Alissa Vandenbark '22 sits in front of a field of flowers.

Where They’re Headed: Alissa Vandenbark ‘22

As part of her Quaker Voluntary Service fellowship, the psychology major is working as a developmental staff member with MANNA, a Philadelphia nonprofit.

Alissa Vandenbark is moving into the nonprofit sphere after graduating Haverford. The psychology major, who also minored in Spanish and political science at Bryn Mawr, will begin a year-long fellowship with Quaker Voluntary Service in September. As part of that fellowship, she will be working with Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) and their development staff in Philadelphia.

Vandenbark was introduced to MANNA when she applied to QVS. Upon being accepted and assigned to Philadelphia, she interviewed with various partner organizations, and was later paired with MANNA.

“I will be doing some grant writing, gift processing, managing the database of donors and working on different forms of outreach, and possibly other forms of research on areas of interest for the organization,” Vandenbark explained.

Vandenbark lived in Quaker House, an intentional community of Haverford students interested in Quakerism, for a year. That allowed her to not only learn about QVS through informational events, but also prepare for the volunteer and community work she will be doing with MANNA.

“Living in Quaker House for a year is definitely part of why I pursued QVS, as part of the program is a focus on intentional community living, which I think Quaker House prepared me for quite well,” she said.

That experience was coupled with the work she did with her thesis advisor, Assistant Professor of Psychology Ryan Lei. Her thesis experience introduced her to data analysis and honed her writing skills, both of which will be useful in her grant writing work with MANNA. Additionally, getting to take “Medical Anthropology” with Patricia Kelly, visiting assistant professor of anthropology, pushed her further towards working in nonprofits as well.

“I have been interested in nonprofit activism and justice work since I was young, as it is fairly common in Quaker spaces and it feels like an excellent way to use my skills to help some small section of the world be better for the people in it,” Vandenbark said. “I don’t know if I will pursue a career in this long term, but this one-year fellowship appealed to me in part to help me figure that out.”

Vandenbark recommends QVS to anyone interested in pursuing nonprofit work. The financial support and the time limit on the program are in place to make sure that volunteers do not experience burnout.

“I would encourage people to pursue issues they are passionate about, even if they are nervous about burnout,” she said.

Vandenbark is considering pursuing either a graduate degree in psychology or public policy, or staying in the nonprofit sphere.

“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series chronicling the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.