Forum to help students connect classroom, careers

Alumni will bring practical social justice advice to Sept. 6 event

Official White House Photo/Pete Souza

Sam Vaghar '08, executive director of the Milennium Campus Network, meets with President Barack Obama in June 2011.

From the United Nations and the Anti-Defamation League, to World Vision Ghana and Planned Parenthood, more than 30 alumni and representatives from organizations dedicated to social justice will convene at Brandeis for the inaugural SoJust Leadership Forum: Journeys in Social Justice, Beyond Brandeis on Sept. 6.

Building off the university’s commitment to social justice, the forum is a new campus-wide event sponsored by the Hiatt Career Center, the Office of Professional Development at The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life, the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis faculty and the Student Union.

“I am thrilled that Hiatt and our campus partners are able to bring such a wonderful group of alumni and friends of Brandeis to our campus,” said Cary Weir Lytle ‘98, associate director of employer relations at Hiatt. “Social justice has evolved from a founding principle of the university to a life’s mission for an increasing number of people in our school’s community.”

A key goal of the forum is to encourage Brandeis students to think critically about how to make the most of their current social justice involvement, both curricular and co-curricular, and to think about public interest careers in both broad and concrete terms.

"Students often ask me how they actually get a job doing the things they love, working for social justice,” said David Cunningham, professor of sociology and co-sponsor of the event. “They learn in the classroom and through their internships and student organizations about all the issues they hope to confront in the real world, but often aren't quite sure how to convert that into a career and a paycheck after college.

“Through this forum, students will have a chance to see specific examples of people who were in their exact position a few years ago, and follow their path translating the skills and experience they gained at Brandeis into a career. And these alumni are doing truly fascinating work," Cunningham said.

The event will begin with a panel discussion moderated by Brandeis Professor Melissa Stimell, featuring prominent Brandeis alumni including Andrew Slack ’02, founder of the Harry Potter Alliance, a human rights advocacy organization, and the Heller School’s Rosaline Salifu, a development specialist with Ghana’s Social Investment Fund.

Following the panel, the event will feature round-table networking sessions, giving current students a chance to connect with alumni and other professionals in fields they wish to explore.

“My hope is that the SoJust Leadership Forum will be a catalyst for creating meaningful connections between current Brandeis students and our dedicated alumni, thereby furthering the commitment to the mission of Justice Louis Brandeis and the university,” Stimell said.

Senior Michael Perloff is looking forward to the chance to learn more some of the fields he’s considering entering upon his graduation in May 2012.

“I’m really excited to learn from some of these impressive alumni—from a state Supreme Court law clerk to founders of international development organizations,” he said. “I have a lot of questions about how to transition from Brandeis to an actual career in public service, and a lot of my friends are in the same boat. I think it will be really clarifying to hear from people who have successfully done just that.”

The forum will also offer an opportunity for graduates—recent and not so recent—to connect with others in similar fields, as well as with some of the faculty and staff members who helped guide their path. “I’m very much looking forward to hearing from and learning from other Brandeis graduates,” said Sam Vaghar ‘08, a featured guest and the executive director of the Millennium Campus Network, which unites student groups across the country in fighting extreme global poverty. “Brandeis was foundational for me; it was where I met many of the people I work with, and where I learned many of the skills that enabled the MCN to grow.”

The SoJust Forum will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 6 p.m. in Sherman Function Hall in the Hassenfeld Conference Center. For complete details about the forum and how to RSVP, visit Hiatt’s official event page.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, International Affairs

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