I Am Limitless Conference Shows Students Possibilities of Social Impact Work
NYU Shanghai hosted its first social impact and innovation conference March 9. The conference, themed "I AM LIMITLESS," brought together change makers from across China to share insights on how NYU Shanghai students might make difference by serving others.
Eleanor Bedford, Director of Programming for the United States Peace Corps in China, opened the morning’s TED Talk-style presentation with the three C’s that have guided her career: Curiosity, Courage, and Connections.
Eleanor Bedford from the Peace Corps opens the talk by sharing the three C’s that have guided her career
“Life is not a straight line,” Bedford said. “You have to go out and find or...forge your own path. It doesn’t really matter where you begin. The important thing is just to get going.”
Bedford was joined by Ming Khor, founder of the service learning company Keru, which connects professionals and students with social impact projects. Khor, who said he became interested in social outreach after teaching English in rural China, encouraged student to follow their passions. “You can find your place in any sector that you want. For me, it was doing my own business in the social impact space,” Khor said. “Whether or not you work for a nonprofit or for a big company, you can have an impact anywhere.”
Guest speakers from left: Bai Hailun ‘18, Richard Zhao ‘17, and Ming Khor (founder of Keru)
NYU Shanghai alumni Bai Hailun, ’18 and Richard Zhao, ‘17, also spoke about their experiences in driving social change. Bai is currently working as a volunteer teacher in Weishan County, Yunnan, where she teaches 21 classes a week to 120 economically and socially disadvantaged students.
In her talk, Bai shared the triumph, knowledge, and sense of duty that her work had given her. “My grade 3 students came in first place in Weishan county in English last semester,” Bai said. “But I don’t feel happy at all. I worry: What if I leave after two years and no local teacher can teach the children English?”
Zhao currently works as a project manager for the nonprofit healthcare think tank ACCESS Health International. He will attend law school at the University of Michigan in the fall, where he will focus his studies on expanding healthcare access. He encouraged students to get hands-on experience.
“I hope. . . that we’ll all be courageous enough to get close to the places where these issues are hurting people,” Zhao said. “Because it’s only through proximity that we can really effect real and lasting change.”
Christina Bowllan, ’22, said her “lightbulb moment” of the day was hearing Bedford’s advice to embrace life’s unexpected turns, and to follow your passions where they lead. “It hit me that life is unplanned,” Bowllan said. “So go into opportunities and be okay with things not going the way you might want [them] to.”
The conference, which included afternoon seminars on personal branding, fellowship opportunities, volunteering, and study away experiences, was hosted by the NYU Shanghai Career Development Center (CDC). During the conference, the CDC also hosted a career fair with 12 social impact and nonprofit groups, including the Peace Corps, and Teach for China.
Harrison Cheng (Student Life staff and Peace Corps representative) shares details about his experience in the Peace Corps.
Guo Hao, Director of Employer Relations for the CDC, said she wanted to show students the possibilities that exist in social impact careers. By hearing from alumni like Zhao, who studied finance before going into healthcare work, students might be inspired to widen the scope of their career plans, Guo said.
Read the full transcript of Bai Hailun’s speech here