ICYMI: Designing Your Path as a Change-Maker

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By Caroline LeKachman

Hi everyone! My name is Caroline, and I am a sophomore studying Applied Psychology, as well as a Wasserman Career Ambassador. I had the opportunity to attend Designing Your Path as a Change-maker: Pursuing Equity, Inclusion, and Social Impact Through Work. Through speakers, panels, and round-table networking, the event provided me with a lot of useful advice regarding how I can pursue social impact throughout my career. If you did not have a chance to come to the event, read on for some of my key takeaways!

President Andrew Hamilton set the tone for the event with his opening address, highlighting NYU as an institution with a long history of equity, inclusion, and social impact. Referring to NYU as a “private institution in the public service,” Hamilton noted that the day before the event (February 10) was the 59th anniversary of the day Martin Luther King, Jr. came to address NYU on the topic of social justice. King had said, “Every step toward the goal of justice requires. . .the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Being reminded of NYU’s legacy of social justice affirmed my idea that every NYU student, myself included, has the power to make a difference.

The fact that many of the guests at the event were NYU alumni also reinforced this idea in my mind. It was great to hear from working professionals who were once in my shoes at NYU and have since led successful social impact careers. For instance, keynote speaker Jessica González-Rojas, former executive director for the National Center for Latina Reproductive Health, began her journey at the NYU Wagner School of Public Service. During her time at the National Center for Latina Reproductive Health, she explored the intersectionality of reproductive justice and sought to create social impact by providing Latina women with reproductive resources. In describing her work at the center, González-Rojas shed light on how courage drove her to succeed in her career. Courage, she explained, was her word for 2020, as well as a starting point for any career in social impact. As a young Latina woman and child of an immigrant, González-Rojas recognized that she was not the stereotypical image of a leader. Although she faced various roadblocks and lawsuits, she did not allow those barriers to stop her from pursuing her goals to make society a more equitable and inclusive place. Now running for public office in the New York State Assembly, González-Rojas recognized the she was taking a risk in her career. However, she reminded students that courage would get her through it and is necessary in any endeavor to fight for what you believe in.

The panel that followed echoed this common theme of courage and provided further advice on how to get from NYU to a career with social impact. For example, Cory Green from How Our Lives Link Altogether! (“HOLLA!”) stated that the moment when he had the courage to open up about his identity as a formerly incarcerated individual at NYU was the moment when he began to create change. He began speaking with other NYU students about the needs of people like himself and ultimately ran protests to ban the box on job applications that required applicants to identify their criminal record. This experience paved the way for Cory to found the organization “HOLLA!”, which provides programming for urban youth of color to interrupt the system of social injustice and punishment that he himself had experienced.

Besides the panel, hearing from other NYU alumni during the round table networking portion of the event provided me with more helpful insights. I had the opportunity to speak with Victoria Shire, Vice President of Here to Here, a workforce development program that creates mini businesses for Bronx students to gain work experience before graduating high school. Shire provided us with post-grad advice and opened my eyes to the sector of Public Administration. As an Applied Psychology major, I have always thought I would pursue a career that involved one-on-one client support as a means to provide social change. So, hearing about how Shire created change by running systems at the top provided me with a different perspective that I had not yet considered.

Overall, this event was an excellent opportunity to learn more about achieving social impact in a career, and I hope you were able to catch a glimpse from this summary of how informative and inspiring the event was!