The way Imran Nuri sees it, what really makes a university stand out is the experiences offered outside the classroom. And of the 1,300-plus student organizations at Ohio State, the one Nuri had his heart set on as far back as high school was BuckeyeThon — a student-run philanthropy effort that raises money and awareness in support of children fighting cancers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
When Nuri graduates in May with a marketing degree from Fisher College of Business, he will have been in BuckeyeThon for four years — two years on its executive board, serving as president his junior year when the effort raised more than $1.7 million.
In early January, Nuri officially launched his nonprofit company The 52 Million Project, a philanthropic startup that will raise grant money to fight poverty, improve animal welfare and ensure a strong future for the planet.
As Nuri runs his company, he will do so with many of the professional lessons he learned from BuckeyeThon.
“BuckeyeThon far and away is the most incredible personal development opportunity. Aside from the fact we’re helping others, we’re also helping ourselves by being in leadership positions. I learned how to pitch to companies for thousands of dollars. I learned how to conduct myself professionally. I learned to manage an organization of 120 people.
“In a lot of ways, BuckeyeThon was a business that had employees working part-time. Managing my teams, managing up with leadership at Ohio State and using those relationships well for mutual benefit were invaluable lessons.”
BuckeyeThon also opened Nuri’s eyes to the type of environment he thrives in.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do after undergrad my freshman, sophomore and junior years. But part of being in BuckeyeThon helped me realize I liked being in a smaller company. Everybody is important to BuckeyeThon. I like feeling vital to the operation every day, whether I’m in a leadership position or not.
“So I realized I need to be in a smaller company or a startup where I have the autonomy to do what I want but I’m noticed when I walk in the door.”
And being vital to a smaller operation, especially one rooted in philanthropy, lends itself to dedication for a role.
“BuckeyeThon being a nonprofit and doing philanthropic work, I’m surrounded by people who are really passionate and excited every day. They aren’t just there because they have to be. That too is a unique environment where I get to be surrounded by people who are not apathetic; they are the most passionate individuals I’ve ever met and that is a culture I like.”
Nuri made important connections along the way such as BuckeyeThon advisor Felix Alonso, director of student philanthropy in the office of Student Life. Alonso quickly became a mentor to Nuri and is now president of The 52 Million Project’s board of directors.
“He has been an awesome mentor. It always seemed like when I had no idea what to do, whether in BuckeyeThon or outside in my life, Felix has the answer. That was important, to have a mentor like that who I could go to for anything. That’s a testament to being in Student Life but it’s also uniquely Felix. He gives students a lot of ownership because that’s a learning experience and that’s what Student Life is trying to give: experience. Experience allows students to develop in ways they didn’t know they could. Without a doubt I wouldn’t be who I am without him.”
BuckeyeThon is a powerful example of what Ohio State’s student organizations offer, according to Nuri.
“Ohio State has no lack of opportunities that allow students to grow. You have thousands of student orgs that represent hundreds of different interests. There’s opportunities to be part of smaller organizations with super specific focuses and large organizations that have a broad impact. Ohio State presents the opportunity to do literally anything, pursue any idea, any project, any research, any education you want. That’s unique to Ohio State.”