Creating Her Own Opportunities
Through seeking out volunteer work and extensive research into the non-profit sector, Ali Phelan ’18 is making a positive impact both at home and abroad.
College can often seem like a hectic and confusing checklist—you pick your major, you join a few clubs, maybe you travel if you have the opportunity. Sometimes, building a cohesive portfolio can be intimidating to say the least.
Ali Phelan ’18, an economics major and peace and justice studies and global non-profit minor, is not interested in being intimidated.
Phelan initially chose Pace because of the boundless networking and professional possibilities offered by studying in downtown New York City. From there, she was able to narrow her academic focus, and chose major and minors that were directly related to her ultimate goal of working in the international non-profit sector.
Phelan didn’t stop at that.
“I wanted to be involved in international non-profit, aid work, volunteering abroad—and figure out what aspect of that I was interested in. I wanted to see if I can handle working abroad in sometimes adverse conditions.”
Phelan then took matters into her own hands. She decided to spend her winter break in Muizenberg, South Africa, where she participated in a childcare and teaching program offered by an organization called International Volunteer Headquarters.
Through the volunteer program, she was able to put her interests and classroom knowledge to action.
“It was a great introduction to volunteering and working abroad,” says Phelan. “We were working Monday through Friday from about 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the daycare centers, teaching centers, and primary schools, with children who have come from some very difficult backgrounds. At orientation we learned all of the children had been through either the presence of drug and alcohol abuse, abuse, violence, death—very difficult backgrounds.”
The experience proved to be invaluable for Phelan. Not only was she able to gain the type of knowledge that only comes from putting oneself in real-life situations (for instance, she now knows she’s most interested in working with children ages 6–12, something she would not have known had she spent winter break watching Netflix)—but through communicating, networking, and further honing her existing skills, Phelan has been able to further narrow her focus, and has continued making great strides along her own Pace Path.
This semester, for instance, Phelan is actively striving to delve deeper into the business side of international non-profits. In addition to taking classes focusing on global politics and humanitarian and international aid work, Phelan is also in the midst of an internship at the Hunger Project, a non-profit focused on sustainably eradicating world hunger.
“My position there is in grants and restricted funds. I’m doing a lot of investor reports, budget allocating, really learning about the funding behind non-profits and working internationally with their teams. One of my goals for the internship was to really figure out more about the funding of non-profits, how they get their money, who gives them money, because that’s something you really need to understand and it’s exactly what I’m learning right now.”
Still only a sophomore, Phelan has two more years at Pace. But by actively seeking out opportunities related to her area of study and career goals, she’s already created a world of opportunity.
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