Global Conversations With: Deborah Diamond, President of Campus Philly

Layla El Tannir, for GPA -- Deborah Diamond is the President of Campus Philly, a nonprofit that encourages students from the area and all over the world to study, work and live in Philadelphia. After a career as a political philosophy professor at Columbia University and Bryn Mawr College, she became Visit Philadelphia’s first director of research and strategy. In 2010, she became Campus Philly’s president and has been dedicated to its growth and the wellbeing of the city’s student population ever since.

What is your role as the President of Campus Philly?

I set the strategy for the organization and make sure that we have the capacity to do the work we need to do in terms of getting the right people the right funding.

What has been the largest obstacle Campus Philly has faced in the last 10 years and how did you overcome it as an organization?

Well, Philadelphia is really large. There are a lot of colleges and universities and a lot of students, so making all the connections is the biggest challenge. I think we’ve done a great job to build relationships at 31 colleges and universities. It’s through those relationships and multiple departments that we have been able to reach the student body that we do.

Millennials are changing the way the world works. How have they affected the work and strategy of Campus Philly?

Everything we produce looks so different now than it used to. We use a lot more pictures now and fewer words. We pay attention to the value proposition whenever we are talking to students. We are also responding more to this generation’s interest in making a difference in the world. Every program that we put together has some element that provides for the individual, but then there is also a way for them to give back and get involved in the larger community.

Where would you like to see Campus Philly in the next 10 years?

In the next 10 years, we would like to see 45 college and universities as Campus Philly partners, more than the 31 we have now. There are a number of schools where we think the students will benefit from a partnership with us and we would benefit from having them involved. We would definitely like to see our partnerships expand. We would like to see even more Philadelphia businesses take advantage of college talent for paid internships and hirings because they are integral workers. We really have a core focus for the next 10 years: accelerated paid internships in Philadelphia. We would love for Philadelphia to be the place where, if you come for college, you know you have a paid internship with an employer. That would be a great thing.

If you could stress one message to the Philadelphia university demographic, what would it be?

When you get involved off campus, you’re enriching everything you’ve experienced on campus. If you connect to our arts and culture, if you get involved in off campus communities, if you get an internship with an employer, it will give you an edge as a student and it is going to make your education so much more valuable.

There has been a rise in international students in Philadelphia over the last few years. What effect does that trend have on Campus Philly’s goals and what effect do you think it has on Philadelphia’s goals?

Well, it’s only good for Philadelphia that we have more international students, for lots of reasons. It means Philadelphia is enriched by their perspectives, but it also means that when they go home, whether it’s just to visit or to stay, that they bring a piece of Philadelphia with them; a different perspective of Philadelphia, that’s great for the city’s reputation. What it means for Campus Philly is that partnerships have changed, so that places like International House, The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and the Global Philadelphia Association are more important organizations to us as we are doing our work. We know that there are great organizations in Philadelphia that do great service and outreach to international students and immigrants. We want to make sure that that’s getting communicated to the students we reach.

Photo courtesy of Al B. For Photography.