I started a nonprofit organization during my sophomore year of college. For the past five years, I have been developing and growing my organization from 2 members to over 5,000; from 2 college campuses to 60; from one orphanage in Honduras to a hundred families across the northern region of the country. William & Mary made it easy for me to do this. My mentors, donor network, research opportunities, volunteers and diverse avenues for revenue were readily available during the start-up stages. The William & Mary community showed me that I didn't have to get anyone’s permission to change the world - I gave myself permission.
I can reflect back on my experience and pinpoint exactly how a liberal arts education helped me succeed and pick the right career path. First, it taught me how to think rather than what to think. As a women’s studies and American studies major, I learned how an interdisciplinary approach to analyze complex issues can lead to the right questions and ultimately, thoughtful options to convert theory into practice. By having a general, yet deeply thoughtful background in sociology, research methodology, history, storytelling, philosophy and theory, leadership and economics, etc., I was able to analyze and frame challenges from multiple perspectives. Secondly, it gave me a love for learning. Curiosity, creativity and persistence are important for social entrepreneurs. We have to keep up with the literature, growing networks and latest trends in order to succeed. That is the only way we are going to understand human nature and thus the challenges that face our generation.
I learned early in my career that a team of people with diverse backgrounds is absolutely necessary to tackle some of the key challenges of development. Scientists develop the research statistics that empirically demonstrate the need for a sanitation system to protect the public’s safety, engineers design the structurally sound system, CFOs with finance backgrounds help allocate resources and procure funds effectively, public policy workers help articulate and shape the legislative field to ultimately help make your efforts scalable and sustainable. This is just to name a few of the key players I had to identify and forge partnerships with in order to build a sanitation system in Honduras. As founder and former president of a growing nonprofit organization, the multi-disciplinary perspective I learned in undergraduate studies provided me the foundation skills to launch a successful business.
Go broad first, then deep.