Momentum Award: Joelle Formato

Everyone has that person in their life who they both look to for guidance and wish to emulate—that person who encourages them to challenge themselves and strive for excellence. A 48 Hours leader, two-time orientation leader, and an active member of the senior class, Joelle Formato, CSOM ’11, has had the opportunity to be that person in a range of settings.

“She is so talented in so many different facets,” describes Amy La Combe, a professor in the Carroll School and mentor to Joelle. “For a lot of people, that could be a burden if they don’t have the maturity. For Joelle, it has been a gift.”

Joelle’s influence with student formation and leadership has been far-reaching. Working extensively with First Year Experience, Joelle said that in addition to being a mentor in the orientation setting itself, she has continued fostering dialogue throughout the year for freshman figuring out BC. Her work as a 48 Hours leader has similarly allowed Joelle to ask freshman the important questions and share her own experiences with them. “I’m able to say, ‘I went through something just like that, too,'” she said, adding that it is exciting to see how much the freshman have grown up even in that small amount of time.

Tackling mentoring in another context, Joelle was a teaching assistant this year for the University course Courage to Know. “Seeing a classroom setting, and being a mentor academically,” Joelle said she wanted to be “someone that freshmen could look to, someone who was there and who was willing to just talk”

In this regard, Joelle said that she has drawn upon her own experiences and personal need for inspiring mentors. “I really struggled when I was a freshman, especially coming from high school,” Joelle confessed. “I think I got rejected from eight to 10 clubs during the first month of school, and I didn’t know anyone.”

“My upperclassmen mentors meant everything to me,” she said. “They were the reason I wanted to try to be that for other people.”

During her freshman year, Joelle met junior Michael Kindrat-Pratt, who came to be a role model in her life. “That relationship meant the world to me,” she said. “Having someone there when I was struggling—to listen to me and to point me in the right direction—pretty much solidified it that all I wanted to do was to be that role model for as many people as I possibly could.”

Growing into her own, Joelle has formed particularly close bonds with both La Combe and Elizabeth Bracher, associate director of FYE. Described by her mentors as someone who is constantly challenging herself, Joelle is not only a leader on campus, but in the classroom as well.

“Joelle is an incredible listener and has taken it all in,” Bracher said. “She is very observant. She’s not the first to speak up, but when she does speak, she’s clear and present and confident.”

Joelle, one of BC’s best-known leaders, has personally distinguished herself by going off the beaten path of what is expected by students on a business track. An accounting concentrator, Joelle has exhibited a vested interest in teaching and views her training in business and leadership not as limiting what she will do with the rest of her life, but as a foundation to understanding and exploring multiple facets of the world.

“She’s never given up on CSOM,” La Combe said. “So many students follow their passions, but Joelle has incorporated a curiosity for learning. She has the ability to see value in the business school, and recognizes that CSOM’s not bad—you can still go and make the world a better place.”

Joelle’s academic journey has taken turns she herself would have never expected four years ago. Before heading into her second summer as an orientation leader, she was faced with a crucial decision. Big-Four accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, had offered her a coveted internship position. “I had been doing externships there, three-day things my sophomore summer, the first summer I was an OL,” she explained. “I just felt like I did this great job Sunday to Tuesday, and then I would go do accounting Wednesday to Friday. I liked it. I thought it was fine. I thought that’s what I expected of myself, but the decision to go to PwC had never really felt right, accounting itself had never really felt right.”

It was after having a conversation with her 48 Hours group about finding overlap between what you love and what you’re studying that she knew the choice she would make. “I realized that almost every single activity I was doing had absolutely nothing to do with accounting,” she said. “There was really no overlap in my life, and if I was going to be true to myself, then returning as an OL was really the right next step for me.”

“It was a really tough decision,” she confessed. “Especially in CSOM, accounting was the way.”

“Accounting firms wanted her, ” La Combe reiterated. “But she turned down the internship because she loved the mentoring process more than the business world.”

Both La Combe and Bracher commended Joelle’s process of self-discovery.

“Joelle strives to be an authentic person,” Bracher said. “She’s always looking to be who she’s meant to be.”

“Her maturity allows her to see that doing well and doing good (for others) do not have to be mutually exclusive,” La Combe said. “So many people don’t have the insight and wisdom to see how the two points connect, but Joelle does.”

Overall, Joelle said that more than anything, people have defined her time here at BC. “I met my two best friends at orientation,” she said, “and I’ve been able to journey with them and always have them as a support when I come home and do have my meltdowns or am too stressed out. My roommates also are my saving grace.”

Joelle said she believes it is because of the meaningful relationships she’s had at BC, as well as the opportunities she has had working with younger students, that she’s made the decision to go to Washington, D.C. to teach math as part of the Teach for America program. Joelle credits her mentors and teachers for pushing her in the right direction. “I have absolutely no doubt that I would not be here without them,” she said. “That’s exactly what I want to go do in D.C. as a teacher.”

“I’m so excited she’s going to teach math,” La Combe said. “She’s really pushed herself from an analytical standpoint. She’s taken that leap of faith.”
“I’m really excited to hear about her next chapter,” Bracher said. “I don’t think it will be a straight line, but a new and incredible journey of stretching herself to be that contributing member of society, community, neighborhood, and profession.”