By Anne Finch
Rachel Welch, a senior this fall at Texas A&M University and the Mays Business School, knows exactly what she wants. She wants to help others. Welch originally planned to graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in finance, getting a few years of experience in the world of investment banking, and later becoming a corporate lawyer. Taking Kyle Gammenthaler’s Strategic Philanthropy class last semester changed Welch’s outlook and her prospective future. She dropped finance as a major and now plans to graduate from the Business Honors Program and go immediately to law school to pursue a master’s degree in social work in addition to her Juris Doctorate.
The Strategic Philanthropy class challenges students to examine the inner-workings of philanthropy by asking thought-provoking questions about the nature of giving. “Over the course of the semester, Kyle Gammenthaler challenged us with giving out $50,000, which sounded very easy at the beginning, but once you get into it, became extremely challenging,” Welch says. “You’re looking at right and right, not right and wrong. At the beginning of the semester we did a lot of reading and soul-searching, looking at personal philosophies behind giving. What kind of causes do you support? Could giving be seen as a negative thing? In what ways should we give? In what capacity?” One of the questions that Welch considers the most eye opening was from a TED Talk that asks whether it’s more valuable to be an aid worker, or to employ five other aid workers. Welch says originally she would have said it’s more beneficial to employ five other aid workers. Now, however, she thinks being an aid worker with a passion for that line of work is more valuable than employing five other people to do the same job. “I know what I’m passionate about and what I enjoy doing and because of that I’m going to be more motivated to accomplish that,” she says. “I see that end goal and I see that vision, whereas maybe if you do hire five aid workers, they might not put as much effort in because they’re not as much behind that goal or that vision, because that’s not what they’re passionate about. That’s something you have to consider when looking at numbers.”
These hard questions about philanthropy led Welch to reexamine her own goals for her future. Finance classes began to make her feel selfish.
“I felt like I was just one person, and I was just a number in those classes,” she says. “I wasn’t getting to see a more direct impact, which is what led me to feel ‘this is what I’m passionate about and this is what I’m good at,’ and combining them. That was where the law school route came in.
“I love philanthropy, and I love helping people. I love that direct contact. Not a whole lot of jobs in the business world have that direct contact with their customers, which is something I really liked about the law school route.”
To other students who are unsure of or reconsidering their future, Welch says it’s important to consider first and foremost what makes you happy. This, she says, is more important than what might make you most successful financially or might give you the most options in the job market.
“You just have to learn for yourself where you feel you’re making an impact. If that’s in the corporate world, that’s incredible. If that’s not for you, if that’s not the way you feel motivated, I would 100 percent say, ‘Find something that gets you excited about getting up every morning and getting out of bed and ready to start the day.’”