Jessica Chabot '23
Why did you apply to be a Nonprofit Board Fellow?
I was an engineer as an undergrad, so a lot of things about the business world were new to me. I knew I would have to close those gaps if I wanted to be an executive one day. I’m also passionate about impact—especially energy and sustainability. I was excited about the opportunity not only to make an impact for the two years of my Fellowship, but also to learn and grow and see how I could have a career of impact after Kellogg.
Can you describe your experience?
I was a board member for Green City Market, a sustainable farmer’s market with locations throughout Chicago. My Fellows project focused on board governance, including engagement and recruitment of new board members. I had done volunteering and consulting for nonprofits before, but never been exposed to the board, so it was to gain an understanding of what boards do and how they do it—especially through such a relevant project and in a I’m interested in.
What were your biggest takeaways?
The program taught me the importance of bringing structure, keeping people bought in, and holding them accountable. It also showed me first-hand what that looks like when it’s done well. Without the Nonprofit Board Fellows program, it wouldn't have crossed my mind that I could be a board member straight out of Kellogg. But the experience totally changed my opinion on what I had to give and how I could make an impact with skills and knowledge I have and has inspired me to actively seek out board positions much earlier.
What surprised you about your experience?
It can be difficult to know what is organization-specific and what are best practices, and if I had only taken the classes or just had the experiential component, I would have developed an incomplete understanding. There was real value in learning and in being able to share experiences with other students.
What advice would you have for prospective or current students who are interested in the program?
Three things. First, understand what matters to you. The program is a large time commitment and I’m so, so glad I did it, but it’s not for everyone and there are other ways of having an impact at and outside of Kellogg. Secondly, be as proactive as you can. I tried to get as much exposure as possible: volunteering, going to events, and joining multiple committees. I would recommend setting up time for informational interviews with every board member as early as schedules allow, building relationships with the staff—that was a surprising positive for me. Finally, set milestones for your project. There aren't strict deadlines otherwise, so it’s easy to keep pushing it off to the last minute because you’re committed to a million other things at business school.