A CHANGE of Pace

While many of us were enjoying the sun this summer, Pace student Diana Mendez ’15 juggled poverty, hunger, injustice, access for Latino youth to attend college, and a study abroad program in Italy.

“Women cocoa farmers in West Africa were not getting fair wages and their living conditions were horrible and they worked for companies like Nestle and Mars,” says Diana Mendez ’15. “So what Oxfam did, because the companies are located here, Oxfam advocated for the cocoa farmers, and took thousands of Crunch bars, M&Ms, and Oreos and rewrapped them in their own slogan and gave them out for free. We as consumers have so much power. We’re trying to say that we bought them all and gave them to you for free so you have this knowledge.”

This summer, the Business Management and Sociology double major put her classroom knowledge to use through the Oxfam America CHANGE Initiative, which empowers a select group of college students around the country to become engaged with the organization’s work and shape a new generation of global citizens at their own universities. Working outside of the U.S., Oxfam America develops long-term solutions to poverty, campaigns for social justice, and, ultimately saves lives.

“What I love about Oxfam America is they have headquarters around the world and each Oxfam aids other countries,” Mendez says. “We empower people all over the world by presenting them the information about company or government policies, resources, and materials they need. When people think of helping people in poverty, you don’t have to change their culture—just give them their human rights. That’s something a lot of people can relate to.”

And Mendez was no exception. This summer, she participated in a study abroad trip to Italy to learn more about the world that she wants to change. There, she met with the director of Oxfam Italia, who had spent seven years doing missionary work in Santo Domingo, where Mendez found an interesting connection.

“He helped fertilize soil of cocoa beans and he was able to feed 7,000 families in Santo Domingo. That helped the community where my mom was born and grew up. That’s how I want students to see it—you make a connection with the work you’re doing,” she says.

Through a rigorous training and leadership program, Diana was empowered to create CHANGE…and she’s starting right here at Pace, finding passionate students to join her new student organization—Oxfam America at Pace University.

And while Mendez has created her own change, she credits several Pace mentors for helping along the way.

“Sue Maxam has forever changed my life,” she says, of the University’s Interim Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Education, who mentored Mendez throughout the Oxfam application process. “There was no way I could have done the work without the people who have helped me and believed in me.”

Through Maxam, Mendez met the Wilson Center’s Program Coordinator Lisa Heisman and found Latino U College Access at a Pace Career Services Fair. The organization’s founder and executive director, Pace alumna Shirley Buontempo, was speaking to a man about empowering Hispanic youth, which drew Mendez’s attention.

“She was talking about how passionate the Hispanic culture is, how much they care about work and education, how hard they need to work, and how important it is to empower them,” she says, prompting a fist-bump between Mendez and Buontempo as well as a unique connection. “I e-mailed her to say I would love to get together to talk about possibilities and opportunities, and how we and Sue could use our energy and passion to help the community, not to get a special edge to the internship.”

Buontempo saw Mendez’s passion and she was awarded a Wilson Center-funded internship at Latino U, where she used her experience and struggles as a first generation college student to help students with their college admission process and also helped secure Latino U an office right on Pace’s White Plains Campus.

All that, and she still had time to attend the International Young leaders Assembly at the UN this summer.

“I work hard doing what I like to do, which is helping people and communities. If you’re passionate about something, you should go for it… The best thing about being a Pace student is when you work hard, it all pays off. It’s kind of like Hogwarts—when you ask for help, help is given to you,” she said.

If you want to help Diana and the people around the world working with Oxfam America, e-mail her at dm69779n@pace.edu.

Interested in sharing your success story for The Pulse and Pace website? E-mail tlopes@pace.edu

A Paramount Success

Find out how Pace student Sean Green ’14 turned hardships into internships and countless opportunities.

Every day, Pace students are taking advantage of the endless opportunities the city has to offer. Sean Green ’14, who’s pursuing a degree in communication studies with a minor in film studies,  is utilizing Pace’s location along with the awesome skills he’s gained while in college to reach his full potential. Sean is definitely a success story, and while Pace helped him get there, his motivation is what has propelled him to a promising future.

But his time at the university hasn’t always been simple. Weeks before his scheduled arrival to the University, Sean’s family suffered a tremendous loss—the passing of his sister. While it would have been acceptable for him to take a semester or year off to deal with his grief, Sean chose to move into Maria’s Tower and begin his freshman year of college on time. This dedication has translated into his time here at Pace.

Sean credits two professors with his success thus far and helping him work through this rough first semester of college: Communications Professor and academic adviser Emilie Zaslow, PhD, and Economics Professor Mark Weinstock. As his adviser, Professor Zaslow helped him through his difficult few months at Pace and assisted in his adjustment to university life.

Sean explained, “She was so incredibly helpful in my particular situation and getting me to not only adjust to being a college student, but my new life. She was always there for me when I wanted to ask a question or just wanted to talk.”

Sean has also found guidance from Professor Weinstock, who expressed his support and pride in Sean’s decision to come to Pace regardless of the hardships he faced. With Professor Weinstock’s encouragement, Sean worked more diligently and has maintained a stellar GPA.

After his sister’s death, Sean founded the KG Foundation to keep his sister’s name alive.  Every year he helps run and organize fundraisers that have been attended by 250 people. The KG foundation raised $10,000 in their last outing in March of 2011. Sean also aided in establishing the “Kristin Green: Apple of my Eye” program, which has given fifth graders in his school district on Long Island Mac computers.

Between all the roles Sean has filled, he has also been successful in balancing a part-time job at Urban Outfitters, 18 credits worth of classes, and his current internship with Paramount Pictures. Sean heard about this internship through E-recruiting with the University’s Career Services. Many students struggle to find internships in their chosen field, but with help from Career Services, Sean was on his way to a dream internship in no time. “I worked with [Career Services] on my resume and cover letter, which I really do think helped me get the job!” he says.

At Paramount, Sean interns with the Field Marketing and Publicity Department. With each Paramount film that is released, he and his fellow interns complete “college directives” to promote the films. He has been assigned to promote the films in young adult markets and organizes events throughout the semester. He performs tasks like creating a “campus snow day” for the film Rise of the Guardians, and has a “Jobs in Aviation” event to promote the film Flight. Though he is not 100 percent sure of what he wants to pursue after college, Sean knows these opportunities have helped guide and prepare him for success after graduation.

“These experiences have greatly influenced my future career plans because I learned that I do not want to be just ‘a number’ in a corporation but I want to matter in the output of the company that I work for,” Sean says.

This spring, Sean will be taking advantage of another exciting opportunity–spending a semester abroad studying at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Whether on the Eastern Seaboard or amid the Indian Pacific, Sean undoubtedly will continue to be a Pace success story well into his future.

Written by Pace student Sarah Aires ’14

Interested in sharing your Pace Success Story? E-mail pulse@pace.edu and let us know what you’ve been up to at Pace!