PCDN Founder and CEO Craig Zelizer Speaks Truth to Students, Alumni
Wednesday, April 18, 2018TOPICS: AlumniStudent Success
Creating a career focused on social good while still making a living is possible, despite a commonly accepted myth that devoting oneself to making a positive impact can lead to poverty. This is a myth the Kroc School has been trying to bust.
A critical step in creating peacebuilders and Changemakers is preparing them for what the world is like, while empowering them to see what the world could be. To help achieve this goal, we brought Craig Zelizer, PhD, Founder and CEO of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network (PCDN) to talk to Kroc School students and alumni.
Zelizer led a series of career development workshops which evolved into reflective exercises on the nature of work in social change, the realities of that work, and how to succeed. He provided the perfect combination of real-world truths about working in social change, combined with the energy and enthusiasm to help students envision how they can leave their mark.
What follows is a reflective post from recent Kroc School alumna Jessica Ciccarelli '15 (MA) about her experience and learnings from her time with Zelizer.
Reflections from Jessica Ciccarelli
The world seems to know when you’re tired or struggling. If you’re lucky, like I’ve been, right at the height of your doubt, at the moment you most want to surrender, it hands you an ember of hope.
I needed an ember that day. I was tired and beginning to wonder about my path and direction. So many years ago, my mother had taught me to believe in art and activism, but maybe it was a little crazy to believe so strongly. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe it wasn’t time.
That day my questions were answered with a person. Craig Zelizer is the founder of one of the world’s premier Changemaker hubs, Peace and Collaborative Development Network. I didn’t find out until that morning, though, that he was also a student of art and peace. In fact, he’d written his dissertation on it. Nothing could have inspired me more at that moment than realizing someone like him believed in art and peace as much as I did.
Still, I’ve come to realize some people are put in your path to see your vision and help when you’re in doubt, while others are there to challenge you to think more deeply about it. It turned out Craig Zelizer was the latter. Yet there was something truly inspiring about the way he did it. He didn’t beat around the bush or soften how difficult a career in art and peace would be. He pushed us—a fellow Kroc school alum and me, both in the art field—to think about the roadblocks and challenges a peace artist would face. He asked us to dig deeper and think about how committed we were to the struggle our path would inevitably have. Perhaps most importantly, he actually saw the path as possible. He believed if we fought hard enough, it could work, and he gave us resources to begin making that happen.
The one thing I heard over and over from colleagues and friends about Craig Zelizer's visit was that he wasn't afraid to give hard truths. He spoke openly about the difficult world of peace and development, then he handed you a proverbial shovel to start digging yourself a path to move forward. That was 100% my experience. I may not have liked every truth he shared, but they forced me to ask myself: is this something I’m willing to fight for? I said “yes,” and in doing so, he offered me tool after tool to keep at it. In a world that so often undervalues art and creativity, he gave me what he knew I needed to push forward and eventually succeed.
The lesson for me in all of this was easy: hold tight to those people who show you how hard the path will be and encourage you upon it anyway. Value the truth givers.
Going in, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect. More than anything, I think I expected a lecture. What he gave us instead was a truly inspiring interactive conversation about the power and potential of art. I walked out of that room more determined than ever to follow my entrepreneurial dreams. He helped relight a fire that was quickly exhausting. Yet again, the world said, “Keep fighting,” and I thanked it for the incredible people who constantly light my path and push me to be and fight better.
Pursue a Career in Social Impact
So what can a career in social impact look like? The answer is, it can look like just about anything, so long as you have a clear vision and the skills to bring it to fruition. With a pragmatic approach, an innovative mindset, and the support of professionals in the field, making a living and making change can be one in the same.