Spartan Showcase: Hannah Xu

Major: Psychology
Year: Senior 

Photo of Hannah Xu

Before this summer, Hannah Xu had only ever considered philanthropy to be a straightforward process: funders raising money for grantees in need. Thanks to a summer internship with Social Venture Partners (SVP) Cleveland, a local resource (part of a larger international organization) that connects nonprofits with financial support, she’s now versed in its nuances. SVP Cleveland has worked with organizations like Adoption Network Cleveland, EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute and Near West Theatre.

Over the course of the summer, the senior psychology major at CWRU spent her time conducting research on other SVP organizations around the world and providing communications and database management support. 

In doing so, she’s come to realize inherent power imbalances are par for the course. It’s this dynamic that shapes the mission of SVP Cleveland, which seeks to make a greater impact by pooling not just funds, but time and expertise from donors to connect them with nonprofits in need.

“It was fascinating to see how SVP is working on making the relationship between funder and grantee more collaborative, acknowledging and building on all the expertise and answers that grassroots organizations have to solve problems,” Xu said.

Xu’s internship was made possible by the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship Program, which matches paid student interns with local nonprofits through grant funding.

As Xu considers what will come after her graduation next spring, she’s taking direct inspiration from her summer internship and her work with Kathy Hallissey, her coach with the Summer Internship Program. Xu now hopes to apply for roles as a program associate within the nonprofit/philanthropic sector.

“I really liked how [Hallissey] does research with the community and is able to implement those findings through programming,” said Xu, who intends to work for a few years before returning to higher education to pursue a graduate degree.

While those postgraduate plans are a ways off, Xu is already working to make a difference for others at CWRU. Xu is a member of Art Forward, a group that organizes art projects with youth at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center. Her other campus roles have included serving as a resident assistant for first-year students and a community representative on a council for the Residence Hall Association.

To expand her understanding of psychology, Xu joined Julie Exline’s lab, where she conducted literature reviews to understand the experiences transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have with religion and spirituality. Xu also is seeking to support students at this intersection on campus. Through her involvement with the university’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Xu is in the process of launching a group that is centered on faith and sexuality to help students navigate this terrain.