Madelynn Arana became a wildlife biologist for the Peace Corps in Guatemala.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Guatemala: Peace Corps Guatemala: The Peace Corps in Guatemala: Madelynn Arana became a wildlife biologist for the Peace Corps in Guatemala.

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 01, 2001 - 3:58 pm: Edit Post

Madelynn Arana served as a wildlife biologist for the Peace Corps in Guatemala



Madelynn Arana served as a wildlife biologist for the Peace Corps in Guatemala

Staff profile Madelynn Arana




Madelynn Aranaís career path to her present job as director of Development in University Advancement was unusual, to say the least. The recipient of a bachelorís degree in natural resource management, Arana started as a naturalist and park supervisor in various Wisconsin locales before becoming a wildlife biologist for the Peace Corps in Guatemala.

"Itís not as unusual as it seems," said Arana. "As a member of the Peace Corps, you serve as an ambassador of your country. As a fundraiser, you are serving as an ambassador of Illinois State to the alumni, faculty, friends and supporters of the University. Both involve travel, meeting new people and building bridges."

According to Arana, fundraising is crucial for public universities because only one-third of Illinois Stateís current needs are met through state dollars. That is one of the reasons Illinois State has started seeking funds through the comprehensive capital campaign.

A professional fundraiser since 1989, Arana has served as executive director for several nonprofit organizations, two of which had no additional development staff. "Over the years, Iíve done just about everything related to fundraising- phonathons, direct mail, special events, major giving and capital campaigns," she said. Arana credits active participation in the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the National Council on Planned Giving with helping hone her skills.

Arana helps meet the development needs of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), the largest college on campus with 16 departments. Together with the CAS dean and other faculty, Arana helps the college identify projects with high fundraising potential and develops strategies to meet those needs. "My role is to help prospective donors articulate their values and interests and to match them with University needs," she said. "Itís important to talk about CASís strengths and points of pride. When there is a good fit between the donorís values and the Universityís needs, giving is a joyous and fulfilling experience for everyone involved."

In 1998, Arana attained her Certified Fundraising Professional credentials, a time intensive and scholarly pursuit. "Professionals need at least five years experience along with a certain level of success before they are allowed to take a rigorous exam," said Arana. "The credentials require dedication to continuing education in the field of philanthropy and a commitment to high ethical standards and practices in fundraising."

Since then Arana has started a graduate program in Communication at Illinois State. "I enjoy learning, and I think communication is a key ingredient to success in fundraising. To develop a rapport with individuals, you must be able to listen and draw them out. Before they invest significant resources, donors need to trust the organization and its representatives. The more I learn about the communication process, the better I will be at my job."

Arana provides leadership in her profession by serving as president of the Central Illinois Planned Giving Council and sitting on the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. "Those organizations have helped me tremendously throughout the years. It feels good to give something back."

In reflecting upon her time in Guatemala in the Peace Corps, Arana talks about the joys of experiencing another culture and the enriching experiences of making friends in the communities where she lived and worked. "I made lasting friends with indigenous people who had very little formal education, but were wonderful, highly intelligent people," she said.

After 7 1/2 years of living overseas, Arana was surprised by the culture shock when she returned to the U.S. "I had never seen an ATM machine, the telephones were no longer a dime per call, and it blew my mind to see grocery stores with entire rows with nothing but bread," she said. The U.S. commercialism was a little unsettling after living in a simpler place, she said, noting "It was like going to Disneyland as a child, and thinking Ďwow look at all that stuff.í"

Arana was able to share her enthusiasm and culture shock with her Guatemalan husband, Conrado, who had never lived in the U.S. They were also able to share their excitement with her 12 siblings and mother, many of whom still reside in Wisconsin, where Arana grew up.

Today Arana reverts to her college major for her chief hobby-birding. "Itís a great joy to identify the sounds in my environment, and itís relaxing to walk in the woods," she said. "It keeps me sane. I also enjoy chess. Although Iím not especially good at it yet, I enjoy the mental stimulation." Arana also enjoys cooking Guatemalan cuisine, searching the Internet for recipes.



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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Guatemala; Special Interest - Wildlife Biology

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