Second annual Social Impact Summit bridges alumni and students

Participants discuss incorporating personal interests, advocacy into professional work

Photo courtesy of The Columns.

Photo courtesy of The Columns.

Hannah Denham

A group of alumni let students in on a secret during the second annual Social Impact Summit on Oct. 27-28: it’s possible to find a career that combines both their passions and their financial goals.

Wendy Lovell, assistant director for community-based learning and communications, was one of the three founding leaders of the summit.

“We want students to see that you can serve disadvantaged populations and still live comfortably and meet your personal and professional goals,” she said.

Photo courtesy of The Columns.

Last year, the inaugural summit arose through collaboration between the Shepherd Poverty Program, the Williams School, Career and Professional Development and the College. Lovell said while the summit was more skills-focused last year, this year’s panels elaborated on healthcare, sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

University of Virginia graduate Elizabeth Tual works as the Devils Backbone Brewery corporate social responsibility manager. She said during the corporate social responsibility panel that graduates can make an impact by working in both nonprofits as well as the private sector.

“I think the concept of what social impact can be is industry-neutral,” Tual said.

Dannick Kenon, ‘19, an accounting and business administration major, attended the corporate social responsibility panel on Saturday.

“I think corporate social responsibility is a very important thing and we need information on it now more than ever,” Kenon said. “There’s a little bit of a lack of focus on corporate social responsibility at Washington and Lee, and I think we need more events like this.”

During the environmental program, Jamie DeMarco, a campaign manager for the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative, gave advice to students interested in the field of ecology.

“If you’re willing to pay forward the blood, sweat and tears working on a campaign for an issue you care about, you have a good chance finding a family-supporting job with environmental advocacy,” DeMarco said.

Mary Cromer, ‘06L, a staff attorney for the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, spoke during the environmental panel on Oct. 27 about how the debate over the social merits of working in the nonprofit and private sectors applies to her own experience.

“Grassroots work is important,” Cromer said. “Policy-making work is important. But the kind of work I do deals with community crises and the nature of it requires work from the bottom-up.”

Networking opportunities during the summit included a reception on the evening of Oct. 27 and one-on-one appointments with summit participants, as well as a luncheon on Oct. 28.

Lovell said these events were reviewed as students’ favorite activities from last year’s summit.

“Look and see who is doing something that you’d want to do and invite them to have a conversation about it,” Lovell said.

One such alumna attendees had the opportunity to interact with was Kelly Nichols, ’00, who told students that to see the true merits of social work and decide for themselves the best path forward in their careers, they need to place themselves in challenging situations away from the comforts of campus.