Leaders in philanthropy

Leaders in philanthropy

Alumni serve Cedar Valley through executive roles

UNI has a long reputation of graduating professionals into the nonprofit sector. Historically at least 10% of UNI graduates join the nonprofit sector post graduation. Graduates, from a range of UNI degree programs, end up in a diversity of areas — youth organizations, event planning, community and human service providers etc. Alumni also serve philanthropic organizations such as private and family, corporate, and community foundations and trusts.

As several UNI alumni demonstrate, leaders of these organizations are critical in directing the volunteer and financial resources of their organizations to achieve the greater good for their communities. These alumni are responsible for managing combined assets of more than $180 million and annual grantmaking of almost $12 million to the Cedar Valley and northeast Iowa. Their UNI experiences have contributed to their leadership and their work to make our communities great places to live, learn, work and play.

Emily Hanson 13

  • Leisure, Youth & Human Services/Nonprofit Youth
  • Executive Director, Black Hawk County Gaming Association
  • 10 years in philanthropy

“My experience at UNI completely shaped who I am today as a nonprofit professional. I had classes in the recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership department that taught me theoretical approaches to philanthropy while directly connecting me to the community off campus, so I could apply what I was learning real-time. I also had the opportunity to take on leadership roles for student organizations like the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and UNI Dance Marathon. This helped me gain experience collaborating with large groups of people, allowed me to acquire leadership, management and facilitation skills I still use to this day.”

Hannah Luce 21

  • Leisure, Youth & Human Services
  • Executive Director, Waterloo Schools Foundation
  • 4 years in philanthropy

“Philanthropy is rewarding yet hard work. We see community success — and failure — but show up again and again to make our world a better place. Often we are overworked and underpaid, but we wouldn’t change our community roles for the world. In the Cedar Valley, I am surrounded by incredible female leaders that I’ve looked up to for years and that have taught me much of what I know. They’ve passed the baton to me, and now it’s my responsibility to pour into the next generation, create space for them and their leadership, and advance their passions for philanthropy to continue best practices in this work.”

Shelli Panicucci 00

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Executive Director/CEO, Otto Schoitz Foundation
  • 7 years in philanthropy

“Otto Schoitz Foundation’s purpose is to improve the health and wellbeing of the community and its individual residents. My role at Otto Schoitz Foundation is my second career — I was the CFO for a regional health system prior. I made a career change when the health system transferred ownership, which enabled the creation of the Otto Schoitz Foundation. I wanted to be part of the foundation from its inception, to have a hand in developing its mission and ultimately its impact within and across our community. My work has allowed me to directly work with those individuals and organizations who are effecting change for the betterment of all. It’s been very rewarding.”

Megan McKenzie 12

  • Leisure, Youth & Human Services
  • Executive Director, RJ McElroy Trust
  • 11 years in philanthropy

“My first philanthropic experience was through my church as a kid. I thought about philanthropy as a career after I returned from my sophomore study abroad experience in South Africa. It changed my world, and then I changed my major! Opportunities through UNI’s Nonprofit Leadership Alliance shaped everything. From my relationships with faculty to internship experiences I had in the community, UNI helped create the dots I’d connect later.”

Casey Reints, 09, 11

  • Social Work; Master of Social Work
  • Executive Director, Max & Helen Guernsey Charitable Foundation
  • 4 years in philanthropy

“Philanthropic organizations can play many critical roles in our communities. While they obviously provide financial support and sustainability to organizations, programs and communities, they can also be connectors, conveners and more. At the Guernsey Charitable Foundation, we meet passionate people doing all sorts of innovative and effective things. We often find ourselves simply introducing people to one another for support, partnerships and learning opportunities. All critical issues take coordination and collaboration to address, so we try to make sure we are at the table to understand the issues and where we can be of service.”

Sally Timmer 12

  • Communication Studies
  • Executive Director, Cedar Falls Community Foundation
  • 2 years in philanthropy

“Being a leader in philanthropy means truly being involved in the community, supporting nonprofits, connecting with donors, and bringing it all together to do my part to continue making our city a great place to live, work, and play. The Cedar Falls Community Foundation serves as a trusted partner in helping donors impact the community, particularly in areas they are passionate about. Without organizations like ours, many projects or services may go unfunded, which would be a huge detriment to our community. We have been serving Cedar Falls for almost 50 years and are working every day to make a difference in our community.”