Growing Up at the Beeck Center

August 10, 2020 – By Grace Rector

As a freshman, I thought I knew everything – what job I wanted, what I was interested in, my future path. So when I wasn’t selected for GU Impacts during my freshman year, I was disappointed, but little did I know how this rejection would change my life. As I start my senior year, so much has changed. My interests, expectations, and personal goals are new in part because I didn’t give up on the Beeck Center, and in return, I received the opportunity to discern, reflect, and ask questions.

My sophomore year, I returned to campus determined to be a part of the GU Impacts cohort. I visited the Beeck Center to speak with Matt Fortier, the Director of Student Engagement. I explained how much I wanted to take part in the program, and I asked for feedback on how I could improve my application. He complimented me on my ability to pursue feedback. To my surprise, Matt asked if I had an interest in working for the Beeck Center as a student analyst. This was not part of my linear plan that I envisioned, but I decided to take a risk and say yes.

woman in red dress giving presentation in front of a yellow wall
The author giving a presentation to Women for Women International in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

My first day of work at the Beeck Center was terrifying. I had no idea what to expect. But I took a breath and focused on listening until I better understood how I’d fit in. I met incredible and brilliant individuals that made up the Beeck Center family, and I found my place. Matt came to me for feedback on projects, and even asked me to improve existing programs. He did so because he trusted me. He even encouraged me to create new projects where I saw fit and he gave me the freedom to innovate. I’d never been in a space with so much emphasis on creativity, innovation, and collaboration like the Beeck Center promoted.

After my first semester working for the Beeck Center, I understood the flow of the office, and the team had doubled! I was so excited to help onboard new student analysts and to share this incredible space with them. I hoped that they would learn as much about themselves and their professional interests as I had. At the Center, I learned the importance of having a cohesive team when aiming for innovative work. The closer I felt to my coworkers, the more responsibility I felt to produce excellent work. Upon the arrival of the new student analyst cohort, I made it my goal to make them feel included and part of the family.

With time on the team, I became comfortable giving feedback. I was audacious enough to propose new projects and ideas! With support from Nate Wong and Matt, we created and formed the Discern + Digest program (D+D) as a space for students to engage with their work, ask questions about the social impact space, and explore how their experiences inform their perspectives. Bringing students together deepened our community, and gave me the confidence to reapply to the GU Impacts Program, where I’d soon find another community. My fellowship sent me to Women for Women International (WfWi) in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Summer 2019. I brought values the Beeck Center taught me to this position: the importance of constructive communication, collaboration, humility, and a playful attitude. As a storytelling intern for WfWi in Sarajevo, I embodied these values and worked hard to make a sustainable impact on my partner organization. With every job comes difficulties, and after a few weeks I acknowledged that I wanted more from my role. I wanted to lead a storytelling project for the organization, so I navigated a constructive conversation with my boss. She supported me because I presented my proposal well and, ultimately, I published several interviews with women that the organization served.

student (right) performing video interview with subject
The author (R) interviewing a Bosnian woman during her fellowship in Sarajevo.

The Beeck Center not only provided me with tools to navigate social impact work, but it also affected my professional goals. During my internship, I took a Bosnian language course to support my cultural immersion. This course allowed me to build deep relationships with locals, who taught me more about their country’s history. Exposure to Bosnia’s history pushed me to take a related course in the spring of 2020 and ultimately enabled me to do research for a professor on the role of the arts and culture in post-war reconciliation between Bosnian citizens.

GU Impacts also deepened my passion for education. During the fellowship, I created my own skill-building workshops used during the Democracy Academy for Young Women in Bosnia. Upon my return to Georgetown, I continued this new passion by declaring a minor in Education, Inquiry, and Justice. It also influenced my decision to take part in a comparative education study abroad program in Chile and Argentina in Fall 2019.

Over the last two years, I’ve discerned what I care about and what spaces I should explore to further uncover my interests. This past February, before the outbreak of the coronavirus, my single mother passed away. It was and is a devastating loss. Soon after, I received a package from the Beeck Center containing handwritten cards from every team member. That’s when I knew it was time to go back to work for the Center.

This summer and fall, I am managing Discern + Digest so that it can continue to impact other students the way it has me. The Beeck Center is not just an organization that thinks about ultimate outcomes of its projects, innovates audacious ideas, and then acts on them. It’s a team of extraordinary people who care deeply about their work and the people that they work alongside. Working at the Beeck Center is like being part of a family because the staff challenged me to grow but also supported me 100% of the time, and for that, I can’t thank them enough.

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