Reading, Networking, and Influencing Social Change with Student Ally Merwitz
Ally Merwitz (Cohort 33) has never been one to turn a blind eye towards a great opportunity or a chance to help people. So when the finance student with an aptitude for inspiring social change spoke with the COO of One for the World (OFTW), she knew something great could come from their connection, and she had just the idea: form a partnership with UMD. She may have had a full plate then, but some ideas are like fine wines or a 401(k); they only get better with time.
Ally’s connection with One for the World began at the Smith School’s Center for Social Value Creation, where students and faculty work to create a positive impact through business. This often comes through connecting with non-profits in the industry, including One for the World, an organization applying the philosophy of effective altruism to optimize the impact a donation of one percent of a donor’s income can have. Effective altruism is a pretty cool concept– it’s essentially getting the most bang for your buck through the lens of social good. We often make donations without a second thought of how the money is really used to make a difference or what costs it may go to cover; all we know is it saves lives or feeds the hungry. One for the World takes a different approach: donations are dispersed to organizations maximizing the impact of a dollar identified by GiveWell, another non-profit. This may be through feeding the most people at a given time or ensuring enough medical resources reach those in need to save the most lives. This is effective altruism at work, and together, GiveWell and One for the World’s partnership is not only saving lives but relentlessly tackling global poverty one percent at a time.
Fast forward to spring 2020, and there’s no better time to start a chapter at the University of Maryland, which would be one member of a global collegiate network. Collegiate chapters welcome guest speakers to campus while also helping students take the pledge to give one percent of their income following graduation. In Ally’s words, “It’s about pledging now to help when they can, for about the price of a cup of coffee a day.” Throughout the summer, Ally will be publicizing, recruiting, and building a firm foundation to build a movement of philanthropy upon as president of the budding organization. If you’re interested in learning more about One for the World, thinking about joining Maryland’s incoming chapter or executive board, or want to sign up for the group’s mailing list, click here!
Spring hasn’t only brought new opportunities to help others, but the perfect balance of self-exploration and growth to go along with it as well. After years of suspense, Ally finally had a chance to crack open J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, although her recommended read has to be Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. Stevenson’s book inspired her to take an interest in the power of law to help those without the resources to help themselves. Not long after turning the last page, Ally found herself reaching out to QUEST alumni who have broken out of the business, engineering, and computer science fields to learn more about their experiences and how they found themselves where they are. Her experience networking has proved priceless, and helped her to take an interdisciplinary approach to not only her work, but also her career path as she continues her journey. Ally’s seasoned networking skills have also benefited the greater QUEST community through her work with QUEST Corporate. She’s a part of the team framing next year’s events through a design thinking approach, and they want to hear from current students! Share your thoughts in the QUEST Corporate survey here!
With a busy semester ahead, Ally is truly making the most of her summer, putting the cherry on top with an internship in GE Aviation’s Aviation Finance Division in Cincinnati. Here, she’ll be paired with a mentor before breaking into data collection on an assigned topic. Once she’s received her data, she’ll be undertaking a personal project which she’ll later scale to fit corporate needs and present to a board of directors. She’s sure to have plenty of opportunities to apply everything she’s learned in QUEST to her work over the next few months!
It’s been quite the adventure, and although it’s barely halfway through, there have already been enough twists and turns to keep her searching for the next step. Ally’s advice to anyone uncertain about what they want to do in the future?
“Don’t be afraid to try something new and expand your horizons. You never know what might pique your interest and where that will lead you. Pushing yourself beyond what you think you are capable of gives you the chance to accomplish more than you could ever imagine.”
There’s no time like the present to dig down and do that thing you’ve been waiting to do or learn a little bit more about something new. Never be afraid to jump into it– you just might love where your next chapter leads you.