Jessica Fischer, a May 2020 graduate of SoHE’s MS in Human Ecology, began work with the DC-based crowdfunding organization GlobalGiving last month. The skills and experience she had gained in her time at SoHE, including her undergraduate degree in Community and Nonprofit Leadership and her internship supporting the work of the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies (“the CommNS”), made her a stand-out candidate for GlobalGiving’s highly selective, year-long Fellows Program.
Below, Jess answers some questions about her experience in the MS program and the opportunities she anticipates ahead.
What drew you to SoHE, both for your undergraduate and graduate degrees?
I transferred to UW–Madison during my sophomore year as an undergraduate student, specifically for the Community and Nonprofit Leadership program. I was looking for a way to pursue a degree that would allow me to make meaningful contributions to the world around me and advance my interests in becoming a change agent.
After graduating, I took a job as the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin and thoroughly enjoyed my role, the community I worked closely with, and the opportunity to make a positive impact. However, I recognized that there was much about the social sector that I wanted to continue to explore and critically examine. Therefore, I made the decision to return to school to further educate myself and increase my ability to do effective, impactful, and transformative work. This led me back to SoHE and specifically to the applied master’s program, which allows for hands-on learning opportunities, a broad array of classes, and the option to cultivate your own area of expertise.
What do you feel was the most valuable part of the MS degree?
The variety of class options and hands-on learning opportunities was of significant value to my growth and education. From taking a nonprofit board leadership class that placed me on the board of a Madison-based nonprofit organization, to my capstone project where I worked directly with a local restorative justice coalition supporting evaluation work, the opportunities to engage with various organizations gave me helpful insight to the areas I was most passionate about, but also the importance of a transformative approach in social sector work. I engaged with organizations that center community voices and acknowledge the wisdom and expertise from those being served, which helped me hone in on the importance of community-centered work. I further explored the complexities of the social sector through direct experiences, and I deeply appreciate the role SoHE and the MS degree had in connecting me to these organizations and cultivating learning opportunities.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming year in your fellowship with GlobalGiving? And how did you connect with that opportunity initially?
GlobalGiving is a nonprofit I’ve had my eye on since being an undergraduate student. I had been getting notifications of job openings from them for the past few years, so I jumped on the fellowship opportunity as soon as it came available after I graduated with my master’s. I thought it would be a great opportunity to further explore my career interests, as well as a way to immerse myself in the D.C. nonprofit sector.
GlobalGiving’s focus on community-centered work and stated value of “Listen, Act, Learn. Repeat” really aligns with my personal approach to social sector work. I am looking forward to a variety of things, including engaging with nonprofit leaders around the world (which I’ve already had plenty of opportunities to do, including leading my first webinar with 200+ project leaders!), learning from the incredibly talented and intelligent people that work at GlobalGiving, and exploring more equitable approaches to philanthropy.
What would you tell other students considering the MS in Human Ecology?
If you are looking for a masters program that gives you a lot of freedom and flexibility to explore, this is a great option! You need to have a certain level of drive and independence to pursue the opportunities that align well with your interests, but if you are looking for a program that provides a lot of hands-on learning experiences, a broad array of class options, and opportunities for continued professional development, the MS in Human Ecology is a great option. Ask many questions, put yourself out there to expand your network, and take advantage of the various opportunities around you, and this program can lead to some great things if you are willing to put in the work!
Learn more about SoHE’s Master of Science in Human Ecology, including whom to contact with further questions.