I didn’t really know what to expect when I was matched with CAPAL through the University of Maryland’s Intern for a Day program, but I was excited. CAPAL was one of my top choices for the program, not only because it dealt with issues that were important to me as an Asian American, but also because I hoped it would give me some insight into the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit. I’m a mathematics-economics double major, which gives me a fair amount of flexibility in choosing a career field, and with my prior volunteer and leadership experience I was curious as to how working for a nonprofit suited me.
Elizabeth Thompson, the Managing Director, took me under her wing for the day, giving me the low-down on what exactly CAPAL does and how it’s run. She explained the roles of the Board of Directors, and the Advisory Council, and outlined the purposes of the different committees within the Board. Liz is currently the only staff member for CAPAL, so she works closely with both the Executive Committee (made up of the Board Chair, Vice Chairs, Treasurer, and Secretary) and each individual committee. That means she’s involved in almost everything that goes on for CAPAL, and is very knowledgeable about all the programs run by the organization, which include the Federal Internship Program, the Public Service Scholarship Program, and the Professional Development programs. Basically, she told me all about the cool, important work that gets done by the CAPAL leadership, and then sent me to work.
Okay, so what did I actually do all day? In a general sense, I worked on aspects of CAPAL’s public presentation, which is pretty important for a nonprofit that relies on federal funding and donations for most of its operations. I spent the morning making updated business cards for the staff and Board members, which I know doesn’t sound like terribly exciting stuff, but was actually quite fun. My Photoshop skills were a little rusty at first, but soon everything came back. Typing up the information for the Board members also gave me the chance to familiarize myself with their names and roles within CAPAL, something that came in handy later when I went with Liz to meet Carrie Kagawa, the Chair of the Board of Directors, for lunch.
Liz and Carrie explained to me that they meet weekly to discuss the status of projects and keep each other updated on all the different events on the CAPAL agenda. Opinions from the Advisory Council, the status of an upcoming Board retreat, and a handful of other administrative tasks were all on the day’s list. Listening to them, I was impressed by the number of things the relatively small nonprofit was handling and fascinated by the glimpse into the leadership of the organization. Carrie even asked my opinion on a couple aspects of the CAPAL Ball, which they’re trying to reinvent, and was super supportive of my tentatively-offered suggestions. After lunch, Liz headed back to the office to give me some one-on-one time with Carrie, which I used to clarify the role of the bylaws (I now know that they’re vital to the administrative efficiency of the Board and Advisory Council) and discuss some of the ways that getting involved can be beneficial.
When I got back to the office, I faced a new adventure: creating a Wikipedia page. For those who are curious, creating the page itself is pretty straightforward, but I’m still a bit trapped in the quagmire that is Wikipedia’s policy on copyright protection and citations, so the article itself may need a little finagling before it’s ready to be posted on the world wide web for all to marvel at. Still, once it’s done, the page should serve as a good way to make information about CAPAL easily accessible.
At the time of writing this blog post, my day at the CAPAL office is almost up, and I’ve enjoyed nearly every minute (the only minutes that I haven’t enjoyed: those spent accidentally walking through road work on my way back to the office from lunch). The work that the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership is doing to address the racial disparity in public policy-making and leadership is truly all-encompassing, and I’m sure that they will continue to expand their influence as they grow. Working in the office today was an invaluable learning experience, enhanced by the genuine friendliness of both Liz and Carrie, and nonprofit work is something that I will definitely be considering for the future.
April Nellis is a freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park where she is pursuing a double major in Applied Mathematics and Economics with a minor in Computer Science. She was active in her high school’s Interact Club and is currently a member of the Student Council for the Design Cultures + Creativity Honors Program at UMD, where she works to make DCC, as well as monthly s’mores night, as awesome as possible. She’s interested in enacting social change as well as economic number-crunching, and hopes to find a career that will balance the two.
Posted by Andrew Lo, Programs and Operations Associate
A Kansas City native, Andrew received his B.A. in Philosophy and Biology at Saint Louis University. Outside of the classroom he served as president of SLU’s Asian American Association growing AAPI communities and working to to promote social justice for all. He also help to establish Forte, an organization dedicated to providing Saint Louis schools with tutors, instruments, and other resources needed to facilitate an education in music. In 2015, Andrew served as a CAPAL intern first for the USDA Forest Service where he worked to create policies to combat climate change and later as a Programs Assistant for the Foreign Agriculture Service Cochran Program providing growing Eastern European and Eurasian economies with training opportunities within the U.S. Andrew has a passion for food and music so when he is not consuming delicious food he can often be found singing, playing instruments, and generally causing a ruckus.