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Rising Stars: Studying Leadership to Enter NonProfits

By Erdin Beshimov

Majoring in leadership studies and passionate to make a difference, Tara learned it can be easy to be overextended in many activities and not maximize one's impact. Her solution: take a step back and redefine your focus.

Name: Tara Sulzen
School: University of Richmond
Major: Leadership Studies
Years Out of College: 0-2

From Then to Now

Ever since Tara began volunteering in high school, she has been intrigued by the non-profit sector.Pursuing the unique major of Leadership Studies in college helped Tara examine the relationship of the nonprofit sector to business and government, as well as understand the fundamental challenges facing nonprofits. This has soon led her to more active work in this field.

"During my sophomore year of college I began taking on executive roles in planning, marketing and fundraising for various types of volunteer activities for students and the community. I also began a job as a student coordinator of our university's new Center for Civic Engagement, which fostered civic participation among students and became the service learning center."

"In the summer of 2005 I did an internship with the National Campaign for Economic Literacy at the Organization for a New Equality in Boston, MA. This small nonprofit gave me the opportunity to assist with event-planning for a large economic opportunity marketplace to assist low-income Boston residents with their banking, housing and financial services needs."

Challenges Faced

Tara says she spent far too much of my sophomore year of college maximizing her energies towards implementing volunteer programs and was too over-extended to feel she was doing well in her efforts. "I was anxious to use my leadership abilities and knowledge of nonprofit challenges in "the real world" outside of campus activities. I had a difficult time balancing paid work , volunteer work and a social life amidst my many activities. During my first summer internship, I worked part-time and I maintained two other paid jobs to save money for my fall semester in Italy since the internship was unpaid."

During her time in Italy Tara actively pursued new extracurricular activities, which gave her a more versatile scope of how she could maximize her interests without over-extending herself as she had done before going abroad.

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

As a Leadership Studies major Tara has had many unique courses and opportunities that she would not have been given in other majors or at different universities. She is now a senior at UR, beginning her job search and starting to focus her career options towards sustainable development practices.

Advice for Others

"The most difficult part about getting involved in non-profit is making decisions about what you want to learn from your experience. It is easy to fall into the trap of volunteering for a variety of worthy causes that you are passionate about, but not really learning skills that will prepare you for future employment opportunities. If you are interested in marketing, or fundraising, offer to volunteer for those specific departments of an organization, and don't settle for being office help when you know you will want to eventually seek a valuable internship. My supervisor from my internship told me to know what I want and ask for it. That advice has helped guide me through the beginnings of my job-search process this year because it reminds me that I can direct my own career, but in order to do so, I have to seek out the best opportunity available and show why I deserve to have it."

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