You may find Kelsey Harrington on the third floor of University Hall at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, or you may find her at the Kelley School of Business.
Why? Harrington is the first undergraduate philanthropic studies major to also major in business. Odd combination? She found a way to learn about both of her passions and she hopes to turn that knowledge into her profession.
It started when she was younger.
“I was very active in extracurriculars in high school, especially Key Club and Student Council,” Harrington says. “For Key Club, I served as the lieutenant governor on the district board, which operates at the state level. I served on several committees and also helped plan the state convention.”
While Harrington learned about service to the community through Key Club, her first experience with business and philanthropy came from being in Student Council.
“We had a member of Student Council who had to go to the Mayo Clinic. We talked about what we could do to help, and decided on a Dance Marathon,” she says. “I was the student director and we wrote to companies asking them to donate and help out. In six weeks, we raised $24,000 with a school population of 300 in grades 7-12. I realized that ‘wow, there are people stepping up and making a difference.’ That was my first real introduction to corporate social responsibility (CSR).”
What Harrington didn’t realize was that she could study CSR through both a business angle and a philanthropy angle. She applied and was a direct admit to the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington. While registering for freshman classes she chose a nonprofit management and leadership course, taught by a Lilly Family School of Philanthropy alumnus, as an elective.
“I loved the class so much. I spoke with him about it and he recommended that I transfer to IUPUI and major in both business and philanthropy,” Harrington says.
And that’s exactly what she did, although planning on graduating on time with three majors (she also added an international studies major) was not easy.
“I mapped out my college education to make sure that I could do it! Thankfully, I have great advisors who have helped me figure it all out,” she said.
Now, Harrington is deep into her majors and learning how to pull from one to inform the other.
“I piece them together. I always feel like the socially-minded business student and the business-minded philanthropy student, while acting as a connection to my classmates to the other topic,” she says. “The perspective I take on things tends to pull from one of the other majors.”
To tie her interests together, Harrington is interested in learning about and researching CSR.
“There’s a lot of controversy around CSR, which makes me evaluate it from both the business and philanthropy sides,” she says. “I’ve learned through my classes that no one sector can solve the world’s problems. It makes me question; why aren’t we working together more?
“I’ve also learned that where your greatest passion is and where the world’s deepest needs meet is your calling. So, I use that philosophy in my approach to CSR. As a company, what is your strength or where is the need for that strength? How can you fill a need in the best way? It’s all about being strategic and intentional about the help you give. I want to improve the concept of CSR. When it’s approached correctly, it can improve the lives of causes and bring aid to these causes in ways that matter. By improving it, organizations and communities benefit.”
Short-term, Harrington hopes to implement her knowledge and apply it in a spring break learning trip to Boston to learn about CSR in action with General Electric. Then, she plans to also use what she’s learned in an internship in corporate social investment in Cape Town, South Africa during the summer.
Long-term, she has big dreams for her future.
“Anything I want to do, I want to work with intention. I’d like to work for the UN on children and poverty-related issues,” she says. “Being at the school has really opened my eyes to those issues. I could also see myself teaching in the future, and teaching through a lens where business reflects philanthropy, or how philanthropy impacts business.”
For now though, Harrington remains determined to graduate on time with all three of her majors and encourages others interested in business and philanthropy to learn about it.
“If you’re interested in this marriage and want to improve CSR or other parts of business, then follow that passion. Apply the topic in a way that matters to you,” she says.
Harrington credits the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Kelley School of Business for their support.
“It’s been really cool to have two schools that are so invested in their students. I feel listened to and supported by faculty and staff,” she says. “The support and reach from both schools expands far; there are always events with alumni connected to the community. That will only help my career and grow the impact I can have in my community. The schools provide guidance and opportunities for me to be the strongest leader I can be.
“Overall, I’m really passionate and excited about what business and philanthropy can do for others.”
Abby Rolland is the blog content coordinator for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.