SIGP Views from the Cube: Global Paint for Charity


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Rising sophomore and SIGP recipient Catherine is spending her summer gaining marketing and social media experience with Atlanta non-profit Global Paint for Charity.

Rising sophomore and SIGP recipient Catherine is spending her summer gaining marketing and social media experience with Atlanta non-profit Global Paint for Charity.

Catherine Zhang is a sophomore in Medill, pursuing journalism, a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications, and a minor in Business Institutions. This summer, as part of the Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP), she interned with Global Paint for Charity, an Atlanta non-profit, gaining marketing and social media experience.

I’ve been interested in non-profit work ever since I was in high school. Working with Global Paint showed me the ins and outs of non-profit work.

I collected data about local paint stores and reached out to them for paint donations. I worked on emailing and calling potential donors, and also helped manage GPC’s social media accounts, including Facebook and LinkedIn to promote upcoming events.

I learned how to learn Salesforce, Zoho and other CRM websites, and researched grant funding, helping jump start the application process.

During my time with GPC, I had the pleasure of working at the Atlanta Tech Village, an office building inhabited by start-up tech companies and more. Just being surrounded by young, ambitious individuals with a passion motivated me to work harder. This office space reflects that hard-working twenty-first century atmosphere, with nap rooms, contemporary conference rooms, lots of outlets and open space for laptops, and a breakroom stocked with snacks and drinks.

Over the summer, I attended multiple events that showed me more about start-ups and small businesses. I went to a marketing conference and met lots of local software engineers and marketing officials, and even sat in on Atlanta’s version of Shark Tank. It was great to see what the people around me had accomplished.

All of these opportunities, combined with the experience of working closely with my boss and supervisor, made for an unforgettable summer. I’m eternally grateful for everything that I’ve learned.

A word of advice to students pursuing internships: branch out and experiment. Though I’m not particularly interested in non-profit work, doing a marketing internship with a non-profit left me with an interesting perspective about advertising, social media and networking.

You never know what you’re going to find if you step out of your comfort zone.

Summer Intern Experience: MacArthur Briefing for Gov’t and Non-Profit Interns


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SoC rising junior Xiomara is interning this summer at Chicago nonprofit La Casa Norte.

SoC rising junior Xiomara is interning this summer at Chicago nonprofit La Casa Norte.

My name is Xiomara Contreras and I am a Communication Studies major and Latina/o Studies minor in the School of Communication ‘17. This summer I am interning at La Casa Norte, a nonprofit that serves youth and families confronting homelessness. I am interested in pursuing a career in nonprofits, education, or social services.

I had the opportunity to attend the MacArthur Briefing for Government and Non-Profit Summer Interns and chose to attend because the topics they were addressing were on public policy issues I cared about and because of my interest in philanthropy. I wanted to learn more about the research on those issues, and what was being done to address them. At the briefing I learned about U.S. Criminal Justice Reform, How Housing Matters, Nuclear Security, and the MacArthur Fellows Program.

Three important things I learned at the event that all Northwestern students should know are on criminal justice reform, housing, and nuclear security. There are many people struggling to find housing and some are only a paycheck away from losing shelter. We need to make more initiatives to support affordable housing, especially since 1 in 3 people spend more than 30% of their income on rent. I also learned that the United States spends $60 billion per year on incarceration policies, a four fold increase despite crime decrease. We need to question why we are a punitive country and why we spend 12 million a year on jails alone- essentially punishing “poverty” and people with mental health issues, despite presuming innocence. Finally, U.S. security of nuclear weapons is not as secure as we think it is. As Northwestern students we can use our education to address these problems by supporting researching, lobbying in government, or collaborating with experts.

I was impressed by the funding the foundation provides for housing and community development in Chicago, especially since it is directly related to La Casa Norte’s mission. This event helped me gain a better understanding of housing and possible solutions beyond the individual level and more of a policy approach. The event also allowed me to meet other interns working for nonprofits and government who shared similar interests. I was able to speak to Ianna Kachons, who has done a lot of work with housing and said I could contact her if I wanted to learn more about her career path. I will meet with my supervisor, the development and fundraising manager to further discuss the briefing.

A note from NCA: If you’re interested in learning more about the MacArthur Foundation visit Additionally, there is a Fall 2015 Public Affairs Intern position open with the MacArthur Foundation. Visit CareerCat posting #114882 and apply by August 20th.

NEXTernship: A day with National Geographic


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WCAS student Jordan Harrison recounts her NEXT experience with National Geographic. Jordan is a rising junior majoring in biology.

Jordan Harrison spent her NEXTernship with communications manager (and NU alum) at National Geographic.

Rising junior Jordan Harrison spent her NEXTernship with National Geographic communications manager (& NU alum), Beth Furtwangler.

I walked into National Geographic expecting to learn about PR. I actually learned about PR, book publishing, photo copyright, children’s literature, media moments, and the Pope. National Geographic is a truly unique organization; it is a media and a news company, of course, but it also funds research and innovation and keeps such a cooperative relationship with scientists that you know you can trust their facts.

I shadowed Beth Furtwangler, communications manager for the daily news and National Geographic Kids divisions, who also introduced me to some of her colleagues including Lauren Hodapp, Kelsey Flora, Carol Woodward, and Farley Fitzgerald. I am so grateful to all of them for taking the time out of their day to talk to me.

What I really took away from my day with Beth was to always seize opportunities when they arise in the “moment,” whether in media or in my career. For instance, Nat Geo recognized the significance of the recent measles outbreak in Disneyland as a catalyst for conversation about science denialism, and ran the article “The War on Science” online two weeks early to be part of the conversation. In my own professional life, some similar advice I got was to seize internships or other experiential learning opportunities as often as I can.

Nat Geo also changed how I think about occupation versus industry. I’ve never had warm feelings about PR until now because I didn’t think there could be a lot of passion in it. However, a lot of the Communications staff said they felt more a part of a team working in-house at National Geographic than for an agency. For an organization like National Geographic that wears so many hats, from research to outreach to book publishing, the communications team is vital for coordinating everyone’s efforts. It totally changed my opinion of public relations as a fulfilling career. It goes to show that working in different industries can totally change your job satisfaction even if you are working in the same role.

And finally, here’s some fun stuff. Did you know that National Geographic has a cartographic department? A whole department just for maps. Whenever a map is needed in any NG publication, the map department has to make it and lay it out and nobody else can mess with it.

NEXTernship: A day with Quantum Secure


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Northwestern students Ahsan Rehman & Michael Caputo recount their NEXT experience with Quantum Secure. Ahsan is a McCormick graduate student in analytics interested in a career in technology consulting, and Michael is a McCormick graduate student in information technology interested in a career in telecommunications engineering and leadership.

For the NEXTernship program, we shadowed Vik Ghai, the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Quantum Secure; a physical identity, security and access management company in the heart of Silicon Valley. Vik was kind enough to not only share his professional experiences, but also spent time outside the office to discuss how start-ups are building solutions to solve the world’s toughest problems.

Quantum Secure is a startup, which has shown enormous growth in last decade by providing solutions to large corporations. Vik and his team are highly efficient when it comes to project execution, as roles are well-assigned and progress is shared on a daily basis. During our shadowing day, Vik shared how he interacts with his sales team and work package divided between the technical team members to work on deliverables. We were also assigned a small problem to develop use cases on how Information Technology and Advance Analytics could be used to develop solutions for Identity Fraud.

Vik is an intelligent and successful entrepreneur, who understands failure is an experience, which allows you to re-think and make improvements for a better approach in the future. He believes ‘Project Execution’ and ‘Client Experience’ are two distinct items that if handled well can lead to the success of any start-up. Furthermore, he considers the Master’s degree from Kellogg invaluable in helping him navigate the corporate world.

This experience allowed us to think about new ideas and gain insight into the life of a Silicon Valley growth company. It also showed us how the time spent at Northwestern can be a great source of pride for its Alumni. The NEXTernship was a fantastic way to network with alumni, evaluate the current Industry trends, and appreciate Northwestern’s amazing education and resources.

NEXTernship: A day with WE ACT for Environmental Justice


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Northwestern School of Professional Studies student Megan Troy recounts her NEXT experience with WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Megan is part of the Master’s in Public Administration program.

When I first got in touch with my host, I was unsure of what to expect. She and I had pretty different backgrounds, tied together by Northwestern roots, but in somewhat different fields. Upon talking to Jalonne, I quickly realized that having different career focuses doesn’t mean that you can’t work towards the same goal—in this case, that was social justice and equality.

Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome, my host from WE ACT for Environmental Justice, has an impressive background working in the EJ field and advocating for low-income communities to have the same rights and health benefits as others. My own background, in social work and now public policy, also addresses disparities in social policy with a focus on low socioeconomic status groups. When I arrived for my externship, we discussed how our backgrounds intersected and found common ground in our advocacy roles. During my day with her, Dr. White-Newsome included me in a meeting between environmental justice coalition members and representatives from the EPA to discuss the Clean Power Plan. This was such a rewarding experience for me because I got to see how “on the ground” issues, like I had dealt with in my own work, and higher-level policy issues merged.

I feel that having this opportunity is so important for students because they may see something in action that they never would have thought of on their own and then develop a passion for this. I had never specifically focused on environment justice issues, but after meeting with Dr. White-Newsome, I felt a true connection to these advocates who are working so hard to bring a sense of equality to low-income communities. The very things that I have always worked for and strived for were embedded in this organization that I would have never known more about without the NEXT program.

NEXTernship: A day with Blaze Pizza’s co-founder


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Lisa Qu, a Northwestern neuroscience graduate student, recounts her NEXT experience with the co-founder of Blaze Pizza. Lisa is interested in exploring careers in science communication and/or consumer research.

I participated in the NEXTernship program at Blaze Pizza headquarters in Pasadena, California.  It was there I met and spent the day with Elise Wetzel, my alumni host and co-founder of Blaze. Blaze is a rapidly growing fast casual pizza chain with locations nationwide, including Chicago and Evanston, and a perfect place to learn more about the process of starting and growing a restaurant business.

I spent the first half of my morning talking with Elise, who gave me insight into her career path and the intricacies of running a company like Blaze. It was great to hear a personal account of how her entrepreneurial experiences led to her current position. During this time, I also got to meet the Senior Marketing Manager, Jerry Shen, who explained his role in managing Blaze’s brand and marketing strategy.

Later, I sat in on a brand marketing meeting, in which both Elise and Jerry presented Blaze’s mission, marketing principles, and guidelines to managers for new locations. This was a great way to see how the plans designed at headquarters were disseminated through the various locations, and it gave me a glimpse into how a large company maintains a consistent brand even across individualized stores.

My experience at Blaze allowed me to learn about the different roles within a growing restaurant business. As a graduate student in neuroscience looking to explore options outside of academia, this was a unique opportunity to see the inner workings of a completely different industry. I made a great connection with a Northwestern alumna, and I had a fascinating look into an exciting and successful company.


Employer Spotlight: Q&A w/Marisa Mobley, Business & Marketing Analyst at Weddington Way


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Tell us about Weddington Way, your role, and what drew you to the company.
Weddington Way is the go-to wedding brand and digital destination for millennial brides. Specifically, we provide brides with a collaborative shopping platform that helps them visualize their wedding, organize ideas with their bridesmaids, and shop together – even if they are scattered across the country.

As the Business and Marketing Analyst in a team of 40, I get to touch all business areas that have a need for data and analysis. My role involves reporting key company metrics to the team, analyzing marketing data to help make campaigns more efficient, working with product teams to analyze funnels and flows, and partnering with the customer service team to monitor performance and identify areas of improvement.

I was drawn to Weddington Way as the company was working to improve the wedding industry and provide a better customer experience through technology and by offering a vast selection of bridesmaid dress options. I see the passion and the energy of the team every day as they look to learn and constantly improve.

What makes a candidate stand out to Weddington Way?
At Weddington Way, we are passionate about improving the wedding industry and driven to provide our customers with the best experience. A great candidate for Weddington Way is excited to learn, grow and contribute to our mission of perfecting the experience of our customers. We are a small, growing team, and as such, a great employee is excited to try new things and is driven to improve all areas of the business. We look for individuals who are able to work both in teams and independently. At Weddington Way, as at any startup, time management and prioritization is key, as are strong communication skills.

What does an entry-level role or internship look like and entail?
An entry-level role or internship at Weddington Way will likely span a couple of different business areas. You will learn and contribute a lot. The exposure to ecommerce, retail, and a customer-centric approach to running a business would be immensely beneficial.

Describe a typical workday.
I love that no two days are the same. The wedding industry is a seasonal business, which means that we spend fall and winter in planning and preparation mode, while spring and summer we’re in execution mode! I am always working on a few projects at once and am encouraged to jump in on projects that I’m excited about.

What do you enjoy most about working with Weddington Way?
Above all else, it would be the fantastic team. My colleagues are driven, ambitious individuals who are eager to disrupt the space. A truly inspiring group that I get to learn from everyday!

What professional advice do you have for job-seeking students interested in this industry? For students who are early in their college careers?
A young and growing company is a fantastic place to get some real hands on experience and start building a career. When working at a startup, you will be contributing to the team and company from day one. This is a very exciting place to be, but your responsibilities are great and the stakes are high. It can be a stressful environment as you are thrown into the deep end. But it’s also exciting as you learn much faster on the job than you will in any training environment. When choosing where to start your career, it is important to think about the environments in which you learn and work best so you end up somewhere you can succeed.

What does your workspace look like? 

The open floor workspace at Weddington Way.

We have an open office floorplan with a bunch of small office spaces along the periphery. This means that one gets to interact with almost everyone in the company, irrespective of title or function.  The meeting rooms are great for smaller group huddles or individual quiet time.

What gadget, office tool or program can’t you live without?
My Macbook Air and Microsoft Excel.

What’s the best career or life advice you’ve received?
It’s a journey, not a race. Don’t worry about comparing yourself to others, as long as you’re learning and challenging yourself you’re never behind. Being a new grad is a very hard, challenging time for all. Everyone is leaving the structure of college and moving on to new things. It’s really the first time in most people’s lives where they are completely free to decide how they want to spend their time. Don’t be afraid to take chances. What you do between the ages of 22 – 25 matters much more in terms of personal development than in terms of career development.

Are there any current opportunities at Weddington Way for students or graduating seniors?
Yes, we have internships for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as full-time roles for recent grads. If you are customer centric, driven, and enthusiastic, I would encourage you to apply to the many open roles on our jobs page.

NEXTernship: Becca Smith’s day with One Smooth Stone


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For the NEXTernship program, I shadowed Mark Ledogar, the Senior Vice President and Principal of One Smooth Stone, an event and communications agency outside of Chicago. Not only did Mark provide me with an accurate portrayal of the event management industry, but was also a great example of a full-time work schedule. One Smooth Stone is a small but well-managed and effective business. Mark and his co-workers take pride in spending time and care to plan and manage their clients’ events. Mark respects and cares for his co-workers, but also has high standards for them. With his positive attitude and strong work ethic, he creates a light-hearted but diligent work environment. During my shadowing day, Mark showed me one of One Smooth Stone’s ongoing events. All of the employees at the event were relaxed and in control of the event, and more than willing to talk about their experiences in the industry.

Mark is an admirable and successful businessman, but also exemplifies a passionate alumnus. He uses his event management skills to plan Northwestern events, and is involved in the Board of Trustees, the Alumni Association, and Homecoming. He reflects his “purple pride” through his continued involvement with improving the undergraduate experience.

This experience allowed me to think about my future after graduation and gain insight into the real-world and what it entails. It also showed me how I can continue to have an impact on Northwestern even after I leave. The NEXTernship was a fantastic way to network with alumni, think about the future, and appreciate Northwestern’s amazing education and resources.

Becca Smith is a sophomore Communication Studies major interested in a career in the Event Management industry.

Nonprofit Week Q&A: Peter Skopec (’12, BA), State Director at The Public Interest Network


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Our final Nonprofit Week blog series post comes from Peter Skopec (2012, BA, Political Science, International Studies, French). Peter serves as the State Director at The Public Interest Network. Read on to learn about his current role and career path.

The best thing about working with TPIN, Peter says, is being part of an organization of genuinely passionate people that has a 40-year history of making a difference.

The best thing about working with TPIN, Peter says, is being part of an organization of genuinely passionate people that has a 40-year history of making a difference.

Describe your role with The Public Interest Network. What drew you to the organization and how long have you worked in your role?

I’m the Wisconsin state director with The Public Interest Network. That means that in my day-to-day operations, I direct the non-profit group WISPIRG (or Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group). I’m in charge of developing and running WISPIRG’s grassroots issue campaigns, and lead several state coalitions of non-profit groups working on budget policy, campaign finance reform and consumer financial protection; I also do grant- and donor-fundraising to support our efforts, and lobby decision-makers at the state capitol in Madison and in Washington, D.C.

I got started with The Public Interest Network after graduating from Northwestern in 2012. I appreciated the non-partisan, common-sense nature of TPIN’s work, and liked the very strategic and deliberate approach TPIN takes to tackling some of the biggest issues of our time: building a case for reform through targeted research, then getting the public involved at the grassroots by elevating the voices of hundreds of thousands of people, and finally taking the solutions these people support to decision-makers at all levels of government.

What is your work and education background?

I studied Political Science, International Studies and French at Northwestern, and I was in the Brady Scholars Program, where I got my start in community organizing. While I was in college, I had several internships with non-profit organizations and in government in France and Austria (where I grew up). I also spent a year working in the Austrian Red Cross after high school.

Describe a typical workday.

One of the things I love about my job is that there is no typical workday. One day, I’ll be holding a press conference to release a research report on the transportation budget or participating in a panel discussion about Wall Street reform, the next I’ll be speaking to a church basement full of volunteers or knocking on doors to turn out voters to the polls. This is anything but a desk job!

What does an entry level role look like and entail?

We’re hiring graduating seniors to be campaign organizers in the Public Interest Network’s Impact program (Deadline: April 5). As a campaign organizer, you’ll learn how to plan and run a grassroots campaign to solve some of the most pressing issues of our time, from global warming to special interest influence in politics. We’ll teach you how to develop and execute a campaign plan, recruit and work with volunteers, fundraise, communicate your message through the media, and lobby decision-makers at every level of government. Impact will prepare you to be a leader in the social change movement, whether you stay with TPIN, join a different non-profit group or go into government.

What’s the best thing about working at The Public Interest Network?

We take on some of the most powerful special interests out there, and challenge them on the most pressing issues of the day — so “progress” doesn’t happen overnight. I like being part of an organization of genuinely passionate people that has a 40-year history of making a difference, by building a powerful, sustained movement for social change.

What professional advice do you have for job-seeking graduating students interested in this field? For students who are early in their college careers?

This work has taught me that real change doesn’t happen by sitting behind an office desk and writing research papers, no matter how good your ideas — it takes people willing to put in the time and leg work to implement them. That often means doing unglamorous things like making thousands of phone calls with volunteers, gathering petitions on street corners and on doorsteps, or spending dozens of hours slowly building a coalition for reform in your community. And it means many, many setbacks. So first and foremost, I encourage you to not shy away from the challenge. It will take many more young, talented and passionate people to make the world a better place. And if you’re just starting out in college, get involved early in whatever cause you feel strongly about — and get your friends and your friends’ friends involved, too!

What does your work space look like?

I spend most of my time out of the office and in the community, working with volunteers and coalition partners, meeting with legislators or working with the media – my “workplace” is working/organizing in the field!

Peter's workspace.

What gadget, office tool or program can’t you live without?

My smart phone! It’s my mobile office when I’m out organizing in the field.

What’s the best career or life advice you’ve received?

Work hard, always do your best — and challenge yourself! Just because something is hard or pushes you beyond (even far beyond) your comfort zone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a shot. I’ve often found the toughest, most difficult work experiences to be the most rewarding in the long run (even if they weren’t always fun at the time).

Are you interested in learning about nonprofit organizations that are similar to Peter’s work at The Public Interest Network? Be sure to explore the following organizations.

  1. Center for Community Change
  2. The Rand Corporation
  3. Center for Economic and Social Justice

Nonprofit Week Q&A: Peter Toth (’13, BA), Innovation Consultant at Foresight Design Initiative


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Peter Toth (2013, BA, History) joins us for Nonprofit Week. Peter serves as an Innovation Consultant at Foresight Design Initiative. Read on to learn about his current role and career path.

Peter’s interest in sustainability-related nonprofit work drew him to the Chicago-based Foresight Design Initiative.

Peter’s interest in sustainability-related nonprofit work drew him to the Chicago-based Foresight Design Initiative.

Describe your role with Foresight Design Initiative. What drew you to the organization and how long have you worked in your role?

My time at Foresight began with an internship in the fall of 2011, during my junior year at Northwestern. I had long been interested in doing sustainability-related nonprofit work, and I was drawn to the organization’s multidisciplinary, system-level approach. During my internship, I coordinated the efforts of various coalitions of local organizations, working on issues ranging from environmental education to innovative business models. Apart from the content, I was drawn to the creative, team-based atmosphere and the high work standards to which I was held.

I returned as a full-time staff member in February 2014. Since then, I have worked on a variety of grant-funded projects focused on sustainability in Chicago. My role has involved primary and secondary research, creating diagrams and other visual tools, and event design. For my main project, I have developed innovative strategies to help Illinois consumers take advantage of energy management technologies and programs. I have contributed in a variety of capacities to other projects, including a systems analysis of regional water and energy efficiency efforts.

What is your work and education background?

I majored in History and minored in Chemistry at Northwestern. While in college, in addition to my time at Foresight, I interned for about four months at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, another sustainability-focused nonprofit in Chicago.

Describe a typical workday.

One of the aspects that I like most about Foresight is that there is no really typical workday. As with all jobs, a fair amount of time is spent crafting emails, making phone calls, and participating in staff meetings. Sometimes I might spend a couple of days in a row doing research and translating my findings into a diagram. Other weeks may be filled with primary research interviews or events. Because we have a very flexible approach, no two phases of a project, let alone the projects themselves, look entirely the same.

What does an entry level role look like and entail?

Because we currently have only four staff members, Foresight has a relatively flat hierarchy, and we tend to be flexible with project assignments. Although I am the least-experienced member, I have been the lead on my main project for almost my entire time at Foresight. I’m responsible for some everyday administrative tasks, such as bookkeeping, but for the most part I have a high level of responsibility and input on project work.

What’s the best thing about working at Foresight?

I love working at Foresight because we do meaningful work, and we do it in creative and innovative ways. I relish the opportunity to think about complex problems and contribute to strategies for dealing with them. Most importantly, my colleagues are among the most intelligent, creative, and hardworking people I’ve met, and it’s an absolute pleasure working with them.

What professional advice do you have for job-seeking graduating students interested in this field? For students who are early in their college careers?

The most valuable insight I’ve gained about sustainability is that it isn’t really a field or sector. Rather, it’s a multidisciplinary approach to dealing with complex challenges. For this reason, there isn’t just one key discipline or skill that will make you a better sustainability professional. You can come to sustainability through biology, communications, engineering, statistics, design, or any other field. That said, learning to work effectively in a real-world setting is a skill unto itself, and requires time and practice. Get as much experience as possible through internships, and use these opportunities to determine what type of job you’d most enjoy.

What does your work space look like?

Peter's workspace.


Peter's workspace.What gadget, office tool or program can’t you live without?

Two come immediately to mind. Evernote is essentially an application for taking and sharing notes that is accessible both online and offline. While that may sound quite mundane, it’s a far superior alternative to endless folders of Word documents and the clutter of Google Drive. OmniGraffle, meanwhile, is perfect for creating diagrams and flow charts, which we use frequently at Foresight.

What’s the best career or life advice you’ve received?

When I was an intern, Peter, our Executive Director, told me that developing good judgment is as important than learning skills, if not more so. Judgment is the reserve of knowledge that can be drawn upon in unexpected or unpredictable situations, and comes mainly from experience. It’s been the most valuable resource that I’ve gained thus far in my still-young professional career.

Explore the work that Foresight Design Initiative is doing and check out the internship opportunities!

Are you interested in learning about nonprofit organizations that are similar to Peter’s work at Foresight Design Initiative? Be sure to explore the following organizations.

  1. Frontier
  2. Net Impact
  3. Mission Measurement

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