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Innovation and Collaboration at Simmons's Graduate Alumnae/Professional Day

On Saturday, March 21st, I had the pleasure of attending this year's Graduate Alumnae/Professional Day. The event, a collaborative effort between Simmons School of Social Work, School of Management, and School of Library and Information Science, featured workshops and and award ceremonies hosted by each school's alumni association. Additionally, the event kicked off that morning with Bill Walczak, president of the Lewis Family Foundation and the Grad Circle Foundation, as the keynote speaker. Bill was one of a handful of founding members of an initiative that helped re-develop the Codman Square area of Boston beginning in the late 1970s. Through the efforts of Walczak and the other members of this initiative, they opened the Codman Square Health Center, a multi-service center which addressed health and other needs of the community. Since it has opened its doors, the health center has become a major factor in the regeneration of the community. 
During his speech, Walczak discussed the symptoms of poverty and how his work and the work of others since the 1970s have all been directed towards 'curing' these symptoms. Afterwards, Dean Eileen Abels' panel featuring representatives from all three graduate schools took the stage where they expanded on their thoughts related to Walczak's speech. For me, it was SLIS's very own Candy Schwartz who delivered a line that really resonated with me: "Libraries are both holders of content and helpers of content". Way back when I was applying for SLIS, then called the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS), I was asked to write a paper that discussed a significant change that was occurring within the world of Library and Information Science. This is exactly what I wrote about.
Today, public libraries have very much become epicenters for many local communities in terms of providing various forms of programming to their communities. Similar to the Codman Center, which provides the community of Codman Square with a plethora of services, libraries today are no longer just a place where one can check out books. Like the title of this year's Graduate Alumnae/Professional Day, "Fostering Communities: Collaboration, Innovation, Connection, and Change", public libraries wear many hats. Besides being houses of knowledge, they are also central locations where patrons can take courses that range in topics from resume building and typing to yoga and cooking classes. It is these sorts of innovations that are not only keeping libraries relevant within a society where information is far more readily accessible than it has been in the past, they are also re-defining the sort of services and opportunities that libraries can offer their local communities. 

And that is just plain awesome!

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Graduate Student Symposium

My takeaway from the 2015 Simmons College Graduate Student Symposium: I should go to more events on campus.

Logistically, it's easiest for me to come to campus only when I have class, so that's pretty much what I do.   Earlier this winter I submitted a paper to the Graduate Student Symposium, and was happy to be selected, even though I knew it would require a little schedule juggling on my part.  So, this past Friday (not usually a school day for me!), I arranged for my kids to go home from school with friends (thank you, Alenka and Caroline!) and made my way over to Simmons for the afternoon, hoping that the logistical challenge would be worth it.

It was so completely worth it.  So. Completely. Worth. It.  The symposium was well organized and the presentations were professional, interesting and relevant.   I ran into several classmates I haven't seen this semester due to opposite course schedules (hello, Celeste, Gretyl and Jahan!) and met SLIS students with whom I've never crossed paths.  I was impressed with the breadth and depth of the presentations, even (especially?) the topics I knew little about.   It was also fun to talk about my own area of interest -- summer reading programs at public libraries --  and I got some great ideas from post-presentation discussions, which I'll test on my own kids this summer (oh, the benefits of having kids when you're training to be a children's librarian!). 

Participating in the symposium made me realize that I should make more of an effort to attend events on campus, even on the days I don't have class.  Between faculty lectures, student organization meetings and career forums, there's at least one event each week that sounds great.  I'll work on that --  part of being at SLIS should include taking advantage of all that Simmons has to offer, which is really quite a lot.

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Gearing up for the 2015 Simmons Leadership Conference

Last night, I joined a large group of current and past Simmons students at the Seaport Boston Hotel and the World Trade Center to train for the 36th annual Simmons Leadership Conference. For those of you who were at Simmons last year, you might recall this event as the one that Hillary Clinton spoke at last spring. While I could not time find in my schedule to go last year, this time around, I was determined to get involved. Ranked as one of the principle women's leadership conferences, the Simmons Leadership Conference attracts over 3000 middle and senior level women from companies and organizations across the country and around the globe. Inspired but the mission of Simmons founder, John Simmons, the creators seek to continue his work to enable women to acquire independent livelihoods. The list of past speakers who have been previously featured is quite impressive: Madeline Albright, Maya Angelou, Benazir Bhutto, Diane Keaton, and many more.  This year, Sally Fields has the honor of being the final keynote speaker of the day.
Seriously, how could I pass up an opportunity to work such a cool event?
While the day is quite jammed packed with exciting and interesting keynote speakers and breakout sessions, potential volunteers were given various time slots throughout the day to chose from. Many of the women - and men-  that I met last night were talking about how happy they were with the flexibility of the volunteer options. They didn't feel like they were limited in what they could do for the conference, nor did they feel overwhelmed. For those who were really excited to get involved, there was an option to work from 5:30am to 4:30pm (all volunteers were welcomed to stick around and attend Sally Field's keynote address). Me being, well, me, I decided to go big or go home. Sure I would have to attend class later that evening at 6:30 but I felt that considering the size and scope of the conference, why not just go for it? Actually, a lot of the volunteers that I met last night felt this way about it, which meant that I wasn't going to be just one of a few all-day participants, but one of many. 
Over the course of two hours, myself and others were led through both leadership conferences locations, the Seaport Boston Hotel and the World Trade Center. With our Operational Manuals in hand, we stood together as we were given a run-through of what to expect throughout the day and tips on how to successfully handle the 1000+ attendees. During dinner, we were divided up into tables and had the chance to meet with individuals who had participated in the conference in the past. One woman was celebrating her 22nd year working the conference.
Although the event is still a few weeks off, I cannot wait! Besides working alongside Simmons alums, I will also be working with Simmons students from other programs. I love doing stuff like this since I always end up meeting the most remarkable people.
Wish me luck!
If you would like to learn more about the 2015 Simmons Leadership conference, check out their website: http://leadership.simmons.edu/

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