Scots Serve: Nonprofit Leadership Conference

The Maryville College members of the Non-Profit Leadership Alliance. Photo courtesy of Emilie Perez.
The Maryville College members of the Non-Profit Leadership Alliance. Photo courtesy of Emilie Perez.

While many students at MC were diving into their J-term classes, members of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance were kicking off their careers. From Jan. 3-6, the NLA attended the Alliance Management Institute (AMI), a conference geared towards students who are interested in working in the nonprofit sector.

Led by staff advisors Amy Gilliland and Cole Piper, a group of five students traveled to Houston, stayed in a 4-star hotel and made professional connections that will aid them in their future careers. Over the course of the three-day conference, students were able to attend workshops of their choosing where they learned about topics like “The Psychology of Volunteer Recruitment” and “Persuasion and Fundraising.” Students also learned about the basics of marketing, financial management, leadership and job negotiation.

NLA president Emilie Perez spoke highly of the experience.

“Besides the fact that is has so many opportunities for connections…it’s also good for learning about how a nonprofit works,” Perez said.

While most of the student’s activities were individually chosen, there were a few keynote speakers that everyone was required to attend. Speakers included high profile executives such as David Williams, the President and CEO of Make-A-Wish Foundation and Dr. Emmett Carson, the President and CEO of Silicone Valley Community Foundation.

“This is the only place where you can hear directly from CEOs from AmeriCorps and Make-A-Wish foundation…it felt very professional…kind of like getting your first taste of the career world,” Perez said.

Students were also able to speak one-on-one with executives and recruiters from nationally renowned nonprofits like the YMCA, Catholic Charities and Fair Trade in informational interviews. Students were able to ask questions about what it is like to work for those companies and get contacts directly from the organization’s leadership. There was also an option for students to attend “Ask the Expert” sessions, which were Q&A’s that gave students the opportunity to ask professionals in specific fields direct questions about their jobs.

For schools that were interested in competition, the conference held contests for poster presentations and video making. While Maryville College did not participate in these competitions, it remains a possibility for students in the future. The conference provides individual competitive incentives throughout the conference by awarding achievement ribbons to students who complete certain tasks either before or during the conference. Students get to wear their ribbons as they meet with professionals and peers alike.

Although the students worked hard during the day, they still found time to explore Houston’s business district. Perez said the five of them enjoyed going to authentic Mexican and Italian restaurants and taking taxi cabs around the city.

Next year, AMI will be held in Denver. Students who are interested in attending the conference next January should begin this semester by joining the NLA and attending the organization’s on-campus Nonprofit Fair in March.


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