PHENND Fellows Spotlight: Emily Irani

Posted by PHENND on May 14, 2018

Name: Emily Irani
University: University of Pennsylvania
Major(s): Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) with a minor in Consumer Psychology


Where are you from? Do you have a fun fact about your hometown?

I’m from a land far far away called Los Angeles, California. I didn’t realize how far away it was until I came to Philadelphia. Nonetheless, I absolutely loved it growing up. It is as beautiful as people say it is (unpopular opinion: traffic is not that bad). There’s also nothing quite like living within a 15-mile radius of both the beach and mountains. However, the true gift of Los Angeles is this brilliant, fun fact: it’s illegal to lick a toad. How incredible is that. It’s only the Colorado River toad that is questionable because it produces toxins with psychoactive effects if inhaled. Stay in school, kids.

How did you hear about PHENND and why did you apply?

I heard about Philly/PHENND Fellows from a newsletter the Penn Career Service’s office sends out. I also found it while searching for public service Philly jobs after graduation. I applied because I was looking to stay in Philadelphia for an extra year and the fellowship was perfectly in line with my past experiences. I spent my sophomore college summer working for the Philadelphia government and did a Penn public service internship my junior year. I was very familiar with Philadelphia as a city and wanted to serve its community and give back in any capacity I could.

Where are you working? What do you do?

I am serving at the Center for Hunger Free Communities housed in Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health. I am the Project Assistant for the Building Wealth and Health Network, a trauma-informed financial self-empowerment program for families with young children. We teach our members in a community of their own peers how they can build their assets, progress their futures, and of course, improve their health and wellbeing. Our main goal is to help families break the cycle of poverty using the Sanctuary Model in financial education. The Network is also built into the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in Philadelphia.

My main priority as Project Assistant is to maintain and grow an effective Advisory Council and its subcommittees. I organize monthly meetings for each of the 4 subcommittees and one meeting per quarter for the entire Council. I prepare the agenda, outreach to members, facilitate the meeting and take minutes. I manage the Network phone and transfer messages to appropriate staff. I maintain the Network’s social media presence, take pictures, compile quotes and messages from members, and encourage staff to write blogs. I also do a cool stories project where I conduct interviews with members and write a story on their life and how the Network has impacted it. It is a lot of work, so I’m always doing something at work and work really hard every day. This is a great organization who deserves it.

What is your office and daily schedule like?

My office is really lively. We work hard, but like to have fun together too. Everyone is super friendly too. My daily schedule really depends on the day! If I have a subcommittee meeting coming up (which is usually always), I will prepare for it by writing the agenda, printing out the materials and reaching out to the members on it. Otherwise, I could be talking with members, editing blogs, writing protocols for the Advisory Council, collaborating with staff on the future goals of the Advisory Council, or simple database upkeep. It’s never really a dull day.

What is your favorite memory so far during your VISTA term?

The relationships I’ve built with the members have been the most rewarding during my VISTA term. All of the members are such passionate, beautiful people. Specifically, the first story did was on a beloved member named Robert. He is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met and we have developed a close relationship throughout my year of service. He has broadened my perspective on life, which I am thankful for. He has also gone through much strife and we try to support one another through hard times. That’s basically how I feel about all the members.

Talk about a challenge and a success you have had at your position:

A success I’ve had is that I hosted a successful Advisory Council meeting in November with 25 people. The Advisory Council started with 9 people, so I felt accomplished to have recruited more people in my time at the Network. It was awesome that members still were interested in being engaged to support our program and I think my community outreach work and organization helped with that.

A challenge I’ve had is also wonderful for our program. We have been expanding the Network program to Northwest Philadelphia at the CareerLink Center, so that has slowed down some projects of mine such as the stories project and the blog writing process for staff. The team has not had much time outside of the transition. I hope to make both more of a priority during my last months at the Network.

What do you hope to get out of the year?

I just want to learn and grow as an individual. I’m not sure what my next steps are. Before I committed to PHENND Fellows, I almost moved back home to pursue a career in the music industry. I am considering many paths at the moment, so my only goal is to learn from my peers and explore my interests.

If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning medal for?

Cooking/baking homemade food. Fun fact: I wanted to be a chef when I was younger.

Also, Truth or Dare. That game has nothing on me, I will do anything no matter how ridiculous.


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