These college students gained international work experience without ever leaving Indiana. How?
December 29, 2022
One of the hardest parts of working with a nonprofit based in Kenya? Waking up in time for the organizers’ afternoon meeting.
The tail-end of a work day for the nonprofit organizers of the Hijabi Mentorship Program is early morning for students on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus. Being able to connect with the nonprofit despite this eight-hour time difference was just one of many learning curves for IU junior Gillian Zeuli at the start of this semester.
“The time zone difference was huge. We usually met them at about 8 a.m. in the morning or earlier,” Zeuli described.
Zeuli is part of the Global Consultants, a fledgling club within the Hamilton Lugar School only on its second semester of existence. Global Consultants is open to undergraduate and graduate students across IU who might be looking for different things. Maybe they’re just looking to strengthen their resume. Or they could be interested in forging professional connections with international leaders. And perhaps their pursuit is as simple as wanting to make a real impact on the other side of the globe.
Through Global Consultants, IU students can gain experience with international companies all while staying on the Bloomington campus. While Global Consultants is still pretty small, its over two dozen past and former student members have echoed the same sentiment: This experience has been invaluable.
“This was my first time really working with an organization and implementing what I’ve been learning at school to an actual program or ‘an internship,’ for lack of a better word. I mean, I’ve learned how to work with people who are abroad,” Zeuli said.
IU Hamilton Lugar School expands professional development opportunities
The Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies hosts about 800 students across their various programs. While a lot of students must travel across borders in order to gain experience, the HLS has recently expanded so that some international work can be done right here on campus.
Elisheva Cohen is the director of international education programs and outreach, where she designs and leads programming for undergraduate and graduate students within HLS and across IU. She also seeks new ways to cultivate global connections for the campus, which is how she became the driving force and faculty advisor behind Global Consultants.
According to Cohen, HLS wanted to expand its work and skill-based opportunities for students, especially those who may not have the time or for a full-time, traditional international internship.
“Many of our students go abroad and hold internships while they’re studying abroad, but for a lot of our students who have a heavy course load and need to stay or they can only go abroad for one semester, this gives them an opportunity to have a global internship type experience, a global real world experience, without the travel,” Cohen said, adding that the time commitment for Global Consultants is only 5 hours a week.
Global Consultants was piloted last spring with a handful of students working with a Jordan-based nonprofit that works to empower women and girls through sports. While working as consultants, these students organized and analyzed five years of data and reports. In addition to this audit, the students provided recommendations for how to improve the nonprofit’s data analysis and recording practices.
When last semester proved to be a success, Global Consultants expanded by offering three consultant project opportunities this fall. One of which was with the Hijabi Mentorship Program, which strives to improve gender equality in underserved communities. Their work includes addressing reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence, peace and conflict resolution and economic empowerment for women and girls in Kwale County, Kenya.
For students like Zeuli, a partnership with this nonprofit was the perfect fit.
“This program focuses on gender-based violence, which is something that I study a lot in school, as well as Peace and Conflict Resolution, which is my concentration in school,” Zeuli said. “So it really aligns with my studies, my goals and my views. It’s empowerment for women and I really loved that about the program.”
In a team of around six members, Zeuli helped research and build an in-depth guidebook of grant funding opportunities available to support the Hijabi Mentorship Program.
What does it mean to be a ‘changemaker’? Let these IU students tell you
One of the main goals for this club was to give students an avenue to make a meaningful contribution in the world.
“Our students at HLS are passionate; they’re changemakers. They want to change the world. They want to have an impact, and so this gives them an opportunity to do that in partnership with real organizations, to take on meaningful projects that have real life outcomes,” Cohen said.
This semester, there are about 17 students spread out across three individual project teams. On each consultant team, everyone is assigned a role. For example, Zeuli was the knowledge manager while her fellow member, Marria Peduto, was the grant writing adviser. Peduto was the only team member who had prior experience with grant writing and nonprofit fundraising. She spoke with the nonprofit leaders and helped write some helpful tips on how a grant proposal should look.
“What they’re doing to really go above and beyond for us so we have experiences where we can put our knowledge basically to the test,” Peduto said. “You find what your knowledge gaps are, that maybe you weren’t covering in class or the things that you can’t fit into a semester long course, and you’re able to really build from that.”
In addition to their individual responsibilities, everyone spent most of their time actually locating and compiling grant funding opportunities for each of the Hijabi Mentorship Program’s four initiatives. This guidebook includes funding sources from across the world.
“I didn’t know anything about funding and grants, and it really puts a perspective on why it is so difficult for so many programs to succeed. For many wonderful organizations, it’s so difficult to receive the funding that you need,” Zeuli said.
Peduto noted Global Consultants is a unique offering compared to other case competitions that may be provided by other schools.
“It’s more than just a consulting project. It’s a consulting project with purpose, that has this real world impact,” Peduto said.
While many students from the pilot program have since graduated, Emma Dabelko returned this fall as a project manager for the Hijabi Mentorship Program.
“Regardless of the semester, it doesn’t really feel like you’re going through the same steps every semester. You’re learning something new,” Dabelko said.
Dabelko said this semester in particular helped sharpen confidence in her leadership skills while also getting her foot in the door at an international scale.
“We want to learn outside of the classroom and gain some skills that will make us more hireable but also have us sort of feel like we’re already a part of the international studies field as students,” Dabelko said.
Both Dabelko and Peduto noted they have forged close connections with the other students in Global Consultants, some of whom are even from outside the department. Peduto noted someone from the geography department was part of their team and brought unique skills to the table.
For many, the experience was rewarding as an act of collaboration with a new nonprofit, but these students could potentially continue to see dividends from Global Consultants even when they enter the professional world. Cohen noted two students who participated in Global Consultants this year have gotten full-time consulting positions soon after graduating.
“They both reported that there were a lot of questions about their work in the global consulting project as they interviewed for these positions,” Cohen said.
Global Consultants is open to undergraduate and graduate students across IU. Applications for the spring 2022 cohort close Jan. 13, 2023. Selected candidates will be notified by January 16 and expected to participate in an orientation on Jan. 22.