Guest Blogger: Rishi Moudgil

Born and raised in Metro Detroit, Rishi came to Ann Arbor for college and subsequently has lived most of his adult life here. His spirit runs high for the Maize and Blue, where he has spent much time supporting both the popular aspects of the University of Michigan as well as some hidden gems. During this process, he received masters' degrees in business and education and worked in several departments ranging from entrepreneurship to service learning.

Growing up, Rishi always had a strong connection to the community and always felt compelled to create new opportunities for engagement. After leading the Michigan chapter of the Kiwanis Circle K, he founded the nonprofit mentoring and tutoring organization, K-grams. After a string of other entrepreneurial efforts, he managed the Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest to support new business growth in the state of Michigan. He has also worked for numerous philanthropic organizations locally and beyond, such as the Chicago Public Education Fund.

Currently, Rishi serves as managing director of the University of Michigan's Nonprofit and Public Management Center, which is an interdisciplinary environment that brings together students in business, public policy, social work, and education. In addition to pro bono volunteering and developing local leadership programs, he is also a member of the Ann Arbor Community Foundation's Next Generation Philanthropists. Rishi enjoys exploring new passions and continues to leverage his interest in people and their stories through filmmaking.

Why We Should Embrace Less Traditional Careers

Recently, I collaborated with University of Michigan students across ten disciplines to sponsor a Social Impact Challenge  that tackled a real management problem for the national nonprofit, Education Pioneers. We invited community leaders to meet and address the question: How do we attract and retain top education leaders and managers to the region? While the results were animated and thoughtful, some believed that simply asking the question was provocative enough. Why don't we take a more concerted effort to highlight possibilities in so-called "less traditional" careers?

At the U-M Nonprofit and Public Management Center, we strive not to simply extol the virtues of opportunities beyond the private sector. Rather, we endorse the position that to be successful in any field a deeper understanding of all sectors is critical. Sometimes this translates to developing important soft skills such as people management, storytelling, and agenda setting, but in many cases, students are trained in very practical, specific expertise.

For example, studying and practicing philanthropy – the bedrock of many nonprofits – not only inculcates citizens with the needs of a local community but also develops transferable skills for any leadership position. Indeed, to be a top leader today in virtually any arena – business, education, government, health, nonprofit, etc. – requires you to be able to secure funding.

Beyond simply developing a set of skills, leadership in solving real problems demands working across sector lines. This is abundantly clear in our region, where institutions of learning, health care, and government dominate much of the news cycle in addition to the landscape of professional career paths. Just like entrepreneurship and emerging tech businesses, our vibrant nonprofit and public sectors should also be a marketing engine to attract talent.

For example, after transplanting here from her home state of Texas, Kat Walsh not only studied public policy and higher education at U-M, she stayed here to help build a culture of giving. Now with a university job leading student philanthropy, she has a challenging career that embeds her within the community as she inspires the next generation to stay connected. Kat has also carved out a niche in the local arts scene by directing plays with organizations such as the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.

There are also plenty of attractive nonprofit positions for local graduates to explore while remaining in their hometown. Upon obtaining her MBA at U-M's Ross School of Business, Fran Loosen kept her home in Ann Arbor while utilizing her strengths in social innovation for one of Michigan's world-famous foundations, W.K. Kellogg. Already deeply invested in the community through nonprofit board service, she recently began a new job as the vice president of operations for the Summers-Knoll School.

These are just two examples of residents who chose appealing paths in one niche area: education. Through my own various projects, I work with many Millennials – and depending on whose definition you use, I may even qualify as one – whose priorities are often clear: they want to live a life where they are challenged, engaged, and can also give back. Often, they seek these expectations in one place and sometimes even in one job. While that may not always be realistic, we should realize the strengths we have right here. Our region provides plenty of these opportunities, and it's our responsibility to proudly make those known.

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