Andrew Bozzelli, MBA’10, grew up doing volunteer work with his parents and siblings. Now that he’s the parent of three children, setting the same kind of example for them is on his mind. “When you start your career, your time is all spent on work and family,” he said, “but I made the decision that I had to find some way to get community service back into my life. I’m trying to reciprocate what my parents instilled in me, that sense of the importance of giving back.”
In 2014, Bozzelli signed up with the Alumni Board Connect program created in 2013 by the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at UChicago’s Booth School of Business. Alumni Board Connect matches Booth MBA alumni with Chicago–area nonprofits that work to address social challenges and have openings on their boards of directors. Alumni and nonprofits both benefit: Nonprofits need talented, creative thinkers to serve on their boards and help them grow, and alumni who participate get the chance to expand their personal networks and their leadership skills. More than 170 alumni have joined the boards of more than 100 nonprofits through the program.
Bozzelli selected performing arts as an area of interest while filling out his Alumni Board Connect application and was matched with Imagination Theater, a participatory theater company based in the Irving Park neighborhood since 1966. He wasn’t familiar with the company and says he wouldn’t have found out about their board opening without Alumni Board Connect, but “when you hear what they do, it resonates immediately,” he said. Most of the company’s current work involves interactive performances at K–12 schools that engage kids in social-emotional learning and give them tools to deal with tough issues like bullying and sexual abuse.
Fundraising, strategic planning, serving on the finance committee, acting as board secretary, and helping the company connect with more schools have been some of the tasks Bozzelli has taken on as a board member. With a staff of three, he says, the theater has “a tiny budget compared to a number of other organizations in town, so any fundraising support we can provide goes a long way.” Alumni Board Connect workshops have taught Bozzelli useful fundraising strategies; annual On Board conferences in Chicago, New York, and Hong Kong cover that topic and other aspects of board service.
“To me, the value of serving on a board has to do with getting out of the daily grind and realizing that there’s more out there than the work project you’re consumed with. It’s an opportunity to take the blinders off and realize there are bigger, more important things going on in the world, and you can do a little bit to help somebody who’s doing great work.”
As the coronavirus pandemic shut down live performances nationwide, Bozzelli and his fellow board members have worked with the theater’s staff to revamp its offerings. “It’s obviously a challenging environment, so we’re working through how we can redo the format and continue to provide the valuable service they offer,” he said. During the summer of 2020, the company has offered online workshops for kids all over the country, from pre-K through high school.