National conference in Indianapolis highlights local nonprofit resources
Indiana University students, faculty and staff played key roles in last week's American Humanics Management/Leadership Institute in downtown Indianapolis.
The event included more than 1,000 college students, faculty, nonprofit and corporate leaders from across the country participating in the capstone (final project) experience for students earning American Humanics certification in nonprofit leadership and management.
Much of the discussion focused on hunger issues, with keynote addresses given by Jim Morris, former director of the United Nations World Food Programme, and Robert Egger, founder and president of the DC Central Food Kitchen and author of Begging For Change, which received the 2005 McAdam Prize for "Best Nonprofit Management Book" by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management.
Morris, who is also a former IU trustee, shared his experiences combating world hunger in an opening speech during which he challenged participants to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. He explained to students and attendees that 92 percent of the world's hungry are not in the high profile situations we see on television, even though the number of disasters have quadrupled since the 1970s. Morris called on the leaders of today and tomorrow to "separate the political agenda from the humanitarian agenda" in order to feed those in need.
Students took up the challenge with a case study on domestic hunger issues and a National Collegiate Dialogue on world hunger, developed by a team made up of IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs faculty members Leslie Lenkowsky, Beth Gazley, Peg Stice and Ann Marie Thomson, SPEA student Susie Puskar and alumnae Elizabeth Gensler and Kerry Brock. Participants separated into groups and brainstormed new ideas to address the local hunger and nonprofit management issues presented in a community called "Utown," which happened to be suspiciously similar to Bloomington.
The students debated the most promising of the brainstormed ideas in a plenary session moderated by Lenkowsky, who, before joining the IU faculty, was CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. He was joined by community experts such as Pam Altmeyer, president and CEO of Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis, and Julio Alonso, executive director of Hoosier Hills Food Bank in Bloomington, who shared personal experiences and perceptions. Lenkowsky challenged students by asking them, "What specifically can you do?"
The conference brought up more than just academic experiences, noted Susan Houchin, director of national services at Girls Inc., an educational nonprofit helping high-risk or underserved American girls.
"Nonprofits represent a major part of Indiana's economy which is frequently not recognized," Houchin said. "Indiana University's programs provide a great deal of support for this sector, National conferences such as this bring recognition and attention to the important roles these organizations play."
The institute provided opportunities for students from around the nation to network with nonprofit executives and attend workshops led by experts in nonprofit studies, many from Indiana University's nationally recognized nonprofit programs. In addition, these nonprofit leaders and SPEA graduate students from Bloomington and Indianapolis volunteered as conference facilitators, sharing their experience with students and each other. Also benefiting participants was an Advanced Practitioner Seminar for entry to mid-level nonprofit leaders, faculty members and graduate students.
SPEA graduate student and conference volunteer Kellie McGiverin-Bohan said she felt extremely lucky to have been a participant.
"By hosting the AHMI conference, IU provided SPEA students a wonderful opportunity to meet their colleagues across the country and learn how they hope to tackle real-world problems," she said. "Facilitating the student groups was an enlightening experience. I was impressed to see how students used their dreams to fuel the development of practical strategies for addressing world hunger. First, they inspired each other through their innovative ideas; second, they really set pen to paper to calculate how to make these concepts a reality."
Co-chairs of the host committee were Eugene Tempel, president of the Indiana University Foundation, and Jim Morris. Also on the host committee are IU SPEA faculty members Gazley and Lenkowsky, and Erika Albert, an American Humanics graduate of IU Bloomington and development director for the Monroe County YMCA.
American Humanics campus executive directors Peg Stice of IU Bloomington and Laura Littlepage of IUPUI and student representatives Tiffany Guridy of IU Bloomington and Jaree Weeks of IUPUI served on the advisory Ccouncil for the event and helped organize the institute. Ginny Babbitt, an IUPUI student and national American Humanics intern, also was instrumental in planning the institute.
About American Humanics
American Humanics is a national alliance of colleges, universities and nonprofits dedicated to preparing the next generation of nonprofit sector leaders. Founded in 1948, it is affiliated with more than 70 colleges and universities and partners with more than 60 national nonprofit organizations, including the March of Dimes, YMCA and Girl Scouts of the USA.
The American Humanics academic certificate program prepares college students to work as professionals in nonprofit and human services fields. Indiana University Bloomington and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis offer the certificate within the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. For more about American Humanics, see http://www.humanics.org.