A group of Notre Dame students gathered to learn about opportunities available in post-graduate service work and careers in non-profit organizations (NPO) Wednesday at Geddes Hall.
The event was sponsored by Inspire, a student club founded in 2009 that works to “foster a community of non-profits rooted within the Notre Dame family,” according to the club’s mission statement.
“Be The Change: Unlocking the Nonprofit” began with a discussion led by Michael Hebbeler, director of Student Leadership and Senior Transitions at the Center for Social Concern (CSC). Hebbeler centered on the numerous post-graduate service opportunities open to Notre Dame students, in faith-based and secular programs alike.
He also discussed his time after college serving in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps as an advocate for homeless families at New Life Community in Cleveland and the importance of students cultivating a sense of social responsibility upon graduation.
In an interview with The Observer following the event, Hebbeler said each year, approximately 10 percent of Notre Dame’s graduating class commits to one or more years of full-time service in the United States and abroad.
“Engaging in service helps Notre Dame students continue the University’s mission for social justice,” he said.
Following Hebbeler’s presentation, Anita Rees, the associate director of the College of Arts and Letters at the Career Center, discussed the workings of the nonprofit world.
Rees began her presentation by challenging students with the “Myths of the Nonprofit Career” — among them, the notion that no one makes money working the nonprofit sector, that it is a field without competition or organization and that it is the same as volunteering.
“All these myths are simply not true. Over one million nonprofit organizations in the United States alone, and one in 10 citizens are employed by an NPO,” Rees said.
She demonstrated how extensive the sector is, highlighting a variety of fields that students have the potential to work in. Rees also said NPOs are often a great career choice because they allow students to combine their passions with educational skills, and take on a variety of leadership roles.
“If you work in a small NPO, you can gain a large amount of responsibility early on,” she said.
Throughout the lecture, Reed encouraged students to see the exciting possibilities in the field.
“You should think, ‘How do I want to frame my life? What can I do to engage my passions?'” she said.
Rees also debunked the myth that students going into NPO work will be met with the financial burden of paying off student loans. She highlighted a number of government-sponsored programs and legislature that have been designed to allow students to pursue their passion for service, and encouraged all members to visit the Career Center and Office of Financial Aid to help plan this.
“It is very possible to work in an NPO, have a career and pay off student loans,” she said.
Alicia Quiros, a who senior attending the event, left the presentation confident of her decision to go into service following graduation. Quiros said she was motivated to do this because of the problems that she sees in our world, and her belief that “service leads to learning, which leads to justice.”