Photo: New TPF Fellows — John Ferguson and Abby Rolland 20/21

Two graduates earn Fellowships with The Patterson Foundation

Posted on May 25, 2020 by Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
John Ferguson and Abby Rolland will serve a year with The Patterson Foundation, learning about the inner workings of an innovative and community-focused foundation, while also bringing their own knowledge and experiences to assist the foundation in carrying out its mission. The Fellows Program is part of a collaboration between the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and The Patterson Foundation, through its Advancing Philanthropic Leadership initiative.

The Patterson Foundation, a fully endowed charitable entity located in Sarasota, Fla., has worked to strengthen people, organizations, and communities since 2010 through a variety of initiatives covering a range of local, regional, national, and global issues. Our collaboration represents the latest evolution of The Patterson Foundation’s approach, which emphasizes sharing homegrown knowledge gained through working in diverse initiatives while creating platforms to learn the latest innovations to generate sustainable impact.

Ferguson and Rolland were asked to share their backgrounds and experiences and why they wanted to pursue a career in philanthropy.

John Ferguson
While holding various leadership responsibilities in his fraternity and then working in restaurant management, John Ferguson knew that he was passionate about helping people, particularly in the field of education, music, and human rights.

“I believe education is the key to unlocking human potential, music (and art) is the key to full human expression, and that everyone deserves to exist as they are with no policy or belief that makes them above or below anyone else,” he said.

So when he returned to school in 2012, Ferguson knew that he wanted to work in the nonprofit sector. He also wanted a degree that would challenge his thinking.

“Philanthropic studies became the perfect choice to expand my understanding of philanthropy and position myself to enter the nonprofit field after graduation,” he said.

Coursework, and guidance from mentors in the philanthropic studies program, helped shape his thinking about the sector throughout the program and after he graduated in 2016.

“So many of the faculty members have made such a tremendous impact on my life,” Ferguson said. “Dr. Tyrone Freeman introduced me to philanthropic studies as a degree option and served as a mentor throughout my time there. Dr. Kathi Badertscher is an amazing and uniquely gifted professor who always challenged me to challenge myself and think broadly. (Director of student services and admissions) Pamela Clark’s faith in me helped me overcome many difficult moments over the years and encouraged me to pursue opportunities I never imagined would come true.”

After graduating, Ferguson earned a position at the Indiana United Ways, the state membership association serving all United Ways and United Funds throughout Indiana. Most recently, he served as its engagement manager, where he designed and ran leadership programs, trained board members, and led an important data analytics project that informed a new strategic plan.

It was a dynamic internship with The Patachou Foundation, though, while still in school, that showed Ferguson what a foundation could be for a community or cause. His interest in The Patterson Foundation (TPF) and its Fellow Program grew his service on the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s alumni board.

“I learned about the partnership with The Patterson Foundation and was immediately captivated and drawn to TPF’s way of working and the intentionality with which they approach their many initiatives,” he said. “Everything was connected and thoughtfully designed.

“I knew immediately that I wanted to learn from and work in an environment like that.”

In his first days with TPF, Ferguson already is learning a great deal about its innovative and thoughtful model:

“The Patterson Foundation isn’t constrained in its thinking or its ability to act quickly when warranted. I hope that I can bring my unique skills and perspective to the table and see how I can contribute to their continued success while learning a great deal along the way.”

Abby Rolland
A love for all things historical led Abby Rolland to study history as an undergraduate, with the goal of becoming an archivist or curator at a museum. But as her senior year approached, she felt more connected to her volunteer work helping alleviate food insecurity for asset-limited families than she had with some of her museum internships.

After a year abroad teaching in South America and interning in Southeast Asia, she returned to Indiana with a desire to give back. An AmeriCorps VISTA position at Indianapolis nonprofit Second Helpings seemed the perfect fit.

“Giving back has long been something that I admired and aspired to do, regardless of my career,” she said.

“When I finished my VISTA term, a colleague told me about an open marketing and communications position at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. I was extremely lucky to earn that position. Throughout my first months at the school, I realized that philanthropy was something I wanted to be a part of, both professionally and personally, forever, and that a master’s degree in philanthropic studies was exactly what I had been looking for.”

Rolland enrolled in the master’s program and earned her degree while also working full time at the school. What she learned in her job and through her classes confirmed her passion for philanthropy.

“So many of my classes have tied together in ways that I never thought would happen,” she said. “My three classes on foundations—Grantmaking and the Role of Foundations, Community Foundations, and Institutional Fundraising, provided a well-rounded, thorough, and fascinating perspective into foundations and institutional funders.

“I also loved studying abroad with Dr. Pamala Wiepking. That experience has continuously reminded me that philanthropy is not a uniquely American experience. Around the world, people give and live generously.”

Rolland learned about The Patterson Foundation Fellows Program and realized it was a great opportunity to dive into the work that she had been writing and learning about for 2.5 years.

“The Patterson Foundation is an incredibly innovative foundation, in touch with its partners and responsive to community needs,” Rolland said. “It doesn’t arrive with the answers, but works with its partners in identifying key issues that need to be addressed. It works across all sectors to help analyze those issues. I wanted to pursue the amazing fellowship opportunity to learn from them.”

She was thrilled when she found out she had been selected as a Fellow and is eager to begin her work with the foundation.

“I have a lot to learn, and honestly, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most,” she said. “From my vantage point, The Patterson Foundation is on the leading edge of being transparent, of communicating openly and honestly, and of serving and being there for its community. I am so excited to learn from them during the coming year and implement newly-learned skills and knowledge throughout my professional career.”

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