Erin Hedges, M.A. ’13, had worked in the nonprofit field for many years, was managing her own nonprofit consulting firm Hedges in Indianapolis, and had started her family.
A feeling, however, was drawing her back to school.
“I had always wanted to pursue a graduate program, but wanted to be very intentional about what I wanted to study. I knew that the then-Center on Philanthropy was located in Indianapolis and had a well-known master’s program in philanthropic studies. It became a priority for me to complete the program when I realized this was the kind of work I was going to do forever,” Erin said.
She enrolled in the executive master’s program while also continuing her full-time work with her consulting business.
“I took one course at a time and during the summers, I took two. I completed the program in four years,” she said. “There’s tremendous value in the program as a mid-career professional. You’re able to engage with the program and courses while looking at the work you’ve previously done and identifying the future work that needs to be done. In addition, you’re easily able to be a working professional and balance coursework and family.”
Erin continues to use her courses in her professional work, taking three of the elective courses in the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy designation.
“Those courses gave me a broader perspective of the motivations behind donor behavior and how tax strategy plays a role in giving,” she said.
Erin has also given back to the school and now serves on the alumni board.
As a result of earning the degree, Erin has grown Hedges to advise nonprofits in a more holistic way. While the company used to focus its service line solely on grant services, it now provides strategic planning and program development evaluation services as well. Erin credits her coursework for that evolution.
“That’s been a direct result of me being able to look at the work that we were doing in the sector through the lens of my course work, and then look at new ways we can help them build capacity, become more sustainable, and have greater impact,” she said. “Through my degree program, I was able to deepen and expand my knowledge. Now, I see the work that we’re doing at Hedges through a wider lens and how the work we do relates to transformative social change.”
Erin also advises current students to take advantage of opportunities available, encouraging them to look for ways to connect with people who are working in areas of interest to the students.
“Someone introduced me to a woman who was doing what I wanted to be doing,” Erin said. “She ended up being my first client in central Indiana. People at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy want to help you find your place where you can make a difference.”