Kayla O'Neill

2015 MCN Intern | Undergraduate University: Northeastern University, BA | Degree: Business Administration and International Affairs

"I was lucky that the Millennium Conference I attended was hosted at my own university, so I signed up as a volunteer photographer for one of the plenary sessions. A man who was introduced to us as Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute took the stage, and I remembered thinking, “Who is this guy?” while snapping away with my camera. I learned a great deal from that talk and from experiences like it since.

In the spring of 2015, I was privileged to work for Millennium Campus Network as a Marketing Associate Intern. Since then I have kept busy finishing my undergraduate degree in Business Administration and International Affairs at Northeastern University. I've also completed two co-ops- Amazon Web Services and TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation. I did these co-ops while staying involved in social change initiatives as a leader for student organizations.

Working at MCN gave me insightful event execution experience and an opportunity to build my design portfolio. I had the chance to sit in on the sessions with MCN Fellows, and I benefited from learning about how their student organizations were run and what challenges they were facing. My time with MCN also showed me the importance of networking and making time for face-to-face meetings with the people you’d like to learn from.

In the two years since my work with MCN, I have been a leader for several social change movements at my university. I developed a voter registration marketing campaign with a team from Northeastern University Marketing Association, and we saw a 34 percent increase in the number of students who registered to vote as compared to the previous presidential election in 2012. I also became a leader for Northeastern’s Social Enterprise Institute Student Association, where I promoted social business and scalable solutions to global poverty. While I knew I wanted a career with social impact, I steered away from the nonprofit sector for a bit to gain valuable business experience, which I hoped to apply to my work to benefit social causes. I found that tech companies were certainly open to making an impact, and they could, in fact, be leaders in speaking out about important causes.

While working at Amazon Web Services as an Event Marketing Co-op, I had the opportunity to develop projects that addressed event sustainability and gender diversity. The concept known as “intrapreneurship,” or taking risks in new projects within an established company, has been a driver of innovation and social change at companies from Amazon to Zappos. I felt privileged to share new approaches and ways of thinking with my team within a global company with the resources to make significant change.

My role as a Co-op at TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation was a dream come true; in part because for the first time, I got the chance to dive deeply into a single cause issue. The company had recently pledged $5 million over the next three years to address the global refugee crisis, and I was heavily involved in researching potential funding areas such as refugee resettlement. I also got to help organize a donation drive, fundraiser, volunteer activities, and educational events with speakers from nonprofits like the International Rescue Committee, RefugePoint, and International Institute of New England. I was exposed to the world of corporate philanthropy and it opened my eyes to the potential for so many other companies to get on board and give back.

I discovered through work in issues areas like refugees, environmental conservation, and educational nonprofits that I care deeply about many things. Working at MCN showed me that what I am most interested in is the infrastructure that enables social change and connects change makers with resources. For that reason, I am starting my career as a Business Development Fellow at GlobalGiving in Washington, D.C., where I will support the efforts of companies to give back effectively through their international development efforts.

My advice to MCN Fellows and Delegates is to keep your eyes and ears out for opportunities to connect with organizations and individuals. Being part of a global network like MCN is a great first step, but there are likely local communities that can add their support. Read all you can and listen to the experts, but also do not be afraid to learn by doing, even if it means you might fail!"

*The "quotes" above have been edited for concision and clarity.