It’s August 2016 and Michelle Rosamond, a community outreach coordinator for the Second Harvest Food Bank, is in southern Louisiana helping victims recover from major floods. A prolonged rain event dropped up to 20 inches of rain in some locations, causing catastrophic flooding leading Governor John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency. Once historically flooded rivers started to recede, thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed, leading to billions of dollars in damage.
Rosamond, a graduate of Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, always knew she wanted to help others, but it wasn’t until this particular moment that she fully realized just how powerful a career in volunteering could be.
“After the floods, I witnessed the generosity and kindness of thousands of people who came to volunteer at Second Harvest or donated money or food to help the victims of the floods recover,” Rosamond says. “Working through that particular instance of disaster response reinforced my passion for working in the nonprofit sector and helped me realize there are always people who want to do good and make a difference in others’ lives.”
B-SCHOOLS PRODUCING VOLUNTEERS
Rosamond is one of many B-school grads who chose to pursue a volunteer career after graduating.
Peace Corps recently announced its top volunteer-producing schools of 2019. Tulane University ranked 3rd out of medium-sized colleges and universities as a top volunteer-producing school. The University of Wisconsin-Madison came in at #1 among large schools that produce the most volunteers. And many of this year’s Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business Schools made the large- and medium school-lists.
“We pride ourselves in developing well-rounded students who see themselves as contributing to the greater good,” Jim Franzone, assistant dean of the BBA Program at Wisconsin School of Business, says. “The Wisconsin undergraduate business degree help students develop technical skills and problem-solving expertise, and our curriculum is also strongly grounded in a liberal arts education. Wisconsin School of Business students graduate not just wanting to get a job or start a career, but they want to make a difference in the state, country, and as with Peace Corps, the world.”
APPLYING A BUSINESS EDUCATION TO VOLUNTEER WORK
While most B-school grads choose to pursue finance, consulting, marketing, or accounting jobs at big corporations, a B-school education can be just as applicable to a volunteer career.
Sam Ingalls is the program director for Southwest Florida YMCA Youth In Government.
Ingalls, who graduated from Tulane’s Freeman School of Business in 2016, says the business and nonprofit worlds are not as different as many people may think.
“In B-school you learn what it takes to responsibly manage a business,” he says. “Nonprofits are no different in the bottom line — you must bring in revenue to meet expenses, while also saving enough to grow your organization and impact. There aren’t owners at the end of the day, but there are still abundant opportunities to use revenue for capital investment, new staff, and program offerings. My business education absolutely prepared me for managing all the nuances of my own program.”
Courtney Boman is a Peace Corps Volunteer who graduated with a business degree from California State University, Fullerton. As a Community Economic Development (CED) Volunteer, Boman works with small enterprises and entrepreneurship development in Namibia.
She says her experience working with startups and small businesses in the past has definitely helped her with her volunteer work in the Peace Corps.
“While in business school, I worked two jobs, one internship, multiple volunteer jobs, and was involved in a business club which continued to develop my skills,” she says. “My education was absolutely necessary for my volunteer work in the Peace Corps. If I’m to be an expert resource to my community, I must have the knowledge and skills to do so.”
‘PEACE CORPS SERVICE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE’
While b-schools can offer the foundational skills needed to succeed in the volunteering world, it takes more than just business skills to succeed.
“Flexibility, an open mind, and a willingness to learn are strong qualities that make successful volunteers,” Matt Sheehey, a Peace Corps spokesperson, says.
Peace Corps specifically looks for volunteers with a college degree who are committed to serving others.
“Peace Corps service is not for everyone,” Sheehey continues. “But for those who are eager to see the world, step outside their comfort zones, find common ground with people from all walks of life, and become a part of something far greater than themselves, the Peace Corps is the answer.”
Rosamond, the Second Harvest community outreach coordinator, says B-school gave her the foundational skills she needed to succeed. However, if you’re a B-school student interested in a nonprofit career, the best way to learn may just be to try it out. You might just realize how powerful it can be, Rosamond advises.
“I recommend students get involved with various nonprofits while they are still in school,” Rosamond says. “Every organization is different, and I believe it is worthwhile to learn about the types of organizations you like and have a natural interest in. Volunteering and interning are great ways to get involved, and most nonprofits would love to work with students who have a business background.”
(SEE THE NEXT PAGE FOR THE TOP 15 LARGE- AND MEDIUM-SIZED SCHOOLS FOR PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS.)