Enrichment Grant Report: Shira Engel ’14

Shira Engel ’14, author of the e-book Yoga U: The College Student’s Tools for Balanced Living and co-founder of WesBAM!, was selected to receive an Enrichment Grant from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. This funding helped support a trip to the New York Women in Communications Student Career Conference. Read Shira’s story below, and visit the PCSE website to learn more about our Enrichment Grants.




Shira EngelThis November, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship enabled me to take advantage of a tremendous opportunity: the New York Women in Communications Student Career Conference. This annual conference brings together college women from all over the Northeast and experts in communications-related fields to make the career process less daunting. Annually, the conference serves as a gateway to a world of insight and knowledge on communications-related fields for its attendees. It is a chance to learn from experts and to find out about their processes in their own entrepreneurial ventures.

My senior year of high school, after being accepted into Wesleyan Early Decision, I found out about NYWICI, a foundation that gives $10,000 scholarships to young women from New York City who are interested in communications-related fields. A budding writer and feminist (I now major in FGSS and English), this foundation seemed like a great match for providing a feasible way for me to afford college. That was pretty much where my thinking ended. Little did I know how many empowering and career-altering opportunities this organization would provide me with long after the $10,000 check got sent to Financial Aid.

This particular opportunity felt a lot more real this year. As a senior, the idea of having an impending “career” is constantly on my mind. Through my work with the Patricelli Center, I have begun to realize that “being employed” can have a meaning that goes beyond our traditional understanding of “having a job” and it can all be fueled by a desire to do social good. This conference was a seven-hour crash course in truly internalizing the ways in which that desire can be enacted in both what I do at Wesleyan and all that is available for me to do after Wesleyan.

The day was framed by powerful examples of social entrepreneurship in action. It began with a keynote address by Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that trains underserved girls to work in technology fields, addressing two needs at once: the need for more women and girls in science and technology-related fields, and the need on behalf of these girls to learn a valuable skill with which they can earn a living and pay for school.

During the day, I attended three panels: Writing and Editing for Print and Online, Blogging 101, and Starting Your Own Business. What I learned at these panels is representative of what I want to bring to a discourse and course of action on social entrepreneurship. I want to educate people through clear, prolific writing, on the issues that matter, and I want to start a business that will have a positive impact on the world, which will bring something new.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted. I stayed at Wesleyan the previous night for the Rooks concert and had left my house at 5:30AM to make it to the conference on time. On top of that, I was beginning to feel the onset of stress. I had just spent hours going from career-related panel to career-related panel. The future felt closer than it had all of senior year thus far. I felt unprepared and inadequate just as much as I felt inspired and cognizant of the available possibilities. I sat down at a table with another scholarship recipient, who, a film major at NYU, offered to make a promotional video for an organization I am planning to start – the sheer power of networking! I prepared myself to hear yet another panel with even more impressive women talking about their extraordinarily successful career paths. I was nervous.

Then Tammy spoke. Tammy Tibbets won a NYWICI scholarship, just like me, ten years ago. I met her when she was the digital editor of Seventeen Magazine. Sophomore year, when I won the scholarship for a second time, I talked with her about the nonprofit she was starting on the side. She’s the First, a thriving nonprofit, which uses a social media driven campaign that inspires Millennial women to fundraise for girls’ education sponsorships. Last year, Tammy quit her job at Seventeen and put her savvy business and social media skills to use in making She’s the First a full-time venture. This inspiring organization has seen wild success and I realized that I have created a picture of Tammy as frantic, always-busy successful founder.

Yet sitting there on the panel, looking relaxed and extremely put together, Tammy responded to the panel question: What is one piece of advice you have for young professionals?

“I don’t consider myself to be a stressed person at all,” she said and my eyes bugged out, shocked. “I am so inspired by the individual stories of the girls that She’s the First sends to school. So my biggest piece of advice is that even when you don’t know the how, focus on the why.”