April 9, 2020 | By Matt Fortier

On Friday, March 6, Georgetown students put their laptops and books away and left Washington, D.C. for spring break. But while they were taking that much-deserved rest, COVID-19 exploded across the U.S. and students were told not to return to campus. Since then, the pandemic has affected every facet of student life. Students found themselves separated from family or suddenly living back at home, striving to maintain focus and motivation in virtual classes, while grappling with this crisis and its far reaching impact, from health to economic hardship.

As educators around the world work to adapt the ways they support students, here at the Beeck Center, we’ve had to rethink how we prepare students to be effective leaders for positive social impact. As we recalibrate our work and lean into the core strengths of our student programming, community-building, reflection, adaptation, and resilience will be of paramount importance. 

One of our core values is Authentic & Constructive Communication, so when Georgetown announced its transition to a remote environment, we quickly reached out to our entire team, including students, providing information, sharing resources, and beginning contingency planning. With genuine care for one another, we have consistently emphasized that the health and well-being of our staff and their families is vital. We’ve backed this up by providing flexible work schedules, sharing tips for personal care, and listening to each other through frequent “pulse checks”. By opening a dialogue and demonstrating our commitment to each individual student, we’ve set a healthy foundation from which to move forward.

screenshot of students in a Zoom meeting
Students engaged in our second virtual Discern + Digest, discussing the question: How do you tell your story when you’re still figuring out what it is?

Our Discern + Digest series, a safe and brave space for challenging and often uncomfortable conversations, is a big part of the feedback loop our student analysts participate in. But body language cues, much better conveyed in person, are critical so it would have been easy to postpone or cancel. Instead, we felt strongly that in the wake of COVID-19, a space for dialogue and reflection was needed more than ever, so we doubled-down on our effort, switching to a virtual environment and adapting the conversation to acknowledge the pandemic and its impact on all of our lives. By modeling resilience and adaptability, we sent a clear message–we can unite and collectively problem-solve to overcome a common challenge. 

Led by Forrest Gertin (SFS’20), more than a dozen students joined from remote positions across the United States to share their workspace, their lunch, and their ideas. They reviewed their community guidelines, discussing modifications and additions for a virtual format, most notably, how to acknowledge that the “no technology zone” was now anything but. In (re)establishing norms, we shared a vision for rediscovering our community.

screenshot of adapted community guidelines
Screenshot showcasing our adapted community guidelines.

The speaker, Molly Porter, opened by sharing some personal reflections before asking how we could reconcile our understanding of community with others while physically distancing in an effort to “flatten the curve.” Students responded eagerly, sharing their challenges and highlighting new ways to connect with their community. The conversation made it clear: we are resilient, we can adapt, and now more than ever, we need to listen to each other and reinvigorate our human connections.  

 “I was in a pretty bad space. I decided to join the call because I knew it would be full of positivity and compassion. Also, I would be able to give myself time to reflect on how I’m feeling amid everything. I am very grateful for the D+D sessions because it provides space for me to find community and reconnect with myself without pressure.” -Donovan Taylor, MSB’20 

We are fortunate to have strong collaborators across Georgetown University, from the Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship, which readily deployed tools and resources for instructional continuity, to the Cawley Career Center, which has adapted its career support to provide virtual advisor meetings while working with employers to move events to virtual formats and reaching out to alumni to cultivate networking opportunities. 

We are excited to witness an inspired spirit of collective problem-solving and sharing of ideas and resources from these partners and the greater social impact community. The Beeck Center remains firm in its belief that to solve the most complex problems of our time, we must work across sectors, leveraging all the tools and knowledge at our disposal. Today’s pandemic is no exception and we hope we can model an approach to our students through how we adapt, collaborate, and rise to the challenge in front of us.

 Do you have a best practice or resource to share? If so, please let us know!

Here are some resources that we’ve shared with our students:

Career Planning

Managing Remote Work

Wellness


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February 24, 2020 | By Matt Fortier

Students today have myriad job opportunities presented to them: work in the library, the dorms, or a local retail outlet. Others choose internships (paid or not) in their chosen future industry. But what if you have higher goals? What if you want to make an impact on society? What if you want to dive deeper into your own motivations? We’ve got you covered, and today, we open applications for the Summer 2020 Student Analyst program. 

About a dozen undergraduates and graduates, from both our home here at Georgetown and schools across the nation, will get more than the typical summer job experience because we hold the deep conviction that they’re more than employees – they’re the future of social impact leadership. 

Interested? Read the Job Descriptions and Apply

In fulfilling our mission as a training ground for students and preparing students for leadership in the social impact space, we center our approach on experiential learning. Student analysts gain hands-on experience supporting projects across our Fair Finance, Data + Digital, and Sustainable Student Impact portfolios, learning by doing and applying theoretical concepts to real-world problems. What sets the Student Analyst program apart is that in addition to gaining direct experience tackling social impact projects, we accompany students on their social impact journey through fostering reflection and cultivating mutual investment. Let’s explore how this is achieved. 

A key feature of the program is the creation of a Mutual Development Agreement, where students identify 2-3 learning and development goals they wish to achieve over the course of their semester at the Beeck Center, connecting them to their project and portfolio’s broader goals. The process is iterative, with the analyst and their supervisor working to identify not only the appropriate goals for the semester, but also the responsibilities of both the student and supervisor in meeting each goal. For example, Casey Doherty (College ‘20), works with me to support our Social Impact Navigator. She set the goal of improved communication through different mediums and for different audiences (the Navigator calls this Influential Communication & Collaboration). To help her reach that goal, I provided her with relevant opportunities while developing additional resources to enhance her abilities. For example, we’ve designed a Social Impact Storytelling workshop for this spring, to guide students on how to break from their usual academic style. 


Student Analysts in Action

Read first-hand reports from our student analysts on the work they’ve done.


Another aspect of the program that sets us apart from any old job, is that we provide workshops and team-building activities throughout the semester. In addition to our upcoming Social Impact Storytelling workshop, we’ll also be hosting a training session with Data + Digital Fellow Denice Ross giving students practical skills for creating and leveraging a LinkedIn profile, and navigating formal and informal networking opportunities. The Center’s open workspace serves as a great starting place for such a network, as students develop lasting relationships through team-building activities such as a National Archives field trip and kayaking on the Potomac. 

We encourage students to break down silos and bridge gaps through our Discern + Digest series, where students grapple with challenging questions and strive to discover their personal role in working towards the common good. This weekly series provides students an important opportunity to step back from their daily work activities and gain perspective on their actions through reflection and discernment. Given the busy lives we all lead – all too true at a place like Georgetown – putting away laptops and phones (D+D is a technology free zone) and talking through questions about identity, personal responsibility, personal motivation, and self-care, is incredibly valuable. Moreover, Discern + Digest helps students become comfortable not necessarily solving thorny questions, but rather unraveling them, leaving space for silence, discomfort, and uncertainty.

I’ve written this blog in conjunction with the Summer 2020 Student Analyst Program application launch because we hope to attract students who are interested in social impact, who want to apply themselves to our work, and with whom this concept of “more than just a job” resonates. We want to attract students interested in gaining skills for social impact leadership and developing a mindset that embraces reflection and is motivated towards the common good. For students thinking about their role in the greater social impact space and who are ready to immerse themselves in a unique learning opportunity while taking risks and being challenged, we look forward to seeing your applications and getting to know you this spring! 

Excited by this opportunity? APPLY NOW