A summer internship in London, England, with Common Purpose, a nonprofit devoted to international leadership development, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, said Ayele d’Almeida, ’20. 

“Common Purpose puts into action a lot of what I’ve learned,” said the Bonner Scholar, who is majoring in leadership studies and political science. “Like the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, it takes an interdisciplinary approach to leadership.”

D’Almeida spent most of her 10-week internship working with Common Purpose’s Student Experiences, helping coordinate the logistics of a program aimed at developing leadership in college students from around the world.

One of the highlights of her internship came during her second week on the job when she accompanied Student Experiences participants on a trip to Pardubice, Czech Republic.  

“The students visited government, nonprofit, and corporate leaders in Pardubice to learn about the challenges they face in using technological innovation to shape social change,” d’Almeida said. “The students then worked together to develop possible solutions to the problems the leaders had outlined.

“Common Purpose focuses on the process of developing solutions as a group, not on implementing solutions. It reminded me of my group work in Jepson, where learning is about the process, not the end result.”

Born in the West African nation of Togo, d’Almeida immigrated to the United States with her family when she was five, settling in Minneapolis. After participating in a language immersion program in France as a high school student, she yearned to have another study-abroad experience before she graduated from college.

That became possible when d’Almeida received a competitive Benjamin A Gilman International Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to support her study-abroad experience and a Robert L. Burrus Jr. Fellowship from the Jepson School to support her academic Jepson internship at Common Purpose. 

Having the opportunity to interact with international leaders, co-workers, and program participants within the context of an international nonprofit enriched her learning, she said.

“I was also excited to see so many women in leadership roles at Common Purpose,” d’Almeida said. “In Dr. Hoyt’s Leadership in a Diverse Society class, we talked about women in the workplace and how their leadership styles can differ from men’s. I made sure to ask the women supervisors at Common Purpose how they developed their leadership skills.” 

Her direct supervisor and entrée to the internship was Jepson School alumna Louise Andersson, ’15, Common Purpose Student Experiences development director. “I appreciated her knowledge and ability to convey the purpose of the programs to followers, including me and my co-workers,” d’Almeida said of Andersson.

While working with Student Experiences, d’Almeida learned about a Common Purpose program dedicated to developing a group of diverse, young, Chicago leaders, who will shape their city for the next generation.

“I saw more of my Bonner [Scholar] self when I talked to the woman coordinating the Chicago project,” d’Almeida said. “She worked with community partners to make change and emphasized that leaders come in different forms, that it’s not always the most formally educated who make the best leaders.”

D’Almeida said she has found this to be true in the work she has done in the Richmond community as a Bonner Scholar.

Now in her senior year, d’Almeida is pondering life after graduation. “You can do a lot of different things with a leadership studies degree,” she said. “I want to find something that makes my heart sing!”