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Symposium Encourages Integrating Service Into Careers

Asst. News Editor

Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

Last Saturday, Boston College students of all grade levels, majors, and schools gathered in Gasson 100 for the second annual Leadership Symposium. The theme of this year's symposium, which was sponsored by the Student Programs Office and UGBC, was "Living and Leading in a Competitive World."

Throughout the day, attendees had the opportunity to meet with BC alums to discuss the integration of values, social justice, and leadership skills into their daily lives.

"The theme we chose this year centered around finding the balance between going out into the real world and having a ton of success, but still being able to give back to the community and help others," said Justin Portes, an organizer for the event and A&S '12, in an e-mail. "Given recent events such as the Occupy Wall Street movement, we felt it would be important for students to become more aware of such a delicate balance and learn to strive towards it."

This year's keynote speaker was Mike Del Ponte, BC '05 and founder of Sparkseed, an organization that provides social entrepreneurs with the resources they need to start their own organizations, including mentors and access to capital. After deciding that the priesthood was not his true calling, Del Ponte spent time as a peacekeeper in the West Bank and a microfinance consultant in Nepal before founding Sparkseed and later joining Branch Out, a business networking group on Facebook. He has since left both companies and is now working on his third major venture.

"Most of the problems we have in the world come from people who don't follow their calling," he said. "The riskiest thing you can do is something conventional."

After the keynote address, attendees broke off into small groups to discuss strategies for integrating values and community service into their daily lives and careers with BC faculty members and alums. Topics for these discussions included how to have honest conversations, balance intellectual, social, and spiritual life, take risks, and manage both professional and personal relationships during the busy college years and beyond.

"We reached out to other BC offices, like Alumni Affairs, the Career Center, and alumni affinity programs to ask for recommendations for alums who were integrating service or social justice into their lives," Portes said. "We wanted to get a range of career fields so students coming to the symposium could hopefully hear from someone in a field that interested them."

Liz O'Day, BC '06, talked to one group about her own career path. O'Day's lifelong goal is to find a cure for cancer, but in the meantime she produces a line of science-themed t-shirts. All proceeds from Lizzard Fashion help fund the "Dare to Know Scholarship," which O'Day set up to provide undergraduates, Ph.D. students, and high school students with the opportunity to attend the annual American Association for Cancer Research conference.

"For next year, I would hope that greater emphasis is placed in marketing the symposium toward seniors," Portes said. "We feel that seniors could benefit greatly from the symposium because it would give them good insight into life after BC."

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