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Learning in Action at the University of Virginia

From Nonprofits to Higher Ed

By: 
DeVon Christopher Wade

DeVon WadeDeVon Christopher Wade is a program coordinator for Student Engagement in the division of Student Affairs. DeVon has a background in working for nonprofit organizations and has recently returned to working in higher ed. We asked DeVon a few questions about his past experiences, what led him to his career path, and what advice he would give to students.

What led you to your career in nonprofit organizations and higher ed?

I was always attracted to mission, values, and the communities that would be impacted because of the work of the organization. I knew firsthand what it was like to be on the receiving end of services provided by nonprofits, like being selected as a mentee in the 100 Black Men of Atlanta mentorship program. In both areas, there is an emphasis on building a welcoming and inclusive community, and I am working to help create a space where people can both be and belong. Lastly, there is an understanding that to achieve welcome and belonging requires a collaborative effort. Teamwork makes the dream work!

What is one thing that would surprise students to know about working in a nonprofit organization?

I believe the diversity of backgrounds among their colleagues will be a surprise. A cause or mission of an organization can be so compelling that people will leave their careers and areas of education. I saw this a lot in the nonprofit sector.

What skills and characteristics helped you the most in your past job experiences?

I have worked with children and adults with special needs, undocumented neighbors, unhoused neighbors, immigrant neighbors, and refugee neighbors. My previous work also put me in many interfaith communities and communities that span entire spectrum of socio-economic statuses. I believe curiosity, empathy, flexibility, and a learner’s posture are skills and characteristics that helped me the most in those past job experiences.

What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career with nonprofits or in higher ed?

Whether it is higher ed or nonprofit work, I would encourage students to reflect on what their passions and values are. After that, they should make sure that the prospective institution or organization’s values and theirs align. I would also advise them to take all the time off provided and take advantage of the mental health support that is included in their benefits package.

Group of students on a basketball courtWhat are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced on your career path and how did you overcome them?

Work-life balance and boundaries. I found it very difficult to “clock out” and not give the communities we served access to me outside of work hours. I don’t know that I have completely overcome that, but I have grown significantly on my journey. Prioritizing my own mental health and well-being by going to therapy, using my vacation for actual vacation, and taking several small breaks throughout the day created balance that I needed.

What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of the office?

I am a lifelong Georgia Bulldogs fan #GoDawgs. I enjoy eating my way through new cities and breaking bread with and sharing stories with people. I am a podcast and documentary nerd. I am passionate about the Global Refugee crisis and racial healing. I am passionate about a Christianity that reflects the life of Jesus of Nazareth. My favorite place in the world is Jordan, and I try to get back each summer.

 

DeVon Wade
About the Author: 

DeVon Christopher Wade, program coordinator in Student Engagement, comes to UVA from Sacramento, CA, where he worked in Refugee Resettlement for World Relief. He also taught the Human Diversity & Christian Community course for Southeastern University’s NorCal campus and guest lectured at William Jessup University. He led college students in public service projects locally, as well as Mexico and Jordan.