The following column was written by Lily Fleischmann. Lily (she/her) is a public policy major with a double minor in innovation & entrepreneurship and nonprofit leadership and social innovation at the University of Maryland. Lily is committed to the study of policy and leadership, and believes in applying the innovation mindset to the public sector to create efficient social change. Last year, she founded Pro-Choice Students at UMD, the first reproductive rights focused organization at UMD. Since then, Lily has worked to establish and grow the organization as its first president. In addition, she interns at Malala Fund, a global nonprofit dedicated to reducing the gender gap in education. This upcoming year, she has been elected to serve as the School of Public Policy Student Government Association’s Undergraduate President. Lily is a member of both the College Park Scholars’ Public Leadership program and the Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program. She is from Atlanta, Georgia, and in her free time enjoys reading, painting, hiking and cuddling with her dog Toby.
Make social change a conscious priority in your life. Allow yourself to feel angry. To feel upset. Don’t get numb. Don’t accept injustice. Don’t take 'no' for an answer. Channel your feelings into a commitment to the work that needs to be done.Lily Fleischmann Do Good Intern and Ambassador '22
Tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to the University of Maryland?
I’m from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. I chose to go to college out of state because I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. I was drawn to the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and its proximity to D.C., which I knew would provide me with awesome opportunities to intern in the policy field. I was also inspired by what I read about the Do Good Institute and UMD’s commitment to social change; I knew that I wanted to do work that would make a positive impact in the world, and saw resources here that would help me get there. I felt drawn to UMD because I could see that social change is a priority here. I love that the Do Good Institute gives students the support and guidance they need to solve problems and change the world. Getting to root for both football and basketball teams is a plus too!
What inspired you to major in Public Policy, double minoring in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Nonprofit Leadership and Social Innovation? How do you see all of these studies intersecting?
I have always wanted to tackle the world’s problems head on. I was raised in a Jewish community and was taught that repairing the world is every individual’s responsibility. I want my career to focus on making the world a better place and improving lives, and I decided to major in public policy because it allows me to learn the context of our global problems, how to analyze them, find potential solutions and create real change. At the start of college, I thought this path might be through nonprofit organizations, and so I took classes focused on nonprofit leadership. However, I was surprised to find the story of a weakened sector that can rely too heavily on its donors, in addition to other issues: small organizations are up against massive global problems, difficulty attracting talent due to traditionally lower salaries, and, unlike a for-profit business, nonprofits tend to have spending restrictions on their profits that can limit their growth. To create much more good change, I’d like to innovate a solution that will allow the sector to strengthen nonprofit capability itself. I plan to bring the principles of innovation and entrepreneurship into the public sector to make this vision a reality.
In the public policy program, we attack and analyze issues through every possible perspective, finding multiple options for change and thinking through all possible outcomes and involved parties. The innovation mindset applies to this process perfectly, encouraging creativity, collaboration, and grounded solutions. I envision people-based processes that address the urgent needs of both nonprofits and the people they serve, with no limits or preconceptions. The goal is for policymakers, businesses and communities to better share visions and better collaborate to solve problems more efficiently. I’m excited to grow these skills and learn more about how innovation can be applied to government systems in the Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellows program this upcoming year.
How did you hear about the Do Good Institute, and how have you been involved with the Institute throughout your time at UMD?
I first heard about the Do Good Institute through the university’s website before committing to Maryland, and had been excited about it before even stepping foot on campus! I was especially excited about the Do Good classes about social change, participating in fellowship programs, and checking out the Do Good challenge. I became a Do Good Ambassador last year as a freshman and joined the team as an intern in the fall of 2022. As an intern, I go to different freshman classes and lead an interactive presentation that encourages students to think about methods of serving their community and the resources at UMD that are available to help them do good. I also help plan events, facilitate networking nights, and spread the word about DGI to other students. I’m a proud member of the Institute and love participating in our programs, sharing about the Do Good Institute to my friends and classmates, and being a part of the Do Good community.
What organizations and clubs are you involved with on campus and how do they relate to your goals and education?
In May of 2022, I founded Pro-Choice Students at UMD, our campus’s first reproductive rights organization. We advocate for reproductive justice, share educational resources with our peers, support abortion clinics here and everywhere, and help students at Maryland access contraceptives, Plan B, and safe abortions. As the founder, this has been a learning experience in leadership. I had to build my own team, create systems and operations for a brand new entity, set priorities and goals, and figure out how to keep everyone engaged and motivated. In our first year, Pro-Choice Students has raised more than $1,000 for Baltimore Abortion Fund, shared more than 40 educational Instagram posts, and hosted a panelist event featuring leading activists across the field.
I’m also involved in Tamid, Hillel, College Democrats, Zeta Tau Alpha, Mortar Board Society, 17 for Peace and Justice, and Terrapin Trail Club. I love community building activities and working toward diversity, equity and inclusion.
Tell us about your most recent experience interning with the Malala Fund. What led you to pursue an opportunity with the organization and what did you learn from your internship?
In my nonprofit leadership and social innovation minor, I’ve been asked to do many projects where I focus on a specific organization’s work and methods. I studied the Malala Fund for one of these projects and became incredibly inspired. Malala Fund’s mission is to create a world in which every girl has access to 12 years of free, high-quality education. Every community in every country has unique barriers that prevent girls from going to school. Rather than try to do the work for these communities, Malala Fund empowers local educators and activists with the resources they need to tackle their barriers. I think this is a prime example of an organization employing innovative strategies to make real, measurable change around the world. Working at Malala Fund taught me more about global advocacy work, girls’ education policy, and nonprofit operations. I met so many amazing people and absolutely loved my experience.
Congratulations on being elected as the Policy Student Government Association (PSGA) Undergraduate President for the upcoming semester! What are PSGA’s plans for next year?
Thank you! I’m super excited about the position and the opportunity to serve the School of Public Policy and its students. At its core, public policy is all about problem solving, and the students who chose to study it are changemakers, activists, dreamers… they put others before themselves. My priority is to represent the amazing students of this school and respond to their needs with attentive, dedicated public service. As president, I will work to ensure that all students feel represented and supported in the School of Public Policy by advocating for policies that promote equity, diversity and inclusion in every aspect. I plan to hold office hours where I can listen directly to the needs of students to ensure these needs are met. As for events, I’m planning on elevating students’ career searches by hosting more networking nights and inviting engaging speakers to share their experiences and expertise with students– using our proximity to D.C. to bring in leaders from all backgrounds. In addition, I hope to create a UMD SPP networking page that connects policy students to internships, jobs and other opportunities to help them achieve their career goals.
What do you think is a common barrier students face in making positive social change while in college? What would you say is the key to overcoming this?
I think the biggest barrier college students face is that just being a college student is already overwhelming and exhausting. By the end of the day, I’m always tired. The news is upsetting, and it’s easy to feel dejected. My advice is: make social change a conscious priority in your life. Allow yourself to feel angry. To feel upset. Don’t get numb. Don’t accept injustice. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Channel your feelings into a commitment to the work that needs to be done.
For more information on Pro-Choice Students at UMD, please visit their Instagram page or reach out through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on PSGA, visit their website or Instagram page.