A student at the USC Price School of Public Policy has given much thought to global philanthropy.
“I’m more interested in creating an impact on society rather than just making a living,” said Qi Yan, a master of public administration student.
That simple philosophy has taken Yan many places — including the Beijing office of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she worked as an intern.
At the foundation, she joined the policy advocacy team and helped promote philanthropy in China. Yan also worked on China for Africa, a program to leverage the Chinese government’s resources and experience to promote development in Africa and help identify potential partners in the public and private sectors.
Yan used her bilingual skills to translate documents — ranging from academic papers to budget materials — from English into Chinese and vice versa, and contributed knowledge and ideas that she gained at USC Price. In addition, she attended meetings between the foundation, academics and representatives from Chinese government ministries. The Gates Foundation experience gave Yan a better understanding of both the opportunities and the challenges for philanthropy in China.
The donors, organizations and government need to work together to promote philanthropy in China.
“I see there are a lot of opportunities,” she said, explaining how wealthy Chinese citizens are more and more willing to take part in philanthropy. “On the other hand, I also see we need some improvements on the policy side because we don’t have a comprehensive institutional infrastructure to encourage donors and organizations. The donors, organizations and government need to work together to promote philanthropy in China. This is the most important takeaway.”
The internship also provided introductions to professionals and experts in the field.
“They gave me a lot of advice about working in the philanthropy world,” said Yan, who also witnessed the power of leverage. “The Gates Foundation puts a great emphasis on leveraging the resources of different countries and fields to maximize the effectiveness and impact of their programs,” she said. “Collective work is much more powerful than that of any individual or single organization. As one of the most influential foundations in the world, the Gates Foundation has a profound understanding of this idea, and we can see it in their daily work.”
A strong academic foundation
Yan credits her strong academic grounding with helping her earn the coveted internship. As an undergraduate at Beijing Foreign Studies University, Yan majored in Chinese language and literature, and discovered her passion for volunteering. Before long, she began connecting with like-minded volunteers at other universities in Beijing.
“We all loved doing volunteer work, but we did not have a community or a platform to share our experiences or all of our information,” she said. “So we often gathered together to talk about these things.”
Yan joined an organization that posted various nonprofit volunteer and internship opportunities on a website for college students in Beijing, becoming a strong advocate for civic engagement, especially among young people.
In China, she said, many college students “don’t realize what power they have to change their environment or change their society. It is not only the government’s responsibility; it’s also everybody’s responsibility to do that.”
Because the Chinese nonprofit sector is still emerging, Yan recognized that she could learn a lot from the more established American nonprofit sector. As a result, she decided to attend a graduate program in the United States.
Alumni from her undergraduate institution recommended USC Price as one of the most highly ranked public administration programs in the U.S. By the time she received her offer letter, it was already “my dream school and my dream major,” she said.
“The Price School has many great professors and great academic resources,” she said. “And we have lots of great students that have a lot of work experience.”