Since the Davidson Impact Fellows program began four years ago, 56 Davidson College graduates have been selected for domestic and international nonprofit positions, working to address critical social issues such as health, education, and the environment. Each year, the process becomes increasingly competitive, as more and more Davidson seniors apply and interview for a limited number of available positions.
Davidson shares with the hiring organizations the costs associated with the paid fellow positions, and this year, Wells Fargo contributed $200,000 to assist with the college's costs of maintaining and growing the program in 2016-2017.
"Wells Fargo is pleased to support the Davidson Impact Fellows program," said Jay Everette, the company's senior vice president and community affairs manager. "We have a history of supporting programs that we believe are important to the future of our nation's vitality and success, and the work Davidson graduates are doing in partnership with nonprofit organizations is directly in line with this mission. Davidson alumni are innovative, hard-working and passionate leaders, making this a very wise investment in the future."
The program launched after Mary Beth and Chris Harvey made a transformational gift to the college in 2012 that combined their passions for education and service with their desire to support the needs of Davidson and its graduates.
"We are pleased to partner with the college to create a program that will grow the capacity of nonprofit organizations while training future leaders in the sector," said Mary Beth. "I've had the privilege of serving on several interview panels, and the students applying for these positions are exceptional candidates. It is energizing to learn about their interests and why they are committed to serving the world after Davidson. Chris and I are excited for the future of the program and what it will mean for the many participating graduates and organizations."
Whitney Williams '15 recently wrapped up a one-year Davidson Impact Fellowship with the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) in Asheville. Among other projects, she was able to coordinate a women's and children's safety coalition, conduct research, coordinate grants and become an integral team member in the organization's commitment to underserved populations in healthcare.
"This experience was transformative, and it caused me to completely change my personal statement for my medical school applications," said Williams. "The threading theme became ‘your doctor, your teacher, your advocate,' which reflects my experience and education at MAHEC. I learned that becoming a doctor isn't enough for the difference I want to make in the world, and I have to understand different views as I discover how I will become a change agent for healthcare."
Williams says her experience made her a stronger medical school applicant, in fact, and she is attending Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin–a program that aligns with her passion for community and population health. It also allows her to get a master's of public health during her third year of medical school.
"My fellowship dramatically changed my mindset," said Williams. "I learned what it takes to really get people healthy. It's about so much more than providing medical care, and humans are far more complicated than a human body."
Many hiring organizations have been with the program since its inception, and the employers are repeatedly pleased with the work of the fellows and the energy and innovation they bring to their existing teams. Tom Okel '84, executive director of the Catawba Lands Conservancy in Charlotte, says the program has been tremendous, and their fellows have fit into the organization in a way that they were able to make a difference.
"The Davidson Impact Fellows really stand out from other recent graduates and entry-level interns in their thirst for knowledge and desire to make an impact," said Okel. "They have an ability to learn and throw themselves into their work, and having these creative, energetic fellows come in has really paid off for us. The nonprofit world is not very good at creating good entry points for people who potentially want to look at it as a career, and this is a great program for recent grads to get on the inside and have a closer relationship with an executive director and a meaningful project."
One of Davidson's most recent graduates, Sophia Guevara '16, recently began her fellowship in her hometown of Houston, Texas, working with the Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston initiative. She agrees the opportunity to make an important contribution immediately after college is appealing and unique.
"My friends and I were talking before graduation about how much we'll miss the ways Davidson fosters continuous learning," said Guevara. "I'm excited about the Davidson Impact Fellowship because it challenges me and keeps me learning, even though I'm not in a classroom. I have the privilege of addressing workforce development issues while working in an environment that is diverse and complex in its many sectors. I interviewed for other jobs, and I was struck by how this opportunity was integral to the work the organization does every day. That is not what many graduates see in their first year out of college."
More information is available online at www.davidson.edu/dif.