Recently, we had an incredible opportunity to learn and build our professional networks in a setting beyond what’s possible in the classroom. On a brisk October morning, we bundled up and made our way across Detroit’s riverfront to attend the 2019 Net Impact Conference, representing the DePaul Net Impact chapter as proud chapter leaders.
Net Impact, a nonprofit based in Oakland, Calif., has more than 400 professional and university chapters around the globe. The organization’s mission aims to equip, inspire and build the professional networks of the next generation of change-makers and social impact leaders. A Net Impact chapter has been operating at DePaul for several years, and in 2019, we hoped to make the presence of the DePaul Net Impact chapter felt in Detroit. This year’s conference theme was dubbed, “Widening the Lens” – in other words, how can students and industry professionals expand their ideas about sustainability and social impact.
On Friday, we were lucky enough to present at the first-ever Net Impact poster presentation session, where we had the opportunity to raise awareness around the issues of food loss and global climate change – issues that drove us both to pursue degrees in the field of sustainable management at DePaul. It was an informal setting where we could see how our tech-based idea for reducing food loss in supply chains would be received by others, mostly students and working professionals also attending the conference. We received plenty of encouragement from other conference attendees during that afternoon session. We both came out thinking, “This public speaking thing isn’t too bad, right?”
On Saturday, we attended a career-building session sponsored by LinkedIn. We served as mentors to scholarship students attending universities in Detroit. Our goal was to assist these students as they advance their professional networks and build their LinkedIn profiles for future job hunting. It was an amazing chance to learn about the life experiences and journeys of others, and we left the session having learned a lot more than we gave.
All the final presentations and papers we have endured as students, and the concepts we have learned in the classroom, put us in the position to not just enter the conference as participants but seize the opportunity to be change-makers and storytellers. We both felt clarity and direction in our careers; a situation you dream of when you first decide to take the initial step in pursuing an advanced degree. Based on the feedback we had from visitors at the poster presentation, it seems like we are on track for graduation next year with the skills required in today’s competitive landscape: attention to detail, creativity, and critical thinking, which were some of the comments we heard.
For students interested in a similar experience, Net Impact hosts ongoing challenges, where you can submit a proposal and test your entrepreneurial spirit in a professional environment. Earlier this year, we submitted a proposal to the Net Impact 2019 Food Solutions Challenge. As finalists, we received an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City in June and had the opportunity to pitch our idea to a panel of investors and sustainability experts. We placed second overall, and it was one of the reasons Net Impact invited us to present at this October conference.
A strong finish to our last year at DePaul has never been more motivating. We are excited to get back in the classroom and leverage what we have learned about building networks that inspire change in the world. We challenge students at DePaul to get involved around campus – whether it’s a study abroad program or a student organization. There are plenty of opportunities to take your classroom concepts out into the world. Don’t wait until you graduate.
We would like to thank DePaul University for making these opportunities possible for us.
Ryan Henderson and Martin Holzmann are graduate students in the MS in Sustainable Management Program at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. They currently lead DePaul Net Impact as the chapter leaders.