We make choices every day. Some are easier than others. Some choices have more at stake, and some offer more rewards. I remember in 1982, there was a popular TV commercial that asked, "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?" It gave people choices on what they were willing to do, usually something silly or embarrassing, to receive a free deluxe ice cream bar. It was a risk-reward choice, something that is part of our everyday decision-making process.

Last fall, students attending Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (LFSOP) were offered a 3-credit course called The Future of the Philanthropic Sector: Experiential Learning with The Patterson Foundation. This class provided undergraduate and graduate students attending LFSOP a professional growth opportunity using The Patterson Foundation's initiatives. The unique opportunity comes with a risk; students are required to give up their traditional Spring Break for a 6-day experiential learning experience in Sarasota, Florida. And in true TPF form, this meant actively connecting with our 4-county region every waking moment. This would be a life experience that would strengthen or might even change their career trajectory. The margaritas on the beach would need to wait for another time!

What excited me was the willingness of the IU students who were eager to embrace the opportunity. These ten inquisitive students were given a unique opportunity to live philanthropic work in real environments. They would experience what it is like to be a consultant and learn how to listen and guide a conversation.

On Monday, the students learned about The Five Cs: caring, connecting, collaborating, contributing, and creating. Monday through Friday, they used these tools during their consulting times and other community experiences. On Friday, they had a chance to attend a Knowledge Sharing Session led by Mike Oxman and Larry Clark to reflect on how The Five Cs and other TPF approaches played out and their importance in creating community trust.

By the time these six days were over, the students were engaged with twenty-six different organizations! So was it worth giving up a traditional Spring Break? Here are some of the comments they shared with us:
  • My Study Away experience was truly invaluable. I appreciated the opportunity to explore a nonprofit consulting role, a career option I had not strongly considered until working with TPF. I also valued the many opportunities to demonstrate leadership and apply TPF's core principles throughout our various learning activities.

  • My initiative was the right choice for me, and I enjoyed the community conversation. I gained much insight from both.
  • I would like to express my deep appreciation for TPF staff and consultants for investing in me and my classmates. I am excited to apply all I learned during Study Away as I begin my career in the nonprofit sector.

  • I really enjoyed the consulting we got to do within our initiatives.

It was an energetic week filled with events that included consulting, presentations, learning, experiencing, and ultimately evolving and growing. In the end, they did not get a Klondike Bar. They got a cake!

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