Congratulations to the Notre Dame class of 2013! As many of my friends graduate today I am reminded of my own graduation last May. It seems impossible that it was only a year ago. So much has changed!
Back then I was trying to figure out if I was going to take a job in Seattle or put more effort into this nugget of a dream involving South Bend and the State Theater. My dream entering school had been to be a consultant, working with non-profit and for-profit businesses alike to improve their effectiveness. Over the course of my two years at Notre Dame I’d determined I wanted to be, and had the necessary skills to be, an agent of change. As Ghandi put it, to “Be the Change”. My goal was to bring my own Notre Dame MBA skills and my personal ethics and passion for this new sustainable, inclusive world we are entering, to places that weren’t necessarily looking for it (sneaky style). Seattle was already a bastion for these ideas and the company I was going to seemed to fully embrace them. The going is never “easy” but it seemed that I would have a significant opportunity to succeed.
But, as we know, I didn’t make it to Seattle. So what happened? As I now reflect on the events that led me to push that opportunity in Seattle aside, there are several things that stand out. I’d seen South Bend through different eyes than many of my classmates and smelled the hint of change and renewal in the air. Working on the submission to the Pitch Your Plan competition while I was in Haiti, I really began to feel very invested in the project and as the numbers came together, it made sense on so many levels. Financially, of course, the plan had to be viable and using the brewery as the catalyst it seemed to be. But there was so much more opportunity there, opportunity to engage in community building and to be a leader in showcasing sustainability. Here too was my opportunity to be that agent of change and to have an impact, allowing me to look back in 20 years with pride in what I had helped build with my gifts and talents. I felt strongly that I could do this; that I could help build an organization that could be described as sustainable, innovative, and inclusive.
Of course now I realize that I wasn’t alone in these desires and that there are hundreds of people in the city working on that same common goal of community building around sustainability, inclusiveness, and innovation. Organizations like Purple Porch Co-Op, The Music Village, Unity Gardens, Greening the Bend, Bike the Bend, and Langlab are all helping to drive that change as are community leaders like Beth Harsch, Willow Wetherall and Lawrence Greenspun. Area schools like Ivy Tech, IU South Bend, Bethel College, and, of course, Notre Dame, are getting involved as well. We even have the government on board as seen in the support of people like Mayor Pete, Scott Ford, and Cherrie Peate. It truly is a great time to be in the Bend.
And I haven’t really had to give up the dream of being a consultant. I just do it under a different guise, as a way of giving back. I had the opportunity to help found Three Degrees which has given me numerous opportunities to work with others on their own business challenges and, I hope, provided some valuable input. This is just one of the many ways in which I feel deeply connected to South Bend.
It’s easy to second guess yourself and at times like these it always seems proper to stop and ask the question “did I make the right choice?”. This job isn’t always easy and the way isn’t always clear but the potential is huge. I already feel like I’m having that impact I wanted so this time around, I’d say “Yes!”.
If you agree and value the work I’ve been doing, please contribute to my crowdfunding campaign for The State. With only 14 days left we are still shy of our goal amount and taking advantage of the generous matching opportunity. Every dollar contributed improves the potential of success for this dream we call The State, South Bend.