For Lillian Chase ’23, Power of Making Change Set Her on a Different Professional Path
Like many Keene State students, Lillian Chase ’23 discovered that her education didn’t need to be singularly focused. Quite the opposite, in fact. Service opportunities and internships sparked new passions and opened her eyes to possibilities she hadn’t imagined.
That includes a full-time job upon graduation in a couple of months.
Lillian has accepted a position as Program Coordinator at Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, a Keene-based nonprofit that provides space, tools and connections for entrepreneurs to build strong businesses, thriving local economies, and vibrant communities.
The job offer follows a ranging, immersive internship at the Center, then a part-time position, where Lillian helps to organize and promote local and national programs and events, including Radically Rural, an annual two-day summit offering solutions for problems facing small towns and cities. The event is held at downtown Keene venues in September and attended by hundreds of registrants from dozens of states. Lillian also writes grant applications, culls and analyzes data, and dabbles in marketing. And she takes on most of the nonprofit’s writing assignments.
Grant writing was rewarding, she said. “As a way to help my community that made a huge impact on me.”
A Morris August Honors Program recipient, Lillian came to Keene State knowing that she wanted to be an English major, with a writing option, and to minor in Literature and Philosophy. It seemed a perfect fit. “What I have learned since is that there are so many more writing career opportunities than in the publishing field.”
Further down the road, Lillian aspires to work at a social justice nonprofit.
“She can literally go anywhere she wants at this point, because of the skills she has,” said Julianna Dodson, deputy executive director for Hannah Grimes, who hired Lillian. “Her No. 1 ability is that she has the perfect balance of knowing when to ask and when to make a decision on her own. … When students come to us, we always want it to be mutually beneficial. We want it to be a steppingstone to a professional opportunity.”
For Lillian, it was just that.
The pivot in Lillian’s career interests occurred early at Keene State, when as a freshman she participated in a service iniative in Atlanta, Georgia, working with the Medici Project. The venture was part of Alternative Break, which is a Keene State program consisting of domestic and international service-based trips during the College’s winter, spring and summer breaks, as well as on select weekends throughout the academic year.
“Every afternoon we volunteered at an after-school program,” Lillian said. “It was really eye opening to see one woman caring for around 50 children. She was able to give those kids a safe space to play and learn after school and I really appreciated the opportunity to help. We also volunteered packing meals and staffing a free grocery store for low-income individuals as well as sorting medical supplies and working with Books for Africa.
“All these experiences showed me how important community is and how much good people can do when they spend the time to. It really prompted me to become passionate about service.”
The same trip, she said, resulted in new Keene State friendships that led Lillian to try sorority recruitment. She joined Delta Xi Phi and took on more community service work and even served as the community service chair one year. As service chair, she organized a hygiene product drive for the Hungry Owl, an on-campus, student-run food pantry that provides nutritious foods and personal care items for Keene State students, faculty, and staff in need.
“There’s a lot to her,” Dodson said of Lillian, a native of Exeter, New Hampshire. “We’re a fast-paced, highly organized and small organization. Lillian is independent, diligent, and the speed at which she works is amazing. I just knew I had to hire her.”