So last summer I went to Nicaragua and I volunteered at an orphanage. I expected that I would be teaching English, helping raise the orphans, playing with them all the time, just doing a lot of machinery work and maybe some labor. I was expecting that I would be cutting grass the whole time. But I got down there and found out that they were very short on money. I looked at the way they were getting their funds from America and the way they were doing their campaign. Their development practices were just awful. So I ended up taking over their marketing and development campaign and put together a social media page for them. They now use Facebook and social media as a means to get emergency funding. Like last fall, they said that they needed someone to give $700 for a drum set and within two hours someone commented: “Just sent a check.” So it revolutionized the way that this orphanage received their funding, and it really helped them.
I went to Nicaragua expecting to prove that business was wrong and that business is evil, and I ended up finding myself using those business skills that I learned in my sophomore Intro to Business classes. So as soon as I got back from Nicaragua, I actually drove back to Notre Dame with my grandma and re-enrolled in the college of business, and now I truly, fully believe that business is not a necessary evil, but that it actually is a necessary good.
When I came back, I wasn’t really sure what major I wanted to go into. It was the beginning of my junior year, so I was a little behind. I went to talk to a bunch of teachers about what their classes really entailed, and management consulting – it actually gives you a skill set for almost any industry. One of the classes that we take is Business Problem Solving, which is just about learning how to take a huge complex problem and trying to break it down into smaller problems. Basically, instead of going after a huge problem and being completely stumped by it, breaking it up into portions that we can really look at step by step and realizing how we can take better steps toward fixing the overall problem.
These classes are really helping me approach problems in a different way, and so now I’m taking what I’m learning in the classroom and applying it to JIFFI. I was just appointed the new CEO for this coming school year, so I’m just making sure that I have a clear vision, that my leadership works, that my organizational structure works. It’s weird – there’s almost never a day when I can’t apply a class to JIFFI. My professors will often say, “Can you use any example other than JIFFI?” But everything relates to JIFFI so well, and I’ve experienced it hands-on, so it’s so easy to apply the theories that I’ve learned in class to our organization and what we’re doing in the community in a real way.
Sadly, JIFFI cannot be in my plans post-graduation. We set it up so that it will always be a student-run organization. We never want to have a full-time, paid staff person. Everyone at JIFFI is a volunteer and has to give a mandatory donation every year. Right now I plan on going into consulting. A lot of our case studies have given us a good insight into what projects consultants work on. I would really like to get another hands-on experience and go in depth. With consulting firms, those projects can go on anywhere from three months up to sometimes more than a year. Being able to get into the heart of it and develop that experience would give me a lot of skills that I really need. Being at Notre Dame has given me a good advantage – understanding the power of business and how good it can be. I know that a lot of firms do consulting for great non-profits, like Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which are all organizations that I really respect.
I think one of the biggest things is to never be afraid to ask questions. For me, I would have doubts sometimes, just about what I was studying. We try to be people that have it all together, and I realized that I don’t have everything together and that that’s okay. I think was a huge relief off of my shoulders. So it’s okay to ask questions. It’s a good thing to ask questions – to really hammer down what you want to do. I think that’s something that I’m still learning, that I definitely have not become an expert on at all. Every single day I try to still ask myself questions – if what I’m doing is what I want to be doing – and really making sure that I’m finding my purpose in life and making that purpose for myself.