USA Funds Staff Profile: Creating Positive Change

Frank Essien’s role at USA Funds® allows him to put together two of his passions — conducting research and making a difference in the community — to help students succeed.

As an analyst, Essien evaluates the effectiveness of USA Funds’ philanthropic activities.

“Conducting research provides a great opportunity to bring a different perspective to the field,” Essien says. “Balancing anecdotal feedback with data allows us to leverage fewer resources to have a greater impact. It’s how we create positive change.”

Essien’s decision to put his interest in research to work in the area of philanthropy began when, as a teen from Ghana, he received a full-ride scholarship to study in an International Baccalaureate program at the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales. A requirement of his study there was a community service component, in which he visited local residents with disabilities.

“That work defined my path,” Essien says. “I would listen to the people I visited tell stories about what they had done in their lives, and a common thread was that they always seemed to say that they wished they’d done more to help others.

“And it struck me: I want to reach out and help. I received scholarships to fund my education, so my life is a byproduct of philanthropic action. Do I have a choice? I have to pay it forward.”

So Essien decided to study how to best make use of resources to assist those in need. His education in Wales earned him enough postsecondary credit to enter Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., as a college sophomore.

He received bachelor’s degrees in economics and mathematical science from Westminster. A one-time national table-tennis competitor in Ghana, he also played that sport and soccer in college.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he worked for a management and marketing consulting firm in New York and at Lumina Foundation. Essien received a master’s degree in philanthropy from Indiana University.

He currently is working toward a doctoral degree in philanthropy from IU, with an emphasis in higher education. It was through his doctoral work at IU’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy that he began work with USA Funds’ philanthropy staff three years ago as part of a course project.

Essien transitioned from that 18-month internship into his current position as a USA Funds analyst.

“The best part of my job is advancing the mission of USA Funds,” Essien says, “being an instrument in helping students reach their full potential.”