By Caroline LeKachman
Hi everyone! My name is Caroline, and I am a sophomore studying Applied Psychology and a Wasserman Career Ambassador. Last week, 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 that NYU is 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 just a day before in 1961, Martin Luther King, Jr., had addressed the university 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 the idea in my mind that every student at NYU, including myself, has the power to make a
The fact that many of the guests at the event were alumni from NYU reinforced this idea in my mind. It was great to hear from adults who were 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 the factors that drove her to succeed in her career, and one of those factors was courage. Courage, she explained, was her word for 2020 and a starting point for any career in social impact. Although as a young, Latina woman and child of an immigrant, González-Rojas recognized that she was not the stereotypical image of a leader, and though at the center, she faced many lawsuits, she did not allow that 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 that she was taking a risk in her career. However, she reminded students that courage 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 during his time at NYU, the moment when he had the courage to say that he was a formerly incarcerated individual was the moment when he began to create change. He began speaking with other students at NYU about the needs of people like himself and ultimately ran protests to ban the box on hiring applications that marked people with a criminal record. This experience paved the way for his founding 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 students and myself with post-grad advice and opened my eyes to the sector of Public Administration. As an Applied Psychology major, I have always considered my ability to create social change to be at one-on-one level with my future clients, 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!