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Attend the Conference - Get a Job

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This article originally appeared in the SSA eMpirical No. 17 - The Harvard Conference.

Important Update: The American Humanist Association is hiring right now: read more.

SSA board member Maggie Ardiente tells SSA's Senior Campus Organizer how she landed her job with the American Humanist Association by making connections at the SSA's 2004 conference. Come to Boston ready with your resumeā€¦and we're serious about that!


Organizer: Maggie, tell me about your job with the American Humanist Association (AHA).

Maggie: Well, my title is Development Associate. Basically my job is to work closely with the AHA's program and executive staff: I inform donors of AHA's newest programs, I assist members who wish to leave a gift to AHA in their will, and I also work with writing grant proposals.

But mostly my job is research. I identify individuals and foundations that can support our organization. I also research ways to develop better relationships between the AHA and its members.

Also, I'm the new editor of our membership newsletter Free Mind, which basically keeps our donors in the loop on what the AHA has been doing to advance humanism, and what programs we're working on here. I'm also a writer for our AHA blog, Humanist News, which keeps our readers and donors up to speed on what we're up to.

Organizer: Nice, not bad for a recent college grad! So, how did you come across this job?

Maggie: Well, it's an interesting story. I was active in my local campus group, the JMU Freethinkers at James Madison University. We were generally new, and I needed some help. I found out about the opportunities provided by the Secular Student Alliance, including their annual conference that they were holding that year (2004) in Washington DC.

So I went to the conference. It was really helpful. I got to learn all kinds of wonderful things; how to fundraise, how to develop a website, how to increase our members. There were a lot of great sessions on how to improve your campus group and make it really have a presence on your campus.

But more importantly, I really was excited about meeting some of the major leaders of the Freethought Movement. I got to shake hands and talk with Mel Lipman, who was president of the American Humanist Association!

When I went to the conference I met many high-up AHA folks who told me about intern programs they were having that summer. I was really excited. Through them I started talking with then deputy director Roy Speckhardt who told me a little more about the internship. I definitely got connected that way and they hired me as an intern and that summer it turned into a full time job.

Organizer: So Roy's now the Executive Director of AHA, and your boss and you got to meet him informally at a conference, right? You got to talk with him and learn about the organization more informally than in a nerve-wracking interview?

Maggie: Oh, absolutely. When I was at the conference, Mel and Fred were really easy-going and wonderful to talk to. The setting was casual, so I could be myself. I think that really helped.

They were very passionate about the American Humanist Association and I conveyed that passion through my experience as a student leader. It was really a wonderful way to connect with some of these leaders, and it easily led into an internship, and of course my first job - in something I really care about, no less!

Organizer: So Maggie, are you able to draw on your campus activism experience to help you with your job at AHA?

Maggie: All the time! I think one of the benefits of being a former campus leader and working for an organization like AHA is that you know all of the basic ideas of humanism, of atheism, of agnosticism and you know all of the background.

Having attended the 2004 conference for the Secular Student Alliance, I had already met many of the leaders of the Freethought movement.hich, as anyone knows, really helps you work with them via email from then on.

Also a lot of what I was doing when I was a leader for the JMU Freethinkers was fundraising. And now a large part of my job is fundraising. So it's really helpful to have that experience under my belt.

Organizer: Do you have any advice for students who are active in their campus group that would like to find a job like yours?

Maggie: Well, I definitely tell people that if they're interested in working within the Freethought movement they should absolutely take advantage of all the opportunities out there, especially the ones offered by the Secular Student Alliance! If it wasn't for that conference, I would never have met Mel and Roy.

Go to the conferences!

Organizer: Thanks so much. So one last quick question: You're still in D.C. I'm curious, are you still involved in JMU?

Maggie: Yeah, I'm sort of an alumni advisor. I'm still very good friends with the current president and of course he often emails me to get advice on how to do certain things; how to fund-raise, how to get new members. I try to give my experience with that, because I know it can be very difficult, but as long as we continue to support each other and do many of those things, I think we can really help make our campus grow. And P.S, my contact information is on our site, and anyone is welcome to email me if they have any questions about AHA or how I got involved in Freethought in general. You can email me any time!

This article originally appeared in the SSA eMpirical No. 17 - The Harvard Conference.

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