Tag Archives: alumni

LTE: An Open Letter to BC Admin Regarding the Athletic Director Opening

By all accounts Boston College is thriving; applications, university rankings, and the endowment are all at strong levels. However, the failure to compete in two major athletic programs threatens not only the incredible accomplishments given to BC by all its past and current athletes, but BC’s future goals as well. While athletics is not the University’s primary mission, as Geoff Boisi stated so clearly at Fr. Monan’s funeral mass, “there is a vital symbiotic relationship between athletic and academic success.” We are writing to you as concerned alumni who see the University losing an important piece of its community. Athletics connect us to one another and our alma mater. With game attendance down, no energy in the stands, and a general malaise surrounding the athletic program, our school’s culture has been impaired. As an influential member of BC, you have a unique opportunity to help the new Athletic Director take corrective action and maintain the trajectory of the institution.

The new AD must be driven to competitiveness in the program’s conferences with the full backing of the administration and the Board of Trustees. The demands on this person will be substantial; including administrative oversight, fundraising, and marketing. But the first priority is to be competitive again. The failure of our athletic program to reach escape velocity over the last 20 years is an indication that the traditional metrics by which we evaluate athletic administration and coaching candidates is not working. Look outside the box and overcome institutional biases.  

Once the new AD is in place, the real work begins. The entire administration must rededicate themselves to our student athletes, offering practical solutions to everyday issues. No athlete should leave school feeling that they didn’t have the institutional backing needed to balance their educational and athletic commitments. And no athlete should finish their time here with their best memory being going out to eat.

That’s just the beginning; foster a connection between current and past players. This will create a positive feedback loop which will enhance the nature of what it means to be an Eagle and play with that special BC grit and determination exhibited by the best of our athletes.

BC is at a major crossroad with critical risk of losing significant alumni support and future funding. To maintain our academic mission and commitment to excellence let us be reminded of the strategic moves that helped get us to where we are today. Fr. Monan understood the integral role that athletics could play in transforming BC from a small commuter school to one of national prominence. Seize this opportunity to honor his legacy and ensure the future success of BC.

Chris Broder BC ’97

Jason Browning BC ’97

Why I Will Not Donate to Boston College

At the end of each spring semester, Boston College alumni of all ages flock to campus for Reunion Weekend. Some tote diaper bags and push strollers full of toddlers, while others teeter slowly, hunched over walkers. Ironically, the most nostalgic might be the attendees of the Fifth Anniversary Party, who return to the Mods for one last school-sanctioned party. Last June, after the bulk of BC students had left campus, I was lucky enough to work as a student employee for Reunion Weekend and the weeks preceding.

It was a pretty sweet gig. During preparation, I worked with a group of students a few days a week at the Cadigan Alumni Center on Brighton Campus where we got free lunch (you know how I feel about free food), and an air-conditioned refuge from the summer heat. At Reunion Weekend, I handed out glow sticks at the Fifth Anniversary Party.

The job was great, but it gave me insight into the huge amount of money BC dedicates to pleasing alumni and celebrating its image. For one thing, most of my jobs seemed to be pointless busy work: alphabetizing and re-alphabetizing nametags, separating paper wristbands into stacks of 25, distributing these wristbands to the members of the Class of 2006 at their barbeque, only to find the wristbands trampled on the ground a few minutes later. There’s a certain carefree element in knowing that your job is completely unnecessary, and everything would function perfectly without you.

If working Reunion Weekend convinced me of anything, it’s that I will never donate to BC. I remember people getting excited a few years ago when the BC endowment surpassed $2 billion (it is now $2.2 billion). For comparison, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Liberia was worth around $2 billion in 2015.

I don’t know that much about finance or investing, but the internet has allowed me to gain a rough understanding of how university endowments work. An endowment, the money donated to the University, is invested, yielding an inflation-adjusted principal amount, along with additional income to use for more investments. Basically, a set percentage of the endowment is set aside for spending, and the rest, depending on how it is invested, keeps growing and growing and growing.

I got interested in the topic of university endowments after listening to “My Little Hundred Million,” an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast “Revisionist History.” I highly recommend this series. In short, Gladwell questions why the largest donations to higher education go to institutions that already have massive endowments, instead of to schools that are struggling to provide basic resources to students. He specifically mentions Harvard and MIT, which have endowments of $37.6 billion and $13.2 billion, respectively.  

Based on endowments, BC isn’t quite on par with Harvard and MIT. But the University’s endowment is quickly growing, as is the size of the donations it receives. Peter Lynch, BC ’65 and vice chairman of Fidelity Management and Research Company, donated $20 million to BC in 2010, in addition to the $10 million he donated in 1999. Patrick Cadigan, BC ’57 and a realty investor, gave $15 million in 2012.

And we can’t forget Robert J. Morrissey, BC ’60, who in 2015 became the largest benefactor in BC’s history (BC has neither disclosed the amount donated nor the terms of the gift). Morrissey also chaired the Committee on Investment and Endowment since 1981, and is credited with helping grow the endowment from just $18 million in 1980 to over $2 billion today.

Beyond the fact that it is incredibly pompous to want to have a building or school named after oneself, I find it disturbing that gaining money is seen as the ultimate triumph for BC, a university founded on Jesuit values. Sure, BC has come a long way since 1972, when it was $30 million in debt. But since reaching financial stability, it seems there is no amount of money that will ever be enough.

Some have pointed out that the way money is made suggests an incompatibility with Jesuit values. Specifically, the BC administration has invested in fossil fuel energy, which, in January, Climate Justice at BC rallied to protest. BC administrators have claimed that divesting from fossil fuels would mean “getting political” with the endowment, which could create tensions with the University’s largest donors.

This demonstrates the problem in acquiring such large donations, the donors can restrict how schools spend and invest money. BC isn’t shy about promoting this, noting on the Support BC website that it aspires to “align University priorities with regional, national, and international donor interest.”

I understand that a university of this size needs money to operate and continue providing resources to students. According to BC, the endowment “provides support to University programs and activities including financial aid, faculty chairs and research funds, and student formation programs.” By using the money this way, BC will educate future leaders and innovators who will influence change in the world. And if BC is truly successful, it will mean that alumni donate their money to better causes.  

I will not donate to Boston College. Ever. While it is possible for the donor to choose where specifically their money will go (e.g. financial aid, athletics, campus beautification), I cannot understand why anyone would donate money to a university that already has $2.2 billion.

Of course I am grateful to be able to study at a world-class institution, but I think donations would make a much bigger impact at an organization that truly needs the money. If BC stands by any of the values it teaches to students, it should not ask soon-to-be graduates to donate a single penny to this institution. I would encourage any alumni or graduating seniors thinking of donating to BC to instead give to their favorite volunteer organization in Boston.

Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor

Name the Heights Offers Donors “15 Minutes of Fame”

From snowy walks down Linden Lane, to tailgates in the Mods and all-too-quiet moments on the second floor of Bapst, Boston College students make memories across campus during their four years in Chestnut Hill.

Throughout the month of February, BC alumni had the opportunity to make their mark on campus again, if only for a little while. Designed by the Office of University Advancement of the Cadigan Alumni Center, the Name the Heights fundraising campaign was intended to raise money for various University programs and engage the BC community in a lighthearted way.

The campaign was conceived in fall 2016, when Andria Silva, director of marketing and participation for annual giving, brainstormed and researched fundraising concepts with her marketing team. The team communicated with other universities about successful campaigns they had done in the past. One of the schools had launched a successful fundraising campaign centered on the idea of naming places on campus after alumni. The Office of University Advancement drew upon these campaigns for inspiration.

The first step for the marketing team was finding campus landmarks to name. Traditionally, major buildings on campus are named after people who played important roles in shaping the BC community. For example, Bapst Library is named in honor of Rev. Johannes Bapst, S.J., the first president of Boston College.

As a result, the team looked for smaller landmarks to name, and turned to alumni for inspiration. Members of the marketing team reached out to alumni and asked about their favorite on-campus memories. Because the campaign was intended to be far-reaching and multi-generational, the team selected places and things that would relate to alumni of all ages.  

“The campus has changed over the years, but some landmarks are classic, like a chair in Bapst Library or a tree on Linden Lane,” Silva said.

Next, emails were sent out to alumni about the campaign. Videos, graphic designs, and messages were all developed by University Advancement’s communications and marketing teams. The videos promoting the campaign broadened interest and sparked curiosity among alumni and current undergrads alike.

Donors who participated in the Name the Heights campaign could be entered into a drawing to name one of eight minor landmarks across campus. Thus far, six of the landmarks have been revealed and named: a quad in the Mods, the 8 a.m. Newton Bus, men’s hockey head coach Jerry York’s whiteboard, a table for two in Corcoran Commons, a tree on Linden Lane, and a chair in Bapst Library.  All landmarks were affixed with nameplates that featured the name and graduation year of winning donors for their “15 minutes of fame.”

Two landmarks are revealed each week on the campaign’s website, and the winners are randomly selected and announced in the following days. The last two landmarks will be revealed on Tuesday, Feb. 28, and winners will be announced on Friday, March 3.

Photos of the newly-named landmarks are shared with the BC community via email, social media, and the Name the Heights website. The Name the Heights campaign team sends the winning donors a congratulatory package, which includes a framed photo of their landmark.

In addition to naming campus landmarks after people who greatly impacted their college community, universities often name buildings after donors as a sign of appreciation for major donations. Our very own Stokes Hall, which opened in January of 2013, was named after Patrick T. Stokes, BC ’64, and Anna-Kristina Stokes, who made a $22 million gift to the university.

Unlike Stokes Hall, named such as a permanent designation, the campus landmarks of the Name the Heights campaign are named temporarily, often for less than a day.

The Cadigan Center holds a variety of fundraising campaigns throughout the calendar year. Most recently, November’s Giving Tuesday campaign, which has been a national event for many nonprofits following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, raised over $625,000 for the University, including $200,000 donated by a single anonymous donor to support student financial aid.
“Donors are helping to strengthen priorities like financial aid, academics, mission and ministry programs, and student activities,” Silva said. “Gifts of all sizes add up and demonstrate the collective strength of the BC community.”

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

 

Legacy Grants Provide Opportunities for Students to Serve Others

Bulky black cases bump against the floor of the Green Line train as students board. Moving through the crowd of passengers, some students drag their heavy cases while others haul smaller ones. They might get annoyed looks as they take up space, but that’s not important. The truly important thing is where they’re going—Franciscan Children’s Hospital. Each of these students is a musician, taking his or her instrument of choice across town to serve others. As part of the Music Guild Volunteers, these students visit teenage psychiatric patients and help them learn to play their favorite songs. The music helps these kids through difficult times and lets BC students use their talents to bring happiness to others.

Without the Boston College Legacy Grant, this service—and many others—would never have been possible.

“It was one of the first projects we funded,” said Colleen Claflin, who formerly directed the Legacy Grant program.

After applying for a grant in the 2013-14 school year, John Guzzi, BC ’15, and Tabitha Joseph, CSOM ’17, successfully launched the Music Guild Volunteers using the $2,500 they were given. In the years since, it has expanded as an organization on campus and continues to support service initiatives in the community.

The Music Guild Volunteers is only one of 40 projects that the Legacy Grant program has funded since its inception in 2013. As a partnership with the senior class gift, the Legacy Grant program offers students funds to pursue projects within wide-ranging fields. These projects include arts, the environment, technology, and more. The overarching theme that connects these projects is a commitment to service and Jesuit values.

One of those projects, pitched by Ryan Dontas, Ryan Lee, and Nate Schwan, all BC ’16, was TradeRoutes. The program was based on the popular educational computer simulation Oregon Trail, which allows players to experience the journey of settlers coming from the Eastern United States to the West. Expanding on that idea, TradeRoutes created virtual simulations for multiple historical journeys, such as the Silk Road and the Freedom Trail. These simulations were combined with comprehensive lesson plans, homework assignments, tablet components, and a mobile application that used Google Cardboard to create a virtual reality experience.

“When they actually came in to interview we got to test out the equipment, and it was pretty lifelike,” Claflin said. “It was hands down one of the most unbelievable interviews we ever had because … till that point, we hadn’t had a project come in that was so far along.”

Each year, when the senior class gift reaches a certain milestone, more funds are unlocked for Legacy Grants that assist projects such as this. University Trustee Drake Behrakis, BC ’86, challenges each graduating class to achieve a level of participation, and pledges Legacy Grant funds for when that goal is reached. This year, the class of 2017 has an 85 percent participation goal and has managed to pass three milestones and unlock $15,000 of the $25,000 total available grant funding. This process began with the class of 2013, which raised funds for the next year’s projects. Since that beginning, every class has achieved its participation goal and unlocked the full amount of funding.

During its first year, the Legacy Grant program had to overcome the difficulties of spreading the word and informing students of the opportunities available to them. But as students like Guzzi and Joseph, who received their Music Guild Volunteers funding during the program’s first year, were successful with their project, more people became knowledgeable about the opportunity.

“Our visibility has increased each year,” said Michelle Murphy, the director of Annual Giving and Volunteer Engagement.

As the program has grown, so has the money available to students. This year the program experienced a major change, as the grant available doubled from $2,500 to $5,000 dollars. Meghan Dunn, who currently directs the Legacy Grant program, mentioned how this increased funding will allow for more complex and multifaceted student projects.

Online grant applications are reviewed by a board of University students and administrators that searches for the strongest, most sustainable projects to fund. Students whose projects have been reviewed by the board undergo an interview process and must demonstrate the impact their programs will have on the community. After this process occurs each semester, the successful students receive their funding and go on to build and develop their projects.

“We’re looking for projects that are very well thought out, that have clear implementation plans and that also have a sustainable component to it,” Dunn said. “So what will happen once the funding runs out, how will these programs continue on and leave a legacy?”

Programs like the Music Guild Volunteers continue to make an impact and provide an example of the success that Legacy Grants can bring. Now, with the funding available doubled, projects of even greater scope are possible this year. As “men and women for others,” BC students are called to serve their community, and as Amy Dattilo, the associate director of Strategic Marketing and Writing, said, Legacy Grants are “a great way to have students actually go out there and live that.”

Featured Image by Kyle Bowman / Heights Staff

New England Cowboy: Former BC Defensive End Serves as Mayor of Dallas

Conversation comes easy for the affable and gregarious mayor of Dallas, Texas, Mike Rawlings—whether he’s paying a visit to the destitute and downtrodden camped out under the I-45 overpass, hobnobbing with the kind of high-powered Dallasites immortalized in the hit ’80s TV show Dallas, or taking a few moments to make the day of a young girl heading into a hospital waiting room with her father.

Broad-shouldered, barrel-chested, and checking in at well over 6 feet, the mayor is a towering presence in the room. His gait is slow and unsteady, a remnant of his time as defensive end for Boston College football. He has plenty of brains to go along with the brawn: he graduated from BC magna cum laude and one credit short of a triple major in Philosophy, Communication, and Fine Art.

“He’s a bit of Renaissance man,” his wife, Micki Rawlings, said to WFAA in Dallas, and “a bit of a rockstar.”

In addition to taking classes full-time and playing for the Eagles on scholarship, Rawlings waited tables on Newbury Street to pay his way through school. During this time, he says he really started to learn about leadership and adversity. Originally from Texas, he grew fond of New England and still spends some of his time off there, but the decision to move back to Texas and stay in Dallas for all of his professional life was an easy one.

“Dallas has been so good to me,” he said.

His office—on the fifth floor of City Hall—is near the heart of Dallas proper, hugging the base of the city center’s glitzy, gleaming skyline. It takes patience and contemplation to appreciate Dallas City Hall, which takes the shape of an inverted pyramid and the color of drab cement. For this building, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. From one perspective, it could be a brutish bomb shelter. From another, an avant-garde masterpiece.

At the time of groundbreaking, City Hall was part of “Goals for Dallas,” a broad-sweeping campaign of then-Mayor Erik Jonsson to fix the city’s image problem. This, following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and decades of racialized, vitriolic local politics, was a time in which Dallas had earned the ignominious moniker “City of Hate.”

Rawlings takes after Jonsson. “[Jonsson] said something that has always stuck with me … ‘Dream no small dreams,’” Rawlings said.

Rawlings also includes native Texan and former President Lyndon B. Johnson as a politician from whom he draws inspiration. Jonsson, who presided over the revival of the city, and Johnson, who spearheaded the passage of watershed civil rights legislation, were no strangers to dreaming big.

And neither is Rawlings. At a time when politics are deeply divisive and partisanship is at a fever pitch across the country, mayors like Rawlings are in a difficult position.

Now a seasoned politico, Rawlings had no political experience on his resume when he entered the mayoral race in 2011. Following his time at BC, he worked his way up from entry level to chief executive at Tracy-Locke, a prominent advertising agency, before switching over for a six-year stint as CEO of Pizza Hut.

“Business is an inch wide and mile deep and being a mayor is a mile wide and inch deep,” he said. “It’s a different approach but the work ethic, the critical analysis you need, your ability to team with other people, is still an extremely important part of leading a city.”

Leading up to his bid for mayor, he had cut his teeth on various public issues, most notably his initiative as “homeless czar” of Dallas, which gave him a platform to explore what he called “public safety issues, humanitarian issues, mental illness, substance abuse,” and learn from these experiences.

As a Democrat, Rawlings has to deal with a difficult political reality—Texas is a sea of red, and Dallas a small spot of blue. Are there ideological differences between him and his state counterparts? Absolutely, he concedes. In fact, he has made ripples in national news time and time again for his outspoken stances on gun control, immigration, international trade, and Syrian refugees. This puts him at the unpopular end of the spectrum in Texas politics, where the majority has staked out opposing stances on these hot-button issues.

For the most part, though, Rawlings is effective at staying above the fray, cutting deals, and meeting in the middle. After all, he can’t afford to get caught up on ideological snags or partisan bickering—he has potholes to fill, trash to pick up, and a police force to run. For him, fixing things is more important than adhering to abstract party lines or ideological doctrines.

“Look, everybody wants to grow,” he said. “That’s the thing; the key is how we keep this growth going. I’ve been able to find common ground with Republicans on that, and I think that’s good.”

And grown Dallas has. Rawlings has presided over “eye-popping” population growth and explosive economic growth, according to the Dallas Morning News. Dallas was “last in, first out” of the Great Recession, Rawlings said.

Downtown Dallas, teeming with cranes, multinational headquarters, and apartment buildings on the rise, is where the boom manifests itself most. It also splits North and South Dallas down the middle. The divide is more than geographic. To the north is a mostly-white, well-off suburbia of manicured lawns, luxury cars, and private schools. To the south is the city’s beleaguered but rebounding, minority-heavy, and comparatively-poorer neighborhoods.

Throughout his political career, Rawlings has managed to straddle the north-south line well. He lives in Preston Hollow, a plush North Dallas neighborhood, but the marquee issue of his mayoral campaign was revitalizing the southern flank of the city. He cites “getting momentum and growth in Southern Dallas” as his proudest accomplishment to date. He has drawn on support from the city’s elite while also seeking out the problems the city’s people are facing on the ground.

When asked about the most interesting people he has met on the job, his answer was immediate and decisive: a “real neighborhood hero,” Anna Hill, and a prominent philanthropist, Margaret McDermott. Hill is a woman living in one of the roughest parts of South Dallas, who “just on her own, with the help a few people and a few neighbors, has taken back her neighborhood.” Talking about McDermott, who is 105 years old, he said, “what she’s done for the city, the money that she’s given, the grace she’s done it with” has been inestimable.

“I really think the women in Dallas have done a great job and that story has not been told fully,” Rawlings said. This dovetails nicely with another core of his political career, a message central to his public persona—fighting domestic abuse and violence. He is not soft-spoken or empathetic to the macho attitudes or locker room type behavior that accompanies or gives way to abusive relationships. Despite being a serious Dallas Cowboys fan, he wasn’t afraid to call the franchise out when it signed Greg Hardy, a defensive end with serious domestic violence allegations. It was a “shot in the gut,” he told the Dallas Morning News.

His tenure as mayor has not been perfectly successful or entirely optimistic. Homelessness is still a big problem, one that he could not stymie as easily or as quickly as he might have hoped. Certain parts of the city south of the Trinity River—while facing increasing prospects—are in dire straits. With the development and gentrification of South Dallas, affordable housing projects have been shortchanged. And now, the city is struggling with enormous debt for the pension fund for the city’s firefighters and police officers. The city faces what The New York Times has called a “Texas-size threat of bankruptcy.”

Perhaps the worst day of his time in office was July 7, 2016, when tragedy struck in downtown Dallas. Like Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 22, 1963—a delusional ex-military sniper, wielding a rifle and perching above Dallas’s streets—a shooter unleashed a horrific wave of violence, leaving five police officers dead and nine wounded. The site of the 2016 shootings was just blocks away from the “X” on Elm Street in Dealey Plaza, marking where Kennedy was shot.

Many feared the worst—the boiling over of already-frayed racial relations and tensions within the police community. On the contrary, Rawlings and Dallas Police Chief David Brown handled the city’s response in a manner that many around the country hailed as graceful and statesmanlike. Dallas did not need any overhaul. It showed that it couldn’t be more removed from the “City of Hate” that it once was.

“You’re never ready for anything like that,” Rawlings said. “Fortunately we had pretty good relationships and were able to come together. I was very proud of the city for that and my small part in that.” He downplays his role in mending the wounds left by the violence and working to unify and strengthen the city, state, and nation in the face of a devastating, senseless injustice.

Because ultimately, that’s who mayors are. They put the city and its people over all else, and place the premium on progress by whatever means—that’s what mayors do. As the country licks its wounds following the brutal, no-holds-barred presidential campaign of 2016 and the many years before of scorched-earth, tit-for-tat mudslinging between Democrats and Republicans, public servants like Rawlings can’t get caught up in the food fight. They have too much work to do.

On post-mayor plans, he’s genuine in his emphasis to stay in the now: “I’m not even thinking about that … I still have two and a half more years in my term.” When asked about running for statewide positions, he demurs—it seems unlikely at this point. But even if higher office is in his future, he can’t afford to think about a seat in Congress or the governor’s mansion in Austin right now. He has his work cut out for him in the upside-down pyramid and the city surrounding it.

Featured Image by Ryan Duffy / Heights Staff

Climate Change Ignored by Voters, Alum Says

Many climate activists felt that the environment received too little attention during this year’s presidential campaign. At a talk last Monday, Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder and CEO of the Environmental Voter Project (EVP) and BC Law ’05, said that might be because only 2 percent of voters see climate change as an important issue that influences their vote. Thirty percent prioritized issues such as national security and the economy.

Stinnett was the keynote speaker at the Office of the Provost and Dean of Faculties third-annual “Advancing Research and Scholarship Day,” an event dedicated to showcasing faculty and student research at Boston College. Stinnett was the keynote speaker at the symposium, which focused this year on the environment and society.

Stinnett described the EVP as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose sole focus is to fix the environmental voter-turnout problem in the United States. The organization uses data analytics and behavioral science research to identify environmentalists who are not civically engaged and turns them into more consistent voters.

“When you poll likely voters in any election with respect to the issues they most care about, climate change and other environmental issues are almost always at the bottom,” Stinnett said. “This has an enormous impact on how policy is made at every level.”

According to Stinnett, if likely voters don’t care about climate change, as the data indicates, it would be “malpractice” for political candidates to spend time and money from their campaign focusing on environmental concerns. This is one reason that climate change was rarely discussed during the presidential debates earlier this year.


“Our goal is to change the electorate. We don’t need to talk about the environment to get these people out to vote, but we just try to get them to change their voting habits.”

—Nathaniel Stinnett, CEO of the Environmental Voter Project

 


But Stinnett has discovered that while so few voters care about environmental issues, this does not mean Americans do not care about these concerns. The problem is that environmentalists are “awful” voters who disproportionately stay home on Election Day. Thus, the environmental voting block is really experiencing a turnout problem rather than a persuasion problem.

According to Stinnett, EVP identified 15.78 million voters concerned about the environment who did not participate in the 2014 midterm elections. In Massachusetts alone, it identified 277,250 of the same voters who did not participate in the 2014 gubernatorial race, which was decided by roughly 40,000 votes. For this reason, the EVP targets registered environmental voters who don’t usually make it to the polls rather than those with high turnout rates.

The EVP uses sophisticated data analytics to identify voters, which Stinnett believes is a strategy that helped Donald Trump win the presidential election. The organization relies on a method called predictive modeling to conduct its polls, assigning high scores to those voters who it deems likely to care about climate and environmental issues.

“Big data has completely revolutionized politics,” he said. “Campaigns don’t target large demographic groups anymore. They target individuals.”

The EVP’s polling methods reflect this shift toward the use of behavioral data in the analysis of voter patterns instead of demographic data. According to Stinnett, one characteristic of environmental voters is that a high percentage of them live in homes that no longer have a landline. Old stereotypes about environmental voters, such as that they only live in coastal enclaves, have also become less accurate in recent years.

Another concept that has been debunked in recent years is what is known as the rational choice theory, or the idea that citizens would vote if the burdens of voting were smaller than the expected benefit. EVP studies have shown that voters are actually more likely to participate in an election when turnout is higher, even though their vote statistically counts for less.

“Our goal is to change the electorate,” Stinnett said. “We don’t need to talk about the environment to get these people out to vote, but we just try to get them to change their voting habits.”

Featured Image by Michael Zuppone / Heights Editor

Alumnus Talks Entrepreneurship, Venture Capitalism

Most accounting majors lose their motivation to continue with their degree while in school, Peter Bell, BC ’86, said to a small group of students on Tuesday. Bell lost interest two months into his job with audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). He switched his career from auditing to a career in entrepreneurship and quickly found his feet as an entrepreneur, eventually becoming a senior adviser at Highland Capital Partners.

In the most recent “Lunch with an Entrepreneur” event, sponsored by the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship, Bell discussed his experiences with entrepreneurship and how they tie back to his time at BC, and outlined his career in venture capitalism.

After Bell’s graduation, he worked for data storage company EMC in sales, marketing, and operations. He then received a master’s degree from Harvard in general management. Bell went on to teach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at BC in the Carroll School of Management. He also founded StorageNetworks, a server and network storage company. His current position at Highland Capital Partners places him in Palo Alto, Calif.

Bell’s career path have largely rested on the connections he made during his undergraduate years.

“Everything I’ve done professionally has tied back to people from BC,” he said.

Bell’s networking skills has been crucial to his success within all of the industries he worked in, including education, entrepreneurship, and venture capitalism.

Bell stressed the role that dedication plays in success in every job.

“You have to have a passion about [the market you enter],” he said. “Good candidates, for any line of work, are able to build a network and are intellectually curious.”

After leaving PwC, Bell helped create EMC, which was later acquired by Dell. His experiences working for EMC gave him considerable experience as an entrepreneur, something that continues to help in his work today.

Bell also reflected upon his experiences as an entrepreneur. The challenging lifestyle is better suited to some than others, according to Bell. He noted that the ideal candidates are around 28 years old, working in teams of two, who are already involved with their second business.

Entrepreneurship is a craft suited to the young, which Bell attributes to young people’s lack of obligation.

“Young people have no baggage [and] no preconceived set of responsibilities,” Bell said. “I’m 52 years old. I’m encumbered. I have responsibility. I have kids. I could not start a company without too much risk, but when you’re young, you can and should go all in.”

Bell also said that while some experience is necessary to get one’s feet off the ground, experience is overrated, and the only way to be successful is to have a passion for the subject.

The volatility of starting a business is undoubted, according to Bell. Although with drive and purpose, he believes it is possible to have more success than failure, and notes that it’s easy to learn from the pitfalls.

The attention required to pick a team when starting a business is not to be undervalued, according to Bell. A good team makes or breaks a business, and without a strong backbone, it is likely to fail, Bell said.

“If you’re going to start a company with someone, you have to be thoughtful about picking your team,” he said. “Having a partner keeps you motivated, but people change and teams break up—it’s human nature.”

Bell also believes that teamwork is integral to the growth of companies, and he pushes the idea of togetherness. He thinks that entrepreneurs should pick diverse teams with different skill sets.

Bell then highlighted the ambiguity of his job as a venture capitalist. The mercurial nature of venture capitalism can be characterized by Bell’s experience with Uber, as he severely underestimated its success. He expanded by explaining that the strikeout rate for venture capitalists is around 50 percent, and that it is a hit-or-miss industry.

According to Bell, the success of investments largely rests on two essential questions: “is the market ready?” and “is this the right team?”

Bell’s parting advice to BC students was succinct.

“Have fun,” he said. “Do not rush life through.”

Bell said that often it is not the major that matters, but rather the passion one has for a career that will make him or her successful.

“Find something you believe in [and] something you care about,” he said.

Featured Image by Alex Trautwig / Heights Senior Staff

BC Alumna Makes ‘40 Under 40’ List

Anandita Makes, BC ’13, was recently featured in Prestige’s “40 Under 40” list. Makes has led the business development of the Plataran Group, a group that owns a number of hotels and resorts around the globe, particularly in Indonesia.

After receiving her master’s from Prasetiya Mulya Business School, Jakarta, Makes joined Plataran Group.

Makes has helped launch the Plataran Menjangan resort in West Bali National Park. She is also opening a luxury hotel in Borobudur, a lifestyle hotel in Labuan, and a high-end restaurant and venue in Menteng.

“We’re expanding aggressively to meet customer demand, but throughout the process we always go back to our core value,” Makes said. “Our company aims to showcase the best of Indonesia, and to better the lives of Indonesians.”

Makes is also involved in her family’s business, at a French bakery called Passionnée. Makes enjoys helping out at the bakery.

“My parents trust me to balance the family business and my own, so I try to maximize my time and make the most of both,” she said.

Makes has helped change real estate around the resorts, increasing the quality of life for the surrounding population.

“When you see the positive impact of your business for the community, that’s the most rewarding part of the job,” she said.

Appalachia Volunteers Founder to Speak on Self-Discovery, Self-Acceptance

Gregg Cassin, founder of Appalachia Volunteers, active voice for LGBT and HIV/AIDs communities, and BC ’80, will speak on the importance of building communities in Cushing 001 on March 22 at 8 p.m.

Cassin graduated from BC with a degree in theology and then moved to San Francisco to join Jesuit volunteers. Cassin currently resides in California and works to create retreats and programs for long-term survivors of the HIV epidemic. Cassin is a 30-year survivor of HIV himself.

Cassin was also honored with the Certificate of Special Recognition from the U.S. Congress, in addition to honors from the City of San Francisco.

Cassin will also speak to a group of Appalachia Volunteer students on Sunday who recently travelled on Spring Break service trips. Cassin will share his story of the challenges of embracing oneself, no matter the roadblocks.

“My message is that in the most challenging times we must find self-discovery and then self-acceptance,” Cassin said. “This is a sacred journey that everyone is obligated to do.”


“In the humblest way, I’ve found comfort, inspiration, and joy with people with the intention of doing important work of helping another. We need to break the isolation of human experience.”


In his message of spreading Jesuit values, Cassin asks the audience to consider questions about themselves in the hope of self-discovery.

“Who are you born to be? Who are you called to be?” Cassin said. “Claim ourselves, no matter the institutions, society, or mainstream ideas. You get to self-define. You get to be the person you want to be.”

While Cassin is coming to BC to speak with the Appalachia Volunteers group, he also hopes to reach out to the broader BC community through the GLTBQ Leadership Council.

Nick Minieri, chair of GLC and CSOM ’16, helped organize Cassin’s talk to BC students. Minieri wants students to understand that Cassin’s work with the LGBTQ community is connected to Jesuit values. Cassin’s goal is to develop communities in which students are able to break down their walls and open themselves up to others.

“The thing that I’ve always been drawn to is building community,” Cassin said. “In the humblest way, I’ve found comfort, inspiration, and joy with people with the intention of doing important work of helping another. We need to break the isolation of human experience.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Gregg Cassin

A New Fund Is Giving BC Startups A Competitive Edge

At least for the moment, Kevin Cook was in the hot seat.

Just over 10 years ago, Cook, BC ’04, was near the front of a room in Fulton Hall as a cluster of budding MBA candidates critiqued his every move throughout his presentation.

The criticism and feedback were a daily occurrence in Wally Coyle’s business communications class—a reminder of how important presentation and the clear communication of ideas can be in the entrepreneurial field.

As Cook stood in front of the group, he embraced the criticism, and by the end of the program he was able to hone one of the most important skills to thrive in the startup field—the craft of the pitch.

“One of the things that students who are looking to start a company absolutely need is the ability to communicate a pitch to investors,” Cook said. “This is one skill I know BC provides to set its students up for success in the entrepreneurial community, and over the past year we’ve noticed more and more of these motivated students take on the Boston startup scene.”

Now, Cook is giving early-stage ventures with ties to BC a new form of funding to kick-start their entry into the Boston startup scene. He is managing director of the The University Fund for Alumni of BC, the latest affinity venture fund designed to support early-stage startups by Boston College students and alumni searching for funding.

“BC has an understated reputation for entrepreneurship,” Cook said. “There has been an impressive number of startups coming out of the university in the last year alone.”

The fund is currently raising $2 million in funding, and aims to make 12 to 18 investments over the next year. Under Cook’s leadership, the venture capital firm Launch Angels is creating funds for specific groups that want to invest in BC-based companies.

“People are really proud of where you worked and where you went to school,” Cook said. “There is a definite affinity for BC alumni, and there are a lot of BC alumni who want to invest in BC-based companies.”

All companies led by BC students and alumni will be considered for a potential investment. Each month, the fund investigates three to five early-stage companies. At the end of the month, the Advisory Investment Committee—a team comprised of BC alumni with experience in early-stage investing and entrepreneurship—makes a recommendation to various investors. Beyond financing, the fund is offering mentorship in the field, as well as office space and investment support.

“In recent years, universities have been placing a strong emphasis on their entrepreneurial departments,” said Launch Angels CEO Shereen Shermak in a statement. “While this has led to a substantial increase in the number of university-based startups and an explosion of new entrepreneurs, funding has remained a challenge. Our goal is to make funding more accessible.”

The fund is the first major investment fund tailored specifically for BC ventures. Earlier this year, another group of BC alumni founded the Soaring Startup Circle, a summer program designed to accelerate student-led startups. These BC companies received funding and the ability to work in offices of Boston companies with similar paths from universities.

Neither the Soaring Startup Circle nor the University Fund for Alumni of BC are affiliated or sanctioned by the University—both organizations highlight the willingness of alumni to establish a prominent startup community in Boston, however.

Over the past year, BC-based companies such as Jebbit, NBD Nano, and Vsnap have caught the attention of investors across New England. In an area previously dominated by universities in Cambridge, Cook believes that BC’s emergence into the Boston startup scene is something that Harvard and MIT cannot ignore.

“This year, many of the companies coming out of the University received a lot of money,” Cook said. “There is definitely a contingent of investable companies here, and I’m looking to build up that subculture of entrepreneurship at Boston College.”

Despite being the first of its kind for BC, the fund is the second university-based fund through the venture capital firm Launch Angels. The Dartmouth University alumni-focused Green D Fund was the first to offer students investor support as part of Launch Angels’ University Funds. With an increasing number of university-affiliated startups, Cook expects hundreds of other universities to follow in the steps of BC and Dartmouth in the near future.

“More and more colleges are trying to differentiate themselves through startups—supporting them and encouraging a culture of innovation,” Cook said. “My goal for this fund is to cultivate this idea and make BC even more well known across the country.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to the University Fund for Alumni of BC by a different name. This article has been edited to reflect that change.

Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic