SESP Opportunities Fund Supports Nonprofit Leadership Conference

SESP Opportunities Fund Supports Nonprofit Leadership Conference

Nonprofit leadership conference

The SESP Opportunities Fund enabled the student organization Supplies for Dreams to hold a nonprofit leadership conference on February 16 for all Northwestern students. The purpose of this conference was to educate and inspire students by providing knowledge and skills related to leadership in the nonprofit arena.

Six sessions at the all-day conference explored ways to build skills and understanding related to nonprofit organizations. Students also networked with leaders in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors as they prepared for becoming innovative and effective leaders.

The SESP Opportunities Fund was established by alumni and friends who wanted to support the academic and community endeavors of SESP undergraduates.
The fund provides support for such initiatives as attending a conference, initiating community service or developing an extracurricular organization. Any SESP student with an academic or community project may submit a letter to assistant dean Susan Olson requesting an Opportunities Fund grant. 

SESP alumnus Neal Sales-Griffin (BS09, shown below), who is the CEO of a company called the Starter League, led off the Nonprofit Leadership Conference as a speaker. The Starter League is a software development school that Sales-Griffin founded. His talk topic was “Flavors of Leadership.”

Neal Sales-Griffin

In other morning sessions, Laura Drangmeister, a freelance communication consultant, spoke on community partnerships, and Jenna Benn, the founder of Twist Out Cancer and regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, discussed “Finding Meaning through Suffering.”

During the afternoon, Nicholas Pearce of Kellogg School of Management discussed “Building High-Performing Teams.” Other afternoon speakers were Jason Seidan, CEO of Ajax Social Media, and Sergio Gutierrez, a strategist at Avenue, Inc.

SESP senior Aria Fiat, human resources director for Supplies for Dreams, organized the event. Supplies for Dreams is a Northwestern student organization that provides school supplies, field trips, tutoring and enrichment to students in Chicago elementary schools.

The conference came about as an outgrowth of the Supplies for Dreams leadership training. Fiat explains, “Part of my job is to prepare the students that currently work on Supplies for Dreams to eventually hold leadership positions within the organization. In order to achieve this, every year we offer an extensive training program that all leaders within the organization have participated in. When I originally conceived the idea for this conference, I envisioned it as an extension of our current leadership training program that would give our team members the opportunity to learn from and network with powerful leaders in the non-profit (and for profit) sector.”

“At a certain point in the early stages of planning, I realized that this kind of event should be made available to students outside our organization who have an interest in leadership and the work of non-profits. I felt this event would particularly interest learning and organizational change and social policy students, so I reached out to SESP, and they generously agreed to co-host the event with us,” Fiat explains. The conference took place from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Jacobs Center on campus. 

By Marilyn Sherman with photos by Ray Whitehouse
Last Modified: 3/4/14