Through my eyes: A development intern at UM-Dearborn
If you’re like most people, university development is unfamiliar or even foreign. I was in those shoes-- four months ago.
By Abpreet Kaur
D-SIP (Development Summer Internship Program) Intern, COB Junior
My role in development and the Institutional Advancement (IA) Office at UM-Dearborn began right after my winter semester of college. As most students unwound for the summer and headed home, I returned back to campus in the first week of May as a communications intern for the Campaign Marketing and Communications Director, Ann Marie Aliotta, as part of the University of Michigan Development Summer Internship Program (D-SIP).
8:00 AM Monday, May 15—My first day on the job began with a one-hour introduction and then jumping right into a meeting with UM-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little. After a few minutes in, I could grasp that this meeting was regarding a special event hosted by IA. We were preparing for the Annual Celebrating Donors Event. I attempted to take general notes regarding the event in case I needed it for future use.
Little did I know this experience would be my big introduction to philanthropy and development. It was also my first official event as a news reporter. I was tasked with interviewing our donors and students. The end goal was that I would be creating social media content and an official university news article afterwards.
I brought along my polka dot notebook and began talking to the students at the showcase. At first the nerves were kicking in. If I wanted a great story, I would have to talk to everyone and catch meaningful conversations in action. As the afternoon passed by, I enjoyed myself even more. I had the chance to learn about ongoing campus-wide research initiatives from fashion in Spain to nanoparticles as an efficient energy source. I also had the chance to witness donors and alumni interacting with the students. Everyone was having a wonderful time—the students loved talking about their projects and the attendees were amazed by the amazing research projects on campus.
After the showcase, we had a chance to hear remarks from university leadership, a donor, and a student. Listening to May Jean Dong, a daughter of immigrants from China who couldn’t afford to send their daughter to school, made me realize why my internship was so valuable. Luckily, a donor helped pay for May Jean’s education so she could attend UM-Dearborn’s College of Business.
I began to learn the importance of philanthropy and my role in the internship made complete sense. I was a part of a larger mission. That mission was to showcase the impact of philanthropy on my peers. And so my goal for the summer was to now find ways to illustrate the impact donors have on our students through all channels: social media, photos, infographics, news stories, websites, e-mail marketing, and events.
Throughout this process, not only was I showcasing philanthropy and learning about all of these intelligent students who were receivers and givers, I also learned about how philanthropy impacted my college life as well. I have had the chance to attend UM-Dearborn on a scholarship. This would not have been possible without those who supported me and believed in the future of a great college education: our donors.
As my internship ends, I have found it to be a very rewarding experience. The people with whom I work feel so strongly about the roles they play in making our institution stronger through funding the innovative research of our faculty and graduate students and providing a new generation of undergraduates a better future.
By taking part in events like STEAM Day at the Ford World Headquarters, interviewing Kochoff Scholar Camille Rice, meeting Ford alumni as a part of a mushroom garden project at our Environmental Interpretive Center, and profiling scholarship recipients and Dearborn Difference Makers, university development and philanthropy is no longer something that is unknown or frightening. This is an entirely new world where we come to help students build a brighter future and support a larger cause--Transforming Students: Powering Our Region. This cause is no longer a statement on paper for me. It has become a reality that I am a part of every single day.
There is a feeling, not to be cliché, of serving the greater good--and it does feel good when your office is happy they provided a scholarship for a student, pulled off a successful event, had a social media post go viral, or even meeting development people from our sister campuses at Flint or Ann Arbor.
Personally, as a development intern I have also learned that the development world is a terrific area for networking. At first the connections I made seemed like acquaintances or just another part of the job. But down the road, knowing people who are leaders in their area, whether it be business, law, university leadership, or even politics, you learn so much about a vast variety of things in a small amount of time. These relationships can become valuable to not only your career, but to your personal and professional growth as well.
Although it goes without mentioning, I will point out that another nice benefit to working in development is very good food and a lot of friends, regardless of what your position is.
My D-SIP experience at the UM-Dearborn Institutional Advancement office has pushed me to constantly challenge and reflect on my values, beliefs, and perspective, helping me grow tremendously as a person, professional, philanthropist, and a community member. It was a privilege to have this learning opportunity, while also having the ability to make a tangible and foundational difference through my project at the IA offices. I have felt a meaningful and deeper connection with UM-Dearborn, which I had never felt in these past two years of college.