LAWRENCE — University of Kansas undergraduates recently experienced a day in the life of nonprofit professionals. Funded through the Center for Service Learning, 10 students from multiple areas of study traveled to Kansas City to attend Nonprofit Connect’s Shadow Day on Oct. 20.
Shadow Day began with a networking breakfast and a panel discussion by young professionals about their work and experiences in the nonprofit and public sectors.
Madison Ernzen, junior in strategic communications, found the panelists’ guidance on breaking into the nonprofit sector inspiring: “My favorite piece of advice was to “just say yes” and to jump in headfirst because opportunities are everywhere.”
Students spent the remainder of the day onsite, shadowing a nonprofit professional in their place of work, observing and learning about the nonprofit field and the efforts of their particular organization. Students were paired with a nonprofit through an interest-matching process.
Participating nonprofits represented a wide variety of causes, sizes and organizations cultures.
“I learned a lot about the inner workings of a small arts-related nonprofit,” said senior Jeremy Weidmaier, who shadowed the director of advancement at the Youth Symphony of Kansas City. “As a result of my experience, I am now quite interested in learning how local government and large nonprofits operate as compared to the small one I worked with.”
Ernzen found shadowing the executive director of Camp Entourage helpful both professionally and personally: “Working in a nonprofit is a way to combine your skills and your passions and engage both your head and your heart. My experience really opened my eyes to my possibilities and reassured my interest in pursuing a career with nonprofits and also inspired me to get more involved through volunteering in my own community.”
Ernzen recommends other students participate in Shadow Day next year.
“I thought it was a really unique opportunity and it really solidified some of the questions and concerns that I had about the field and my future, and I think it has the potential to do that for others as well.”
- Jennifer Bryan, senior in public administration and Spanish, shadowed the manager of community relations and investment at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City.
- Madison Ernzen, junior in journalism, shadowed the executive director at Camp Encourage.
- Joshua Gillihan-Young, junior in social work, shadowed the director of marketing and communications at Donnelly College.
- Erin Johnson, senior in Community Health, shadowed the coordinator of philanthropic operations at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
- Jacob Murray, senior in English and political science, shadowed the communications and collective impact coordinator at Support Kansas City.
- Samiya Para-Kremer, junior in applied behavioral science, law & society and Spanish, shadowed the CEO of the Veterans Community Project.
- Olivia Pearl, senior in community health, shadowed the manager of community relations and investment at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City.
- Jordan Schartz, pre-social welfare sophomore, shadowed the vice president of human resources at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City.
- McKenna Wolcott, pre-business freshman, shadowed the development director of KKFI Kansas City Community Radio.
- Jeremy Weidmaier, senior in public administration, shadowed the director of advancement at Youth Symphony of Kansas City.