Looking Forward is a new series where we highlight various post-grad opportunities for senior mentors in Dream Project who want to stay connected to the world of education, leadership, and mentoring. This post is from Ben Overton, former Dream Project leader and current grad student in the UW Evans School of Public Affairs.
Taking on a leadership role in the Dream Project exposes leaders to a wide variety of new experiences and skills in nonprofit management. When I showed up on my first day of Dream Project lecture, I had quite a few valuable skills, including volunteer management, event planning, and writing tutoring. While these skills are all valuable and in high demand in the Dream Project, operating a nonprofit organization like the Dream Project demands an even wider array of skills and experiences. Through the various leadership roles in the Dream Project, leaders are exposed to such roles and experiences as media relations, fundraising, strategic planning, internal communications, diversity management, technology management, logistics, finance, and more. The Dream Project provides many unique opportunities to practice skills at the undergraduate level that many professionals don’t experience until several years into their careers.
My first inclination when searching for my leadership niche in the Dream Project was to play to my strengths, but the beauty of my experience was discovering new roles and talents. As an event committee lead and then an eventual Steering Committee member, I made use of many of the skills that I brought with me to the Dream Project. However, no role in the Dream Project relies on one skill alone, but rather relies on a wide variety of skills in nonprofit management. Taking on these roles engaged me in many essential management functions that I would likely have not been exposed to otherwise. Based on my experiences with fundraising and strategic planning in the Dream Project, I learned that these were valuable career skills that I could get excited about. Learning about my interests in these areas was an incredibly valuable lesson to take away from my time in the Dream Project.
Since learning about my passion for nonprofit work with the Dream Project, I’ve pursued a graduate education and career in nonprofit management. Thanks in large part to my experience with the Dream Project, I was able to gain acceptance and a scholarship to attend the UW Evans School of Public Affairs. At Evans, I’ve both made use of and built upon the skills I gained in the Dream Project. At the end of two years, I will graduate this year with a Master of Public Administration degree with a certificate in Nonprofit Management. Using this education and my skills from the Dream Project, I hope to enter into international NGO management, with a focus on refugee services.
Based on my experiences, my biggest suggestion to current Dream Project mentors is to branch out and try new roles with the Dream Project. The Dream Project offers many opportunities for students to get involved in and learn the mechanics of nonprofit management. Many students may find that, like me, there are many roles they may excel at that they simply haven’t been exposed to. Exploring these options may open up opportunities for mentors that were never there before.