From a very young age, almost all children dream of what they want to be when they grow up; from teachers to astronauts or zookeepers to firefighters the possibilities and interests are endless! Some children go on to pursue those dreams (or some variation of them) with help and support from family, educational systems, and personal resources, but for others, those dreams fade away over time due to lack of resources and opportunities. Danielle Livingston, a Marketing major in the School of Business, hopes to change that.
A member of the Honors Learning community at the Storrs campus, Danielle will be hosting a “Wildest Dreams Career Fair” as part of Danielle’s Honors Leadership Project. The event has been specifically created with the goal of exposing high school “seniors in Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury, and New Britain schools to [career] fields which lack people of color.” Danielle hopes that through this event, underrepresented high school students will be able to learn about ways they can help make their career dreams become reality! I caught up with Danielle to learn more about this event and Danielle’s own personal career development journey.
Kristen Soprano: How did you choose your major, program, and/or minor?
Danielle Livingston: Before I started college, I was unsure which career I wanted to pursue. I only knew that I was interested in business. Marketing, in particular, intrigued me because it involves working with multiple stakeholders and its concepts can be applied in various positions and industries.
I chose to minor in Global Studies because I love learning about different cultures and the interconnectedness of the global community.
After a couple of years, I have finally decided that I want to pursue a career in international development. There, I will be able to use my knowledge from both programs to aid my community and other parts of the world.
KS: How did you develop the idea for this honors project?
DL: I attended an inner-city school since I was in the 5th grade. Being in that environment, I witnessed the gross inequity within the public education system. I continued to see the effects of this when I arrived at UConn. I was struck by the lack of racial diversity on campus.
There are many high school students, especially inner-city minorities, who do not even feel qualified to apply for college. From my experience, many who do go to college feel unprepared due to their subpar education leading up to that stage. Since my time in high school, this has frustrated me.
Furthermore, if you follow this trend, from high school to college to the real world, you begin to see the real effects of unequal access to education. People of color are largely underrepresented in an array of fields. This is an added discouragement to minority students deciding on a career path. I believe we can encourage these students by showcasing individuals in these fields who look like them. Through this event, I plan to connect individuals from these 3 stages of life: high school students, undergraduates, and professionals.
KS: Can you talk more about the significance of the event name “Wildest Dreams”? Why did you choose to name it that?
DL: “Wildest Dreams” comes from a quote that says, “We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams”. The quote originated in a tweet by Russell Joseph Ledet, who used it to caption a picture of 15 Black medical students standing before a plantation (Source).
One day, I was randomly thinking about the quote and decided it was perfect for the career fair. I believe it captures the significance of where we have reached as a people. Just a few generations ago, going to college was unthinkable for Black people and other minorities. Today, we are blessed with people of color who are absolutely succeeding in their industries. Despite the work that still needs to be done, I can imagine our ancestors beaming with pride over these accomplishments.
The name also affirms what we need to continue to be as the generation coming up. We do this by obtaining education and occupying spaces that lack color. There are more wild dreams to come true!
KS: Why, in your opinion, is it so important to promote the career paths highlighted in your event to underserved high school students?
DL: As I prepared for the program over the summer, I looked for fields that seriously lack diversity. I really wanted to promote these in the event because they probably are not fields that readily come to mind for the high schoolers. I also wanted to highlight more technical fields like cosmetology and mechanics. Some students do not want to attend college, and that is okay. They still deserve tools that will help them become successful.
When I was in high school, we were not exposed to a broad range of careers or resources that we could look into. I know some of the students may be in a similar situation, so I want to expose them to something new.
KS: Can you talk a little about the importance of mentorship in relation to career exploration?
DL: Mentorship is tremendously impactful when it comes to career exploration! Mentors can often spawn ideas of careers that do not easily come to mind. Their experiences can also be helpful in guiding students through the ins and outs of various industries.
KS: Did you/do you have a mentor and how have they helped influence your academic and career-related goals?
DL: Though I do not have a mentor, there are several people I have met at UConn who have been influential in these goals. Professor Heidi Bailey is one. I took her class last semester: Business Solutions to Societal Challenges. That class is what incited my passion for international development. She was very helpful to me last semester when I spoke with her about my search for summer 2021 internships. As a woman in the business field, she was able to give me relevant encouragement and advice that I continue to use.
KS: Have you overcome academic, career preparation, or job search obstacles during your time at UConn thus far? How?
DL: Since my freshman year, I have certainly overcome several academic challenges. I used to struggle a lot with managing my schoolwork. Many times, I was overly stressed because of procrastination and poor planning. Virtual learning really forced me to become more self-disciplined. My planner is no longer just a place to write down assignments. Now, I practice specifying the day and time I plan to work on each task. This has significantly helped me prioritize and complete my assignments.
KS: What groups, organizations, or other resources have contributed to your academic/career success and how? Would you recommend them to others?
DL: During my freshman year, I became a part of an organization called INROADS. This program supports minority students all over the country and provides internship placements in a range of fields. Through them, I got my first college internship where I gained a large amount of experience. They do not accept students from all fields, but I would recommend them to anyone who is eligible.
The Honors program has greatly contributed to my academic and career success as well. I have been a part of many Honors events that have broadened my knowledge on different disciplines and fields. I have also gotten the opportunity to delve deeper into subjects that interest me. I would recommend this program to any students who are looking for this kind of experience.
KS: What do you hope will be the outcome of the “Wildest Dreams” career fair?
DL: More than anything, I hope students will be energized to pursue their real aspirations. I know many people who have settled because of familial, educational, financial, and other constraints. I want students to walk away with resources and knowledge that can help them overcome these challenges. They should leave knowing that they can pursue any field regardless of their current circumstances.
Danielle will be presenting the Wildest Dreams Career Fair on Saturday, November 6, 2021, from 10:00-11:30 AM. Please click here to learn more about this event or to connect with Danielle directly if you are interested in volunteering.
Danielle Livingston is a Junior at the University of Connecticut and is a part of the Honors Learning Community, Vice President of the Voices of Freedom Gospel Choir, a volunteer with American Reads, and a member of INROADS. The Wildest Dreams Career Fair is being facilitated by Danielle in conjunction with the Honors Leadership community project and is not sponsored by the Center for Career Development.