Indiana State University Newsroom

Scholars volunteer, learn during San Francisco trip

July 2, 2012

Jessica Weesner knew the planned itinerary of her group trip to San Francisco. Still, she was surprised and humbled by a visit to a longtime city landmark: St. Anthony's Dining Room.

Weesner was one of 29 Indiana State University business students who, along with two staff members, visited San Francisco as part of a trip sponsored by Networks Financial Institute's (NFI) Networks Professional Development Program. They planned industry stops for students to learn more about financial services and other businesses, including the Federal Reserve. For several students, including Weesner, one of the most significant moments came when the group volunteered for St. Anthony Foundation, which operates a dining facility and provides other social services in the city's Tenderloin district.

"I can honestly say I have never in my life been in any experience similar to that in any way, and it definitely affected all of us," said Weesner, a junior accounting major from Cambridge City who helped plan the trip. "I think it was a mutual experience between all the scholars that we were all out of our element, and we all saw something there that you don't see around Terre Haute, Indianapolis or southern Indiana."

Scholars who attended the trip spent most of the 2011-12 academic year planning various aspects of the voyage, which included stops at the headquarters of Wells Fargo and Yahoo.

Several weeks before the trip, the students learned that they would have a rare opportunity to meet with three of Yahoo's top financial executives, including chief financial officer Tim Morse, and hear their candid perspectives on leadership.

"I think the industry visits were beneficial, Yahoo in particular," said Michael Hickox, a senior finance and management double major from Casey, Ill. "Speaking with Tim Morse was really helpful." He told us to embrace difficult challenges, rather than shy away from them, Hickox said.

During the trip to Wells Fargo headquarters, the students toured a museum featuring artifacts spanning the organization's history and they listened to an intern discuss his background and experience working with the company. Students also had an opportunity to learn about the role that the Federal Reserve plays in the nation's economy.

The students also toured the site where the Federal Reserve shreds millions of dollars. "It was really neat to see where they keep so much money, and they shred this massive amount of money every day," Weesner said. "Just to see that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as well."

The students decided to visit San Francisco over any other city in the U.S. While they considered New York City, several scholars had visited that city on a different trip a few years ago, so they decided to head west.

Several students attending the trip had never traveled outside of the Midwest, which was another reason they opted for the west coast.

"I think a lot of people are from small towns, and so any city in general is just a completely different culture," said Brittany Kirk, a junior marketing major from Casey, Ill., who helped plan the trip. "But I have been to several cities, and San Francisco has the most character of any city that I have ever been to."

The service trip to St. Anthony had arguably the biggest impact on the students. They learned about the history of the Tenderloin district, along with the challenges of poverty and homelessness many of the district's residents face.

"Just to hear it put in that way was something that you don't always think about. I think a lot of times we think it's people's own fault if they're homeless, and it's usually not," Kirk said. "There are usually circumstances that are beyond their control."

The students separated into several groups and worked in different areas with various St. Anthony services. Some students volunteered in the dining hall, while another group worked at a clothing center and others worked at a senior center.

"We do a lot of service events around the Terre Haute area, and ... we're helping someone in need, but it's hard to really see where that help is going to," Hickox said. "By helping at St. Anthony, we were able to see the people we were helping, and we were able to understand the need for that help."

Senior Miguel de la Rosa was one of the students who worked at the senior center. The St. Anthony Foundation emphasizes treating people with dignity; de la Rosa and the other students spoke with a St. Anthony Foundation worker, who emphasized talking with people of all different backgrounds, including those who may be homeless, rather than avoiding or ignoring them.

"I have volunteered and I've done fundraisers, but never really to the extent to engage firsthand with a community like that, and it was an awesome experience," said de la Rosa, a marketing major from Greenwood. "Honestly, I thought it beat out any of the other activities that we did while we were there."

Students in the Networks Professional Development Program plan a variety of events, including the annual ethics and social responsibility conference at Indiana State. Still, the students had to plan the nearly weeklong trip for more than 30 people, which included a stay at a hostel and navigating the city largely via public transportation.

"I think it was a very successful trip in that the students learned a lot in planning and executing a complex trip like this," said Priscilla Wolfe, director of education for NFI.

Though students planned the different stops during the trip, they also built in plenty of free time in the city. Students visited the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf, among other stops. Several scholars went to an Oakland Athletics baseball game.

"When we talked about the return on the investment after the trip, we talked about how you can't really put a price tag on a trip like this because we don't know how many more chances we're going to have to go on a trip like this with that many of our friends and also being able to go on the visits that we did," Hickox said. "It was really beneficial."

Photo: (Submitted photo)Several Indiana State University students on a trip to San Francisco pose in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. The trip, which was sponsored by Networks Financial Institute in ISU's Scott College of Business, featured a variety of industry visits and other stops visited by the 29 students attending the journey.

Photo: (Submitted photo)A group of Networks Scholars pose in front of the Federal Reserve in San Francisco. The group of nearly 30 students on a trip to the city visited the Federal Reserve, along with several companies and other city sites.

Photo: (Submitted photo)Indiana State University senior Miguel de la Rosa poses in front of a carriage at Wells Fargo in San Francisco. The company headquarters was one of several stops for the nearly 30 ISU Networks Scholars who attended the trip.

Photo: (Submitted photo)Networks Scholars in San Francisco.

Contact: Priscilla Wolfe, director of education, Networks Financial Institute, Scott College of Business, 812-237-8271 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or