When opportunity knocks, open the door and grab hold.
This is the philosophy I have lived while at the University of Notre Dame. It is not a new philosophy for me—I have lived it in the past as well—but here at Notre Dame experiences have proven to take me on more of a wild (and enriching) ride. When I have held on tight, I have found myself in places that I otherwise would have missed.
From my first experience at Notre Dame at the MBA orientation last year, I could tell that I was in a new and dynamic culture. I was immersed in an environment that highly valued learning, excellence, and integrity of character. Opportunities for students to reflect these values in the Community (at all levels) were everywhere.
I became involved in Community Partners, an initiative run by the Mendoza MBA students to link the skills of students and local businesses with the needs of nonprofits. For example, banks and construction companies may be paired with a daycare center or park preservation group to develop financial statements, business plans, or maybe provide a paint job. What I learned is that this community is rich with people who want to make a difference. The business leaders involved in community service were thoughtful and considerate; they had a heart for it.
Near fall break of the same year, I was presented with other significant opportunities. One was an academic year internship doing a feasibility analysis, and later a business plan, on the creation of Robinson Enterprises—the vision of Jay Caponigro and Luther Tyson, the director and associate director of technology at the Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC) in South Bend, Ind. Their vision is to develop entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and viable job opportunities for youth, ages 15 to 24, through growing students’ small businesses.
In my research, I learned a lot of statistics related to education levels, employment, population movement and youth services. But in speaking with the students and in conversations with Luther, I touched the vibe, or spirit, of the community—and thus learned more distinctly the issues youth are facing today. For example, students’ family circumstances may pressure youth to find a traditional source of income (i.e., retail or service jobs) and discourage the pursuit of an opportunity like Robinson Enterprises. Entrepreneurial endeavors typically do not provide immediate income. Yet the long-run returns usually significantly exceed any short-run income gains of traditional low-wage employment. The character building, responsibility, and skills gained from starting a business may help youth realize greater opportunities and prepare them to grab hold of their careers and their lives.
Another significant opportunity I experienced last fall involved taking on a leadership position in the Notre Dame chapter of the Net Impact MBA Club. The mission of the national Net Impact organization is to create a network of new-generation leaders committed to using the power of business to improve the world.
Along with two other Notre Dame MBA students, I attended the 2004 national conference held at Columbia University in New York City. There we interacted with 1,400 other students and professionals who were passionate about generating ideas and using our business skills for a social purpose—human rights, venture capitalism in underdeveloped countries, environment-friendly products, the list goes on. This fall Net Impact leadership on campus has been passed on to the new class, whose enthusiasm, talent, and experience make for a promising year.
Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the South Africa Intern Program in Cape Town last summer (pictured) helping a job training program determine regional low-skill employment needs and to study in Chile during the second seven-week segment of fall term 2005.
Opportunities are ever before us. With the continued support from institutions like Notre Dame, social-minded community leaders and peers passionate about creating a better world have a chance to make a difference. Together, let us make the most of these opportunities and attempt to honor God in the process.