Guest Post by Kathryn DeSutter
Jan. 25 — Students, faculty, staff and community members sat around tables in the McCullough Social Space Friday morning, eagerly waiting for instructions from Billy Parish. Many of us had heard his address the night before, and with the help of some sugary breakfast goodies and plentiful coffee, we were energized and ready to continue our exploration.
Parish discussed how it has been his personal experience that the discovery of one’s purpose often comes from family, travel or books. In order to think more deeply about our own purpose, Parish told us to write out a timeline of our lives — a daunting task, even for a kid like me! Audience members around the room were given 15 minutes to brainstorm and record names, places, events, people, books and other significant milestones. In order to connect these experiences, Parish had us pair up with someone to share our timeline, and then reflect on that sharing.
After thinking broadly about our lives, Parish helped us narrow down to specifics. He asked us to write three professions we knew enough about to speak on for 15 minutes. We then wrote three activities we have the skills to do, usually in verb form. Finally, we wrote three places — anywhere in the world — we would like to live. From these nine individual words and phrases, he challenged us to create combinations — blogging about social entrepreneurship in Vermont, for example — and think about these combinations as possible goals for future professions.
Parish then moved to the final phase of his workshop, forcing us to stop thinking about just our individual role and to think more broadly about our impact on the world. We split into roundtable discussions with all participants to talk about a certain system, such as energy, health care, media, just to name a few. We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of those systems and how we could work to change them.
Although Parish’s workshop was similar to many of the exercises I’ve had a chance to do over the past week in Jon Isham’s Social Entrepreneurship in the Liberal Arts course, it was encouraging to watch other students and other community members think critically about these ideas for the first time.