Periodically, the Wharton Leadership Program blog likes to bring you stories straight from students’ own experiences with our programs. We’ve interviewed one of our Nonprofit Board Fellows, David Adelman, a 2nd year MBA student majoring in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management and serving on the board of SquashSmarts, a nonprofit that uses squash to inspire and educate under-served urban youth in Philadelphia. The Nonprofit Board Leadership Program places MBA students on boards of local nonprofit organizations to both help advance the mission of the organization and teach students about the realities of board governance and the nonprofit sector.
WLP: What is your role on the SquashSmarts board? How did you define this role?
DA: I’m a visiting board member for the year. More specifically, I am working on a project to establish a Young Leaders committee to get people in their 20s and 30s to learn about how incredible SquashSmarts is and become more active in the organization.
WLP: How have you attempted to forge relationships with board members/the ED right away?
DA: I met the Executive Director at his house shortly after starting, which gave me a great background on the organization and helped us build our relationship early on. Since then, we’ve met a few times and I’ve gotten to know him well. He’s a strong leader who brings an incredible amount of passion and energy to the organization. I met several of the board meetings at a fundraiser that SquashSmarts hosted last year, and met the rest at the first board meeting 2 weeks ago. I’m lucky to be working with such an active and inspiring group of people.
WLP: What challenges do you anticipate facing as a Visiting Board Member?
DA: The biggest challenge will be making a difference for the organization in such a short period of time. I’d really like to make a lasting contribution to SquashSmarts.
WLP: Where do you hope to have the greatest impact with your board?
DA: If the Young Leaders group we are setting up can bring new volunteers and donors to SquashSmarts, it’ll be a huge success for the organization and for the community!
WLP: How do you believe this program adds value to the Wharton experience?
DA: It’s all too easy to lose perspective while at Wharton. Between school, clubs, and job hunting, we can easily forget that we live in a world with tremendous social problems. Participating in NBLP not only exposes us to these problems, it also helps train us to act on them in creative and effective ways.
WLP: How do you see this experience affecting the decisions you make in the future?
DA: Before I started I thought that being involved in a nonprofit organization is a worthwhile thing to do. Now I know that it’s something I will always be committed to. Hearing the success stories of SquashSmarts’ students inspires me to work that much harder to build the organization and ensure that it continues doing great work in the community for years to come.
WLP: In what ways has your experience thus far been a leadership experience for you?
DA: The short amount of time in NBLP has shown me the value of listening to those around you. As someone joining a board of directors for a short stint, if I talk more than I listen then nobody will take me seriously. It’s an important leadership lesson that will be extremely valuable for me, both in nonprofit and in career settings.