January 10, 2021 20th Anniversary, Blog

Fellow Ezgi Ilhan Maximized Her Professional Opportunities at The Fund

Ezgi Ilhan’s journey working in education began during her second year at Loyola University Chicago as an algebra teacher on weekends. Working with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) eighth graders looking to strengthen their math skills, students were often indifferent during the Saturday morning lessons—but Ilhan was persistent. 

The students made the job extremely rewarding. One time, after Ilhan needed to miss a lesson, her students made sure to let her know she was missed. 

“That’s when I realized,” Ilhan said, “I’m here for them.”

Ilhan’s experiences as an algebra teacher were so impactful that they motivated her to learn more about education issues  and grow her impact. Later that year, she applied for a summer fellowship through New Sector Alliance and was matched with The Fund. 

She was eager to make the most of an opportunity to have professional exposure in nonprofits.

Developing content to promote principal engagement, Ilhan travelled around the city of Chicago to interview outstanding principals, wrote blog posts and developed videos highlighting their work for The Fund’s website and annual reports. 

Looking beyond her job description, she was curious to learn about other team members’ work. 

As an economics major, Ilhan was intrigued by how The Fund used data to support its mission. She expressed an interest in data analytics and was told, “Great, do you want to do it?”

By collaborating with different team members, she gained exposure to projects involving data while simultaneously expanding her network.

“It was my first taste of networking, which can sound daunting as an undergraduate or recent graduate, but it’s not. They really encourage it there.”

That summer, Ilhan built many meaningful relationships and is still in contact with some to this day.

Ilhan had never learned so much about Chicago’s education system. Through her work at The Fund, she dove deeper into the education sector and discovered more about the different organizations that support it, as well the role that data plays in making a difference.

She maximized the opportunity as a Summer Fellow to strengthen her writing and networking skills as well as develop her professional etiquette—all of which she employed at positions after her summer tenure. In her more recent role as a freelance consultant, she still calls on those same skills to provide communications and marketing support to small businesses and nonprofits. 

In fall of 2020, Ilhan began attending the London School of Economics to pursue a master’s in International Migration and Public Policy. Her early interest in helping others developed into a passion for international development; she will be using her skills to support refugees. 

Although her future work is not in education, Ilhan still deeply believes in the meaningful work that The Fund does. 

“The Fund incrementally works toward a goal of improving education for all Chicago students, and that’s wonderful.”