This student found her dream career thanks to an Environment dean's office co-op placement

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

It’s fair to say many mid-career professionals had no idea the job they have today “was even a thing” when they were students in university. Some people are doctors, some are journalists, some are firefighters, but for every one of them there are just as many human resource specialists, account managers and associate digital marketing directors.

Lana Splettstoesser is an advancement professional — or is well on her way to becoming one. It’s a career she didn’t know was actually a “thing” until a co-op placement found her working in the Faculty of Environment in fundraising, events and alumni outreach, which in not-for-profit parlance is known as advancement.

“When I joined the Faculty of Environment I wasn’t exactly sure what advancement was, but by the end of my four months, not only did I know, I knew I loved it.”

Splettstoesser is one of two 2021 Canadian recipients of the CCAE TD Insurance Meloche Monnex Fellowship in Advancement awarded by the Canadian Council for Advancement of Education (CCAE). The opportunity gives a chance for her to spend a year fully immersed in the world of university advancement splitting time being mentored by her former boss Maryam Latifpoor-Keparoutis at the Faculty of Environment’s Advancement Department and working with Kris Cates-Bristol at the University of Waterloo’s Central Office of Advancement team on developing skills for a future in the field.

It’s hardly fair to say this is the brand-new graduate’s second choice as a career, but it wasn’t her first.

“I wanted to be a professional figure skater. I was training with Olympians, going to competitions and everything,” says Splettstoesser. When financial difficulty forced her to quit competitive figure skating, she began exploring something else she had a knack for.

“In high school, I was the Donor Relations Lead on a STEM charity where I worked to raise about $100,000 each year to support programming by writing grant applications, organizing fundraisers, and reaching out to community members. That success, coupled with some advice from her politically-active mother that corporate social responsibility was an emerging career choice, led her to apply with sustainability-focused Environment.

“Nobody comes into a co-op term knowing how to fully work as an advancement professional. But what I look for is a willingness to learn, a positive attitude and an aptitude for connecting with people,” says Latifpoor-Keparoutis, director of advancement for Environment. “I saw that right-away in Lana.”

Now that she is more familiar with the demands of a career in advancement Splettstoesser understands the things that come naturally to her fit perfectly with her new passion.

“What makes a good advancement professional is probably the ability to be a connector,” she says. “To not only connect people, but connect people to causes they’re passionate about. People want to help make a difference.”

Not-for-profit’s and charities in every sector employ advancement professionals, so Splettstoesser had her choice of pathways.

Video created by Abbey Steeneveld, the Advancement co-op student currently in Lana's previous role

“I think working in higher education is well suited for me,” she says. “You get to be in a unique position of being a part of multi-disciplinary problem-solving initiatives. . That’s why I joined the Faculty [of Arts] as a student.”

As for the challenges Splettstoesser will be applying herself to while a TD Insurance Meloche Monnex Fellow are researching, designing and beginning the execution of a university-wide parent giving program, and creating a comprehensive advancement communications and engagement plan for donors and prospects to the University of Waterloo Library. She’ll also work with the Faculty of Environment alumni organizing a class reunion, as well as coordinating a fundraising challenge, managing volunteers, qualifying prospects and mapping out appropriate strategies for communication. One of the things Lana is really looking forward to is managing a co-op while at the Faculty of Environment. Not only will she gain valuable management experience but she will come full circle, nurturing a student in a position she was once in.

Over the course of her year-long fellowship CCAE and TD Insurance Meloche Monnex are generously providing $37,500 to support her in her Internship at Waterloo.

“I am really looking forward to this fellowship. It’s an opportunity I never would have imagined when I began my co-op placement with Environment,” she says. “I just love meeting new people. “I believe in the power of philanthropy and likeminded people coming together to impact change. I am looking forward to playing a part in that.” and I am looking forward to showing up at work as myself.”
A collage of images of lana

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