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Learn from the Best on Making It Big and Making a Difference at NCCWSL

As college women leaders, you want to make a difference on your campus and in the world. You have the drive, the commitment, and the tools. Now you’re wondering: What’s next?

The answer may be simpler than you think. Take your cues from Deanna Zandt, a leading media technologist who is changing the world through her work with advocacy organizations. In an Ignite talk she gave on movement building, Zandt suggests a few basic steps for getting started:


  • Be authentic


    1. . “Authenticity is what begins to connect us to other people,” Zandt told her audience.


    1. Seek out different perspectives. “If you are interested in changing the world, you need to surround yourself with people who don’t look like you and who are not always ideologically similar to you,” Zandt said.


  1. Embrace empathy. Empathy can help deepen bonds of trust — a critical part of building communities and making change, she said.

Following her own advice has helped Zandt make a difference. One telling example is her work with Planned Parenthood. Using her social media skills, Zandt protested the politicization of women’s bodies by creating a Tumblr called Planned Parenthood Saved Me. On it, Zandt asked people to submit stories of how Planned Parenthood saved their lives. The site collected more than 300 stories. Within two days, it had received so much attention that Rachel Maddow read from it on her show.

Zandt wasn’t always so confident in making social change. After graduating from college, she found herself where many grads find themselves — wondering what comes next.

“I was the kind of person who needed to know exactly what was going to happen at all times,” she said in a TED talk she gave in Berlin. Zandt saw adulthood as a place where “there would be stable income, there would be ice cream, there would be health insurance … and all you had to do was know what you wanted, plow through whatever lines you had to do to get there, and everything would take care of itself.”

After college, Zandt learned that her career would not follow “clearly defined paths.” Instead, she used social technology to create networks that shifted her career from one experience to another.

In 14 years, she has held many different jobs —author, founder, advisor, advocate, consultant, contributor —and has worked for the Ford Foundation, the Daily Beast-Newsweek, Forbes.com, NPR, and even the White House.

“My résumé might look like a hodgepodge of indecision,” Zandt told her Berlin audience. “But in fact it is a constellation of experience that has given me unique ways to grow.”

College can be a time of great uncertainty about the future, especially when you try to imagine your own career path. As a successful media technologist who has changed the world along the way, Zandt knows how to make life what you want. Come to NCCWSL this June to catch her featured speech.


This post was written by AAUW Campus Leadership Programs Intern Haley Francesca Cameron.

By:    March 11, 2014