Philanthropy panelists to Temple students: ‘Work not only to be successful, but to be of value’

By Carine Lavache on March 21, 2017

It always feels good to give back. But can a career path be forged out of philanthropy?

Recent graduates of Temple University sought to answer that question as participants in a Philanthropy Panel of Professionals, held Feb. 17 at Alter Hall. Moderated by Temple alumna Cherri Gregg, the community affairs reporter for KYW Newsradio 1060, the discussion shed light on philanthropy’s role in the panelists’ personal and professional lives.

The event, which featured a graduate of the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM), capped Temple’s campus-wide Philanthropy Week – a weeklong initiative to celebrate the impact of giving back.

Melisa Baez, a 2010 graduate of STHM, serves as the Women’s Business Center Director at ASSETS, an organization focused on building communities through business. Baez said her passion for social impact and community relations motivated her decision to pursue a career in philanthropy.

“The nonprofit field is not glamorous. The late nights, the low pay, the stress about paying your bills – that’s just the reality of it,” Baez said. “If you don’t have passion or a personal connection to keep you motivated to do this, it’s not going to work. That (combination of) personal connection and that desire is what drives you. I made the decision to go into a field that I cared about and that’s how I ended up where I am today.”

Fox School of Business alumnus Eric Stephenson, who graduated in 2010, serves as the Portfolio Director at the Cordes Foundation, where he works to impact investing and philanthropic efforts surrounding women’s empowerment and poverty alleviation. While philanthropy is often viewed as direct groundwork, Stephenson stressed that there are two sides to making effective change.

“There are some people who, by their essence, need to roll up their sleeves and do that grassroots work, but that’s not for everybody,” said Stephenson. “There are other people who need to recognize their power and privilege and think about how they can use that to change policy that’s aligned with their values.”

Understanding what kind of impact a person wants to have is an essential part of what drives philanthropy as a career, the panelists said. And how to ensure you are having a positive one is quite simple, according to Stephenson.

“Work not only to be successful, but to be of value,” said Stephenson. “At the end of the day, you should be working to be a value to others – not only to the company, but to yourself, friends, and family.”

Jessica Lista, a 2011 alumna of the School of Media and Communication, and Tiffany Tavarez, who graduated from the Tyler School of Art in 2004, also served as panelists.

Aside from the importance of philanthropy, the panelists stressed the significance of knowing how to get started in this area of work.

“There are a lot of opportunities where you can get involved now and start thinking about the impact that you can have while you’re young and have that energy to do so,” said Baez. “You’ll find more life and more purpose in the work that you’re doing.”


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