O’Neill Master of Public Affairs student Ali Emswiller’s mantra hasn’t changed much during her time at IUPUI.
“There are many needs in this world,” she says. “I feel a personal responsibility to do all that I can to help meet those needs in the most effective way possible.”
Ali has always been interested in service organizations both for the help and hope they provide to those in need. She wants to be part of that. She joined IUPUI’s Jagathon dance marathon board, helping to raise record-setting donations for the patients and families at Riley Hospital for Children.
Ali says Jagathon helped her develop a passion for fundraising. During her final year of undergrad, she felt she was hitting her stride and didn’t want to quit. Instead, she wanted to take the next step toward a career in the nonprofit sector.
“I wanted to keep up the momentum and learn even more about what it means to be a leader in my chosen field,” she says. “I’ve always had a passion for learning, and I thought that pursuing a graduate degree would challenge me in new and meaningful ways.”
The next step for Ali was to join the O’Neill School’s MPA program, pursuing a degree in Nonprofit Management.
“I felt that I had so much to learn about fundraising, the structure of nonprofit organizations, as well as leadership in nonprofits, that the O’Neill School was the best fit for me to pursue those goals,” she explains. “My longtime mentor and Jagathon advisor, Pete Hunter, completed O’Neill’s Nonprofit Management MPA program, so it seemed like a worthwhile path for me to pursue as well.”
Her dedication to education, service, and the future of her field has earned her a spot among IUPUI’s Elite 50 graduate students for the 2020–21 academic year.
“I always thought that I was the young, inexperienced one in each of my classes, so to be included among such great company is humbling,” she admits. “I’ve been working to prove myself since Day One in the program. It’s really special to have that hard work pay off at the graduate level.”
Her final year in the program—like many other students’ academic year—has been in a bit of turmoil due to COVID-19. But the pandemic has also served as an opportunity to learn and help those around her.
“This year has certainly been a rollercoaster, but I’ve been able to dive deeper into my coursework than ever before and it has paid off,” she says. “Hearing about the issues people are experiencing right now has fueled my passion. I want to glean everything I can from my MPA program to be positioned to influence policy, rally others, and provide resources.”
Ali points to specific projects where she can have an impact, including her current capstone with Dr. Jamie Levine Daniel, examining whether 911 services are overutilized in Indianapolis.
“This issue dives into so many deep-seated systemic problems that impact an individual’s ability to access primary medical care,” she says. “My group is working to develop an educational program surrounding preventative care and resources. This is a step toward dismantling a system that has led to an increase in cardiac arrests on the Near Eastside.”
To Ali, the project is an example of how her work can provide both hope and help. And she doesn’t believe she’s done learning yet—in fact, she’s considering pursuing a Ph.D. in the future. In the meantime, she plans to use her degree to continue her career in development with the Indiana University Foundation.
“I have had so many amazing experiences during my time as a student at IUPUI, and I want to do all that I can to support future students in having equally meaningful opportunities,” she says. “I am a people person and I know that, as a society, we are stronger together than we are apart.”