annual campaign, and every year, area companies share their employees, or “loaned executives,” with the organization to help it reach its funding goals. (For some sense of the scale of this undertaking, the United Way’s 2014 goal is $38,250,000.)
But sometimes, businesses make a donation instead of sharing staff wtih the agency. That leaves spots available for students and others who want to learn the ins and outs of running a major non-profit campaign.
“We asked faculty for referrals of students from different majors who were really exceptional, and we then asked those students to provide us with a resume and cover letter,” explains Suzanne Scott-Trammell, Executive Director of Career and Professional Development. “The goal was to teach them how to put their best foot forward before we asked the United Way to visit campus.”
Bakari Miller, who works with United Way’s Loaned Executive program, came to the Edge of Chaos and made a presentation to the interested students. After the presentation, Trammell submitted the improved resumes back to the United Way staff, and three students were selected for the program. The selected students are Ashton Johnson, a recent graduate (B.A., Political Science), and two current Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) students, Jasmine Shaw and Tyler Slaton. Johnson, Shaw, and Slaton began working on August 25 and will continue until November 21.
“I had just been telling my friends that I was interested in learning more about fundraising,” says Jasmine Shaw. “Since we’ve started with United Way, it’s been a blast. We all feel really supported, really equipped to succeed. The caliber of people who were chosen—it’s challenging and exciting.”
“This was a very competitive process,” Scott-Trammell says. “The students weren’t guaranteed a spot, and the three who were selected have to be fully committed to their work with the United Way. The pay is good (the internship pays $8,500 for the 13-week period), and they are learning incredible skills, like team building, sales skills, leadership development, effective communication and decision making, and planning and organizing. It also helps UAB meet its Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) goals, which prioritizes team building and critical thinking.”
“We have systems in place to help students find jobs, like DragonTrail,” Scott-Trammell adds, “but it takes legwork. We get opportunities all the time, but we need to make sure our students are prepared, not just with a cover letter, but pulling information from them about their past experiences, including things they wouldn’t have thought would be relevant to a current job opportunity. It’s so important that we have interaction with the students to help them understand their qualifications.”
Shaw agrees. “I always thought of myself as a pretty good interviewee, but [the Career Services staff] pointed out things I’d never even thought about before,” she says. “And since my M.P.A .is in non-profit management, working with the United Way agencies just flips on light switches about the things we’re talking about in class.”