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AAACF Fellowship Reflection
By Tony Gillum / July 12, 2019
This summer, I had the good fortune of working at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) as a Rackham Public Engagement fellow. The Rackham Public Engagement Fellowship exists to connect graduate students at the University of Michigan to “opportunities for impact” outside of the classroom. This exciting initiative allows Rackham students to explore diverse career paths, improving their professional adaptability for a range of positions and roles.

When first applying to this fellowship opportunity I was embarrassed to admit that—despite having grown up in Ann Arbor—I had never heard of AAACF! After reading about the organization on their website, I was intrigued to learn more about their commitment to philanthropy and community—two concepts I am investigating as part of my dissertation project on Late Medieval English poetry.
Today, having completed my fellowship, I can now see that although I had not heard of AAACF, I had nevertheless felt its impact growing up as a kid in Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor YMCA (where I attended “Kiddie Camp”), the Humane Society of Huron Valley (where my family adopted many beloved pets), and the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum are just a few examples of the many valuable community resources I enjoyed, thanks in part to AAACF’s support.

As a summer fellow, my job was to assist AAACF’s communications team in producing a variety of content. My tasks included writing blog posts, drafting a community newsletter, updating the program for an upcoming event, compiling a slide deck, and performing a review of the recently updated website. As a PhD candidate, much of the scholarly work I do is independent, long-term, and abstract. By contrast, the work I did for AAACF was collaborative, had a much quicker turnaround, and produced tangible results. This work was incredibly rewarding as I got to see materials I helped to create being used to support AAACF’s mission in the community.

While I enjoyed the work I did at AAACF, it was ultimately AAACF’s staff of 12 that made my fellowship such a positive experience. I can honestly say that I learned something valuable from each and every person who works at the organization. The staff’s passion for their mission shines forth in everything they do. The weekly meetings, for example, which I thought might be a bit dull, felt like lively gatherings where friends could celebrate weekly triumphs and strategize about mutual goals and initiatives. The supportive work environment at AAACF gave me an idea of what characteristics to look for in a prospective company when I enter the job market.

Overall, the two months I spent working for AAACF gave me a much better understanding of what skills and strengths I have as an English PhD student and how I might apply these to a number of different careers in philanthropy. I'm grateful to everyone at AAACF who made my summer experience so valuable, and I'm grateful as a native of Ann Arbor to know more about this wonderful community resource and hope the work I did allows others to learn more as well.


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