Jennifer Hunt is an AU alumna with a bachelor’s in social work from AU and a law degree from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Hunt worked for more than 10 years as the director of development and communications at the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention before returning to AU.
What is your job as the vice president of advancement?
I’m over the areas of alumni engagement and annual giving, so those are people who make annual gifts. We also have events to recognize and thank our donors. Also under that area are major gifts, so that’s when we’ll meet with donors who we hope will make larger gifts.
As the vice president, I oversee those areas, but I also individually interact with donors a lot. I keep them updated on what’s going on around the school and help connect them to opportunities to give in areas that are meaningful to them.
Why are donations from alumni and other members of the community important for current students?
Tuition doesn’t cover all the costs that are associated with providing an education. Tuition Freedom Day is a day that we celebrate or recognize as being the day when tuition runs out and the rest of the school year is covered by donations that we get from individuals, churches and organizations.
First of all, it’s incredibly important just to keep us functioning, and secondly, the donations help reduce the cost of an education so students don’t have to pay as much. Donations help keep the costs down and also help us provide scholarships to make tuition less expensive.
How does serving in this role allow you to live out your faith and serve God?
I believe very strongly in AU and our mission. I really believe we make the world a better place because we graduate students every year who are people of integrity, people of faith and people who are servant leaders who go out and work in a number of fields. Being part of the effort to raise money to sustain AU in order to create more opportunities for more students to have this experience and to go out and be representatives of God and Jesus in the world—I think it’s a wonderful mission. I can’t think of anything better that I would want to put my time and energy into.
What was it like for you to be part of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention?
Similarly to how I feel about working here, I feel like the organization had a really good mission. We wanted to end homelessness and we know that there are always going to be people who have circumstances that will cause them to fall into homelessness.
The goal was and still is to reduce the number of people who are homeless and have enough resources so that nobody has to be homeless and so that, if they do fall into homelessness, it’s for a short period of time. Hopefully there will be safety nets to help them get back up on their feet.
We spend so much of our time and energy at work, so I think it’s so important that what you’re pouring yourself into has meaning for you. Trying to help men, women, children and families escape homelessness is a very worthy cause. Here at Anderson, helping to transform students’ lives so that they can live out their faith in the world is another really vital, important mission.
How did serving the homeless fulfill a calling and mission in your life?
In the Bible we’re called to serve the poor, those who are in need and those who are suffering, so trying to alleviate suffering seems to fit right within what Jesus calls us to do. I always had a particularly soft spot for people who I felt had been disadvantaged and had so much more to overcome than I did.
Growing up, I came from an intact family. I was able to attend Anderson, and I could make all kinds of great choices because I had great role models and great supporters.
I know there are people out there who didn’t come with all of that. That’s an area where a burden has really been put on my heart for those people. I feel like so many of the good things in my life just happened because of where and to whom I was born. Somebody else, they were just born somewhere else, so they’ve got all these barriers that make life unfair. I’ve always been very interested in social justice.
How do you think your faith in God and your willingness to listen to and obey Him has led you in your career path?
I think it has led me all the way. I studied social work when I was at Anderson, and I think that’s when my heart was first opened up to thinking about other people, about social justice and how I could make a difference.
I think God led me to come back to Anderson. He put so many things in place, perfectly aligned. At the time you don’t always see those things, but looking back you realize why everything happened and why you ended up where you are.
I do feel like I’ve been pushed and challenged and stretched in this role. I feel like I’m doing things that I never imagined I would be able to do. I think it’s because I am listening to God’s call, and I am leaning on Him, and He’s making things possible through me that I couldn’t do without Him.
What advice would you give to students who are trying to find God’s path in their lives and to motivate them to follow that calling?
The thing that has been a barrier to me personally has been fear. Throughout my life I’ve had fear of trying something new, fear of failure or fear of not making the right choice. What I have found to be really life changing is to just focus my prayer life on fear and submitting that to God.
Taking fear out of the picture really opens up what God has in store for you and what God’s plan is for you. Pushing yourself to do things that you can’t imagine yourself doing, taking challenges, making yourself uncomfortable, those are all so important. Once you do those things that you don’t think you can do and you see that you’ve done them, then you can do even more.
Praying and focusing on asking God to take fear away really helps clear up the way for God to communicate with you. It gets it out of the way so you can hear what God wants you to do or what God has in store for you.
What has been one of the most significant, meaningful or humbling experiences for you throughout your career?
I was working right out of college as a social worker at the Indianapolis Senior Citizen Center, and there was a gentleman who used to come there every day. People jokingly referred to him as “the caveman” because he never spoke and wasn’t particularly well groomed. When you came in you were supposed to check in at the desk and show your card, but he wouldn’t do it. He just wouldn’t interact with anyone.
People talked badly about him. They would say, “Why does he even come here?” I got to thinking, “Well he does come here. He wants to be here and does want to be around people, but boy, he does not know how to interact with people at all.”
I had worked there for four years, and every year at Christmas we had a Christmas party. One year I just gave him this big bear hug. It kind of took him aback. Everyone said stuff like, “How could you touch Ed? He’s so gross.”
After that, he started coming in and talking to me. He started showing his card to people. He even invited me to his home one time. My job was to help people when they had any kind of issue—legal, financial, healthcare or whatever—and point them to the right resources. He started opening up to me about issues, and he just changed completely. He started bringing me little gifts. He would buy me slices of pie and stuff.
Why that was so meaningful to me was that this person was in his 60s and people had figured him out. They said, “Forget about Ed, he doesn’t talk to anybody. Just ignore Ed.” He changed. It just gave me such hope. People can always change. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Just to never give up on people was really the message I got from that. The world had pretty much given up on Ed, but I saw that there was a person inside, and it came out. He was one of the most memorable people I interacted with in my career, and that was more than 20 or 30 years ago. I remember him fondly. Just never give up on people.