A German Goes to Indianapolis

Today’s guest blog comes from Martin Baier, vice president of programs and services at The International Center.

Indianapolis has a profound sense of civic duty. You can feel it pulsating through the fabric of the community, from the way corporate leaders donate resources for important initiatives to the number of people who volunteer their time. However, that same sense of civic duty can seem foreign to those of us who come to Indianapolis from outside the U.S. I call myself a member of this group—called expatriates—but I am fortunate to be leading and participating in the programs of The International Center, Indiana’s guide to the world’s cultural landscape and a catalyst for the state’s international growth.

As vice president of programs and services, it is my responsibility to assess the quality of our programs. So attending the Civic Engagement for Expatriates (CEE) course makes perfect sense. This program, created by The Center in partnership with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and made possible by a grant from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, is geared towards expatriates and international assignees at global companies and organizations.

I grew up and spent most of my professional career in Germany, so I am in a similar situation as my 15 classmates who work for Lilly or Allison Transmission. We represent various backgrounds and countries, like Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, France, India, Iran, Turkey, Singapore and Spain. We all have very little or limited experience with volunteerism and philanthropy in the U.S., but here we are in Indianapolis, the hotbed of Hoosier Hospitality.

The sheer magnitude of nonprofit organizations and endless volunteer opportunities here in the U.S. is often difficult to grasp for an expat. How often have I been asked if I would like to serve on a nonprofit board? And how many times have I declined through fear of not knowing or understanding the roles and responsibilities of a board member and the expectations that come with it?

Thanks to my experience with CEE, I no longer have those fears. In every session, I gain knowledge on complex topics including comparative philanthropy, volunteerism, board leadership and fundraising. These are topics I have never been exposed to in the U.S. up until now, which makes me all the more appreciative of the experience.

Indianapolis is fortunate not only to have the strong sense of volunteerism that it does, but also organizations such as Lilly, the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and a bevy of nonprofit organizations that value international voices in shaping the direction of their organizations.


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