I will remember my students in Cambodia. They were accustomed to rote memorization, scolding, and restraint. But they awoke with novel ideas and animation when I encouraged creativity, such as by acting out vocabulary words. For StartingBloc, I won’t mind being the first lumbering elephant in the room. The StartingBloc Fellowship is a diverse community, with Fellows coming from a variety of sectors and backgrounds. How will you bring your experience and knowledge to enrich the StartingBloc network?
I love encouraging amazing people and supporting them on their journeys. If I become part of the StartingBloc network, my mind will be racing a mile a minute as I meet incredible people like Shivani Siroya and explore ways I might connect them to people, ideas, and opportunities to collaborate, as I regularly do via email and Twitter.
Public speaking is tough. I have facilitated college panels to over 2000 high school students as the founder and executive director of BetterGrads. I have learned that respectful, attentive listening is one of the most powerful things you can say (see red arrow v. yellow circles). SB fellows change the world and have a lot to teach, so I plan to talk a lot with my ears.
I would not say anything here. Although I am featured pretty prominently in these slides, I don’t need to be the center of attention. I will enrich the StartingBloc network by being positive, not disruptive. I leave my disruption for alleviating social and political problems.
Recently, my education technology startup, Alumn.us, won Startup Weekend-EDU in San Francisco. Over the course of 52-hours of nonstop work, I learned how essential it is to a.) commit your best ideas to paper so people know where you stand and b.) bring in others for feedback whenever possible. At StartingBloc, I will be forward yet flexible, bold yet eager to improve.
In 2010-11, I served as an Ambassador of Goodwill for Rotary International in Oaxaca, Mexico. I selected to serve as a scholar in Oaxaca for its diversity and close connection to the United States: 70% of the population is indigenous and 1 million have moved to the US. By interacting with people from backgrounds unlike my own (as I learned here from teaching business classes to women entrepreneurs), I learned about my self, and inevitably saw my common humanity with people from other cultures and backgrounds. I will seek out diverse perspectives through the StartingBloc network. And if anyone is interested in volunteering in Mexico or learning Spanish, I’ve got them covered.
I believe that empathy is the basis of understanding, and awareness is the key ingredient to action. I had these principles in mind in designing this advertisement for the London-based human rights organization, Article 19. I am eager to ask my fellow Fellows: when has awareness been important in your sector, and how does empathy impact your work? Sometimes the best way to contribute is by eliciting the contribution of others.
I have met a number of outstanding StartingBloc fellows, including Ali Raymond, Laura Tomasko, and Daniel Roberts. The StartingBloc community is strong. As I experienced in NOLA after Hurricane Katrina, although a community may be comprised of people from a smorgasbord of backgrounds, when experiences are common and goals are shared, people can achieve great things together. I will seek out meaningful partnerships with Fellows, especially as it pertains to my work to empower under-served schools and communities to change from within.
I like to laugh and make others feel welcomed, so I would probably sit at this empty table and welcome new StartingBloc Fellows as they arrive, perhaps by pretending to be staff. I’m friendly like that. You can see how much business this Bedouin woman gained by selling her wares with me helping out.
The contrast is stark: a young grad student, smiling for a photo in front of his college at Cambridge University; an aging man who just lost his home from a catastrophic flood, looking for answers from city officials. These are the worlds I balanced while researching the impact of a 500-year flood on community life and social trust in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I am preternaturally comfortable in many different situations. At StartingBloc, as I do elsewhere, I will carry my experiences with me to share with others, to connect to their experiences and better understand their worldview. And I will continue to ask, of others and myself: what makes you tick?