Social Responsibility Network Fosters Service-Based Career Connections

Members of the Social Responsibility Network board pose with Dean Celenza in a wood-paneled office in front of a bookcase
Members of the Social Responsibility Network alumni board met with College Dean Chris Celenza (second from left) and Senior Associate Dean Thom Chiarolanzio (far right). (Photo by Patrick Curran)

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April 11, 2019 — The Georgetown College Office of the Dean is excited to begin recruiting the inaugural cohort for the Social Responsibility Network (SRN), a mentorship program for Georgetown College students interested in pursuing service-based careers.

The program will be open to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors, with programming slated to begin in earnest this coming fall. The students will have opportunities to learn from College alumni who have found success in service-related industries, from health accessibility to educational administration.

Members of the SRN alumni board visited campus last month to meet with College Dean Chris Celenza, Senior Associate Dean Thom Chiarolanzio, and students interested in applying to the program. They provided students with valuable advice over dinner and stayed afterwards to answer more questions in a one-on-one setting.

NON-LINEAR PATHWAYS

One common refrain from alumni panelists was the idea that there is no clear-cut path to a successful service career. Each arrived at their current position through a unique series of events, often passing up more lucrative opportunities.

“I had this meandering path to find the thing I was passionate about,” said Jennifer Caspar (C’88), an affordable housing consultant and former journalist. “It wasn’t one big risk, it was a bunch of smaller decisions that helped me figure out where I wanted to go.”

Mackenzie Copley (C’15) is the co-founder of One Tent Health, which conducts free pop-up health screenings in underserved communities. He sees a series of unorthodox choices as a necessity.

“When I quit my consulting job to run One Tent full-time, that was a big risk. But there were a lot before that, too,” he said. “Normal decisions lead to a normal life. I’m not interested in a normal life.”

THE VALUE OF COLLEGE EDUCATION

Many of the evening’s panelists believe that a college education — particularly the liberal arts focused championed at Georgetown College — prepares students well for a variety of careers.

Adrienne Villani (C’06), who worked in emerging markets investing before joining a nonprofit development organization, noted that certain skills are sharpest among recent college graduates.

“Coming out of college, sometimes your writing skills are the best they’ll be,” she said. “That’s a skill that the liberal arts taught you — how to create an argument, write succinctly, even write beautifully. It’s a real skill that is not being replaced by machine learning.”

Davine Scarlett (C’09), a grant manager at a social services nonprofit in her native South Florida, sees Georgetown’s service-focused mission as particularly valuable.

“I’ve always have a love of service, and Georgetown ties that into what you do with your day-to-day life,” she said. “Service at Georgetown always provided me with time for contemplation and reflection.”

MENTORING

One of the SRN’s primary purposes is to set up students with mentors who will help guide them through the early stages of a career. Many of the panelists see mentorship as an invaluable resource they were lucky to find themselves.

“I started to do research on environmental causes, and I was lucky enough to find a mentor I could trust in [environmental activist] Randy Hayes,” said Francesca Vietor (C’86), now a nonprofit senior advisor and public utility commissioner. “That element of trust is fundamental to the mentorship relationship.

According to high school assistant headmaster Michael Scanlan (C’86), students and young alumni shouldn’t be shy about approaching older professionals for advice.

“Don’t ever use your age, your place, your different stage in life to limit yourself,” he said. “Frankly, a lot of adults are bored in their day-to-day and get excited when talking to someone like you. You might make their day!”

MOVING FORWARD

Chiarolanzio and the Dean’s Office staff have high hopes for the SRN, which they expect to expand from mentorship into service projects, field trips that allow students to see workplaces firsthand, and more.

“I think it will be a great experience for students to have the opportunity to be mentored by College alumni, who have dedicated their professional careers to serving others,” Chiarolanzio said. “I’m really excited to welcome our first cohort of students in the fall.”

SRN applications are available here. College students are encouraged to reach out to the College Dean’s Office with questions.

— Patrick Curran

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