In the spring, University of Pennsylvania undergraduate students from a Wharton School management class on leadership and influence worked with Homeless Health Initiative (HHI) to learn about leadership, power and influence principles in our real-life, nonprofit practice.

The five students involved in the project — Carl Palmquist, Athena Panton, Rachel Walter, Adrienne Zand and Edward Zilberbrand — learned about HHI and its work, participated in SPARK programming at shelters, and interviewed HHI team members, shelter staff and HHI stakeholders.

Students came to understand that HHI’s heavy reliance on program donations and using interns as program volunteers contributes to the program’s feeling of powerlessness. They also found the HHI leadership team is seasoned, professional, well connected and influential within the homelessness network in Philadelphia.

They noted HHI has inherent power in reporting to CHOP’s Community Relations Department. There is also power in HHI’s alignment with CHOP priorities and its ability to establish important community partnerships. These are bolstered by the hospital’s stellar reputation in Philadelphia and nationwide.

Overall, the students gained a better understanding of the functioning of nonprofits, the connection of business to social responsibility, and issues involving family homelessness. They also had fun spending time with the children living in shelters.

We were excited to have the opportunity to work with Wharton and look forward to our next experience with Wharton students.