Being a first year college student hasn’t stopped Maren Lehman from accessing tools and resources to pursue her passion of educating people about the dangers and realities of eating disorders.
The philanthropic studies major arrived on campus ready to pursue her passion to help others. The Whitley County, Indiana native had already been involved with youth philanthropy “pods” that volunteer and distribute grants to local organizations.
Since high school, Lehman has known she wanted to major in philanthropy at IUPUI and she has jumped at the opportunity to be involved at the school in her first year.
She became involved with the school’s Philanthropy Ambassadors Club, an organization that fosters networking, service, and fundraising for philanthropic studies students.
Lehman has also taken steps to spread more awareness on campus about eating disorders, an issue that has affected her in the past and continues to do so today. “If I can help more girls or boys who have eating disorders, that would be great,” she said.
She conducted several studies about eating disorders at IUPUI with her nutrition professor in the fall.
“I sent out a couple of Google polls and had people fill them out and discuss their experience with eating disorders,” Lehman said. “Granted, the poll didn’t have a large sample size, but it was still shocking that almost half of the students who responded identified as currently having or having had an eating disorder.”
So, she decided to take action.
“I’m a part of my residence hall council, so I decided to create these door hangers for every door that advocate for addressing the multitude of issues that tie to eating disorders,” Lehman said. “I gave students the option to come to talk with me if they wanted to, and several have.”
During a busy first semester, she heard of the David Nathan Meyerson Prize for Leadership and Giving Competition, which offers undergraduate students the opportunity to write an essay about a topic they’re passionate about.
Five students are then chosen to compete in front of the school’s board members, staff, faculty, students, and family members. Two undergraduate students are chosen as winners, and they are awarded a scholarship to re-grant to a nonprofit of their choosing and the opportunity to travel to that nonprofit to learn more.
Balancing a new life in college and Indianapolis, Lehman decided to wait a year before entering the competition. “I thought, ‘I’m just a freshman. I’ll let others with more experience do it first,’ ” she explained.
With encouragement from Pamela Clark, director of student services and admissions, Lehman changed her mind and decided to apply. Her topic? Her passion of eradicating eating disorders.
During the competition, Lehman stated reasons why she believed her advocacy makes a difference, but how a partnership with a larger organization could do even more.
“The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) in New York City works towards not only their vision of a world without eating disorders, but mine as well,” she said.
Despite handling nerves before her speech began, Lehman became calm upon delivering it: “When I explained my passion for eradicating eating disorders, I knew that by advocating for individuals who are combating them, I am already making a difference.”
Stating surprise upon hearing that she won, Lehman already began thinking about ways to collaborate with a fellow student passionate about ending eating disorders. She hopes to travel to NEDA during the summer to learn more about the mental health aspect of eating disorders and how she can work with the organization to advocate and do more.
As she looks forward to three more years learning about philanthropy, Lehman is excited to use her prize to continue to make an impact: “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to make a greater impact in society regarding body image and eating disorders through this generous prize.”