When Anna-Lisa Bowans ’12 was at Grinnell, her commitment to the non-profit world was clear. “Coming into Grinnell, I felt like I wanted to volunteer for the rest of my life because I didn’t understand that there were people who worked for non-profits,” she says.
But then Grinnell funded an internship after her first year. She took classes at Georgetown in the evenings and worked at a literacy non-profit during the day.
“I came to understand that there is this entire sector of development, of non-profits — that these are actual career paths,” Bowans says. “So I came back to Grinnell and took Intro to Development Studies.”
This led to her spending seven months in Jaipur, India. She studied Hindi for a summer on a fellowship funded by the U.S. State Department, and then she participated in an off-campus study program focused on development studies through the University of Minnesota.
Back in Grinnell, Bowans apprenticed at the Ahrens Foundation. “I could see the impact. I did focus groups. I planned events. I oversaw an impact assessment survey,” she says.
Julie Gosselink, president and CEO of the foundation, was a really good mentor to her. “She gave me a lot of space to try things out and develop, but she was really good about giving feedback and helping me structure my time and really listening to me,” Bowans says.
After she graduated, Bowans returned to India, this time to Bangalore, for a social enterprise fellowship. “Grinnell put me ahead of the curve in terms of development studies theory,” she says. “I was way ahead of the curve with my Hindi knowledge.
“I also took a short course on how to change the world, taught by an alumnus, who also taught a course on non-profit management,” Bowans says. “Those things were very helpful to me in India.”
Since graduation, Bowans has been guided by a desire to bring her commitment to non-profit work into alignment with the for-profit sector. She uses the skills she gained at Grinnell — like overseeing an impact assessment survey in town — to help LeadGenius accomplish its social mission.
“My current position is with a for-profit tech company that does sales, but the social mission — employing underemployed people across the globe and paying them a fair wage — is the reason I was hired,” she says.