Stephanie Chan '11

What is your current occupation, and where are you located?
I’ve lived in Washington D.C. for the past five years. I’m a program specialist at Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, where I lead workshops to teach foundations how they can improve their grantmaking practices. I also manage programs about organizational development and change management for foundation CEOs and senior leaders.  Prior to working at GEO, I worked at a homeless shelter for four years. I spent two of those years managing the shelter and two years writing grants and doing community outreach.

What do you like about the work you do (or what are you most proud of)?
I get to travel all over the country, listen to people talk about their communities, and watch as people problem-solve together. It is really exciting to see light bulbs go off in people’s heads and to see others building networks with each other and to know that I helped foster those connections.

 Did you know, when you graduated from Trinity, the direction your career would take?
When I graduated, I wanted to either teach high school English or work at a nonprofit – I wanted to do good. But, I wasn’t sure what kind of nonprofit I wanted to work at, or even what kind jobs existed at nonprofits. It’s been really eye opening to learn about how vast the nonprofit world is and how many nonprofits are focusing a lot on topics like strategy and innovation, which are two words I don’t think many people associate with the nonprofit sector.

How do you think being an English Major prepared you for the work you are doing now?
Many of my projects require me to write and speak persuasively, and I’m successful at doing so because of all the times my professors critiqued and ripped apart my essays at Trinity. Additionally, I believe there’s really something to be said for the empathy one builds through reading and analyzing books and poetry. It has helped me understand and appreciate other people’s struggles and humanity in a way that I think few other majors are able to accomplish. 

If you could give one piece of professional advice to current English Majors at Trinity College, what would that be?
I have two pieces of advice. First, ask lots of questions and learn from continuous iterations on small experiments. Always ask yourself and others what went well and what the 10 percent upgrades are for next time.

 Second, strong communication skills are incredibly important and not as common as they should be in the workplace. Be direct and honest when something is confusing or not going well and ask that others do the same when working with you.

Last question: you have two hours here at Trinity College (we’ve beamed you in using special technology)—how are you going to spend your time?  I would spend my time catching up with my favorite professors and end my time playing the carillon in the bell tower.