FA00 – Calvin College

Joel Lautenbach interned with the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Chicago sales office while on the Chicago Semester program in fall of 2000.   Because of many staff changes within the office Joel learned unforgettable lessons about professionalism, ethics, and office politics. Joel LautenbachHe was able to see inside the sales industry and learned basic account management, and also learned that whatever he did in sales going forward had to be for something he cared about personally.  That perspective ultimately led him to a career in fundraising.

Joel recalls that living in Chicago was exciting – the movement, the diversity, the culture – its right outside your front door.  You quickly learn to be comfortable as an individual in a sea of people and you grow close to the other students who share this special experience with you.

Joel’s internship did lead to full time employment right after graduation: as the Coordinator of Recruitment and Student Services for Chicago Semester during the early/mid 2000s!  It was by working for Chicago Semester and nearly 800 students on the program that he understood how important the program is for professional development but even more importantly, for growing as an adult and shaping the way we see the world around us.  “The internships, faculty and staff have so much to offer a student in the stage of life. It was here that I first learned about Asset Based Community Development (ABCD).  The older, wiser faculty exposed me to principles and values that continue to shape me today –a concern with seeing people develop, to see people and things as half full – full of potential, instead of simply just providing them help today.”

What would Joel share with a student considering the Chicago Semester program?  “The combination of internship, city living, study that Chicago Semester provides can’t be beat.  Internships have long been understood as key to professional development, but stepping out of your comfort zone, learning about one of America’s premier urban environments, and giving the professional life a practice run before graduation is priceless.”

Joel is currently the Executive Director of Development for Samaritas, a large Christian health and human services non-profit serving Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.   His years recruiting for Chicago Semester helped him mature as a person and develop public speaking skills and the ability to connect with people.  After volunteering internationally for a year, Joel realized that fundraising combined his gifts and abilities with causes that he personally cared about, and he’s never looked back!