Eunice Lee ’19 was selected to receive a Conference Grant from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. With this grant, Eunice went to Phoenix, AZ to attend the Net Impact Conference. You can read Eunice’s reflection below, read past grantee reflections here, and visit the PCSE website to learn more about all of our grant programs.
This past October, with the financial support of PCSE and Gordon Career Center, I was fortunate to attend the 2018 Net Impact Conference at Phoenix, Arizona. Net Impact connects students and professionals who are interested in using business skills to make social changes. With over 2,000 attendees from across the globe, the annual Net Impact Conference provides the tools and experiences to turn one’s passion into a purposeful career. Topical sessions range from corporate sustainability and impact investing to social entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Plus, did I not mention, that this amazing organization is founded by a woman?
I had attended the 2016 Net Impact Conference in Philadelphia as a former Healthy Food Fellow, so I was very much looking forward to connecting with and getting inspired by innovative professionals and students. Without a doubt, the 2018 Net Impact Conference was a time of great growth as a student, and a fantastic networking opportunity as a future professional.
The most memorable keynote speaker was TRU Colors Brewing Company. TRU Colors Brewing is a startup founded by and employs primarily active gang members. Aside from making great beer, the company is committed to uniting rival gangs and stopping violence across America. In Atlanta, gang violence decreased by 20% after the company started working with Atlanta gang members. Their talk was so well received that the Meet & Greet Session with TRU Colors reached its seating capacity in less than 5 minutes. Although I could not attend the Meet & Greet, luckily, on my returning flight to Bradley, I ran into KO (Khalilah Olokunola, VP of Human Resources) at the airport and was able to connect with her in person.
One of my favorite sessions was on Building Meaningful Communities in a Digital Age – how organizations are using digital tools to define and strengthen a community, helping people to connect, collaborate, and create shared value. One of the speakers, Daniel Latorre from Project for Public Spaces discussed how placemaking can be a powerful tool to foster collaboration, sense of community, and shared value. His vision of a true placemaking was “bank on biology not on technology,” emphasizing the focus on people. After the session, I had the chance to meet with Daniel and share the work of my psychology lab (Critical Health and Social Ecology (CH+SE)) that also does research in placemaking. He was very excited to learn that there is an undergraduate school doing similar work. He expressed interest in collaborating with our lab in the near future to do placemaking projects.
On the second day of the conference, I visited the Expo which had representatives from over 40 organizations and companies. Civic Dinners particularly caught my interest because a group of Wesleyan Students had done a similar project that seeks to bridge communities through sharing meals. Civic Dinners provides a platform that brings people together to have conversations that matter. Conversation topics range from bridging the racial divide and reimagine aging to the national debt. After exchanging contacts with the Civic Dinner representative, later in December, I was asked to host a dinner on the national debt, which was a topic specifically created for undergraduate students (as it’s an issue that impacts millennials the most). Our lab recently hosted a pilot Civic Dinner on national debt on January 26. We are hoping to host another dinner with a different topic sometime this semester.
Personally, this was also a very meaningful trip, as I grew up in Tempe, Arizona. It felt very different to see how downtown Phoenix has become gentrified. Yet the dry heat and the palm trees made Phoenix feel familiar. I really hope that future students can attend the Net Impact Conference and take advantage of the great resources and networking opportunities Net Impact has to offer! Net Impact also has great Fellowship Programs for undergraduate and graduate students (applications are usually open around the summer and close around mid-September). One of the perks of being a Net Impact Fellow is that the conference registration fee is waived!!
A special thank you to the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE) for providing me the financial assistance to attend this wonderful professional development opportunity!