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Can philanthropic organizations save the world? It might not be that simple, but as LSA senior Adam Seltzer discovered during his 2019 summer internship, philanthropy is more than just a PR strategy to make companies look good. The Organization Studies senior completed a digital media internship at Arabella Advisors in Washington, D.C. this past summer, an internship he found through the LSA Opportunity Hub's Internship Program. Adam realized just how widespread philanthropy has become and what types of careers sprout from the field.
“I never realized the scope of philanthropy or that there were consultants dedicated to it,” says Adam, adding that, “I became exposed to and inspired by the growing role of philanthropy in solving the world’s biggest issues.”
Arabella Advisors, a private consulting group focused specifically on philanthropic advising, has worked for a roster of companies with a combined value of over $100 billion in assets — a monumental operation driven by around 200 employees. They’ve been recognized not only for their unique approach and personalized service to their clients, but also for their commitment to an entrepreneurial spirit, leading them to be the only philanthropic organization to be recognized by Entrepreneurship Magazine as part of their Entrepreneur 360 list in 2019.
For Adam, working at a company like Arabella perfectly fused his interests in social justice with his background studies in economics, psychology, and sociology — the course areas that make up the Organizational Studies program. With hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, the work of large scale philanthropy requires a robust team composed of passionate people working across a range of disciplines. Adam had the perfect opportunity to explore what corporate philanthropy looked like in a bustling scene like the Washington D.C.
As technology continues to advance, the workplace adapts and grows alongside it, especially on the digital media front. During his time at Arabella, Adam realized that the chance to leave a long-lasting impact on the organization was a major plus in comparison to his previous internships. By focusing on long-term digital strategy, Adam could envision how his contributions would extend far beyond his internship, giving him a sense of ownership and purpose in his work. Aside from helping to develop a comprehensive digital marketing plan, Adam honed internal process for social media publishing, revamped the company’s blog to showcase its successes and accomplishments, and curated content that more accurately reflects Arabella’s portfolio.
When asked about the ways his degree led him to Arabella, and how the experience has shaped his post-graduate plans, he speaks candidly about how his major and his summer internship intersected in ways he didn’t expect.
“As an Organizational Studies major, I’m interested in understanding how organizations function internally and what shapes an organization’s culture. My exposure to Arabella's organizational growth mindset helped inspire me to pursue a post-grad job in Human Resources because I know I want to play a direct role in shaping a workplace culture and improving internal processes for employees.”
Although his prior internship positions in marketing and communication aligned with Adam’s professional competencies and skills, this internship was the first time he was able to observe the evolution of a company’s culture and workplace, especially within the realm of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Being given the autonomy to be at the helm of his own projects and initiatives was a pivotal moment in his experience. Adam attributes his personal and professional growth to an environment that encouraged leadership, agency, and support.
Developing relationships, whether it’s with your boss, coworkers, or an alum you happen to meet, is an invaluable skill that pays out in the long run. In Adam’s case, networking at Arabella Advisors, and within the D.C. metro area, allowed him to unearth experiences he didn’t even know existed. It revealed a different side of work than what a traditional internship might hold.
“By simply reaching out to people and learning more about their experiences and companies, you not only learn about what you may like, but what you may not like. Talking to people is invaluable!” he concludes.
These connections have led to new opportunities — Adam serves as an independent contractor with Arabella, tasked with growing the company’s social presence and identifying new opportunities that will expand their online footprint. Much like a liberal arts education, an internship is not just a single event with an end date; with the right tools and preparation, it can be an enduring experience that brings about continuous learning and success in your future career.
If you are interested in exploring internship opportunities, please check out the LSA Opportunity Hub's Internship Program page for more information.