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BUild Lab bootcamp pushes students to reflect on purpose after graduation

Zach Mercurio, author and strategist, speaks to students at a bootcamp aimed at helping students and alumni alike navigate life after graduation. RACHEL SHARPLES/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Throughout her years as an undergraduate at Boston University, Natalie Chai has grappled with identifying passions and solidifying career plans after graduation. She attended the Innovate@BU workshop Saturday in hopes to gain clarity but left with a greater sense of purpose, she said.

The School of Hospitality Administration senior said this workshop helped her forge a deeper connection with herself as she reflected on the reason behind her work.

“I’ve learned it’s less about what you’re doing, but more about why you’re doing it,” Chai said.

Students and alumni gathered at the BUild Lab IDG Capital Student Innovation Center Saturday to attend the “Purpose Bootcamp: Redefining What Matters After Graduation” workshop.

Co-led by Innovate@BU and Generation Financial Knowledge Development, this all-day workshop taught students to communicate their purpose through classes and careers.

This workshop is beneficial for college students, according to Justin Dent, executive director of GenFKD, because they are still early in the process of establishing the next steps for their lives.

“You can completely shift how somebody thinks about work, how someone thinks about life, how somebody thinks about learning to make their entire journey different,” Dent said.

Dent said the idea for bringing the workshop to BU arose after meeting Blake Sims, program director of social innovation at Innovate@BU, at an educational event. After conducting a focus group with a sample of BU students and gaining a better insight into their view of purpose, Dent and Sims customized a workshop that would be most beneficial to the BU community.

“No part of education ever really focuses on communicating who we are, which is absurd because it seems like step one,” Dent said. “Purpose Bootcamp is a chance to give our peers the opportunity to communicate who they are.”

The Purpose Bootcamp workshop consisted of hands-on activities, group discussions and a presentation led by Zach Mercurio, bestselling author and researcher and adjunct faculty member at Colorado State University, and Kelsey Crouch, a public speaking and performance coach who has helped Fortune 100 professionals.

Mercurio elaborated on the importance of a purposeful mindset over a results mindset. Instead of focusing on obtaining perfect scores, Mercurio encouraged students to reflect on why classes and college exists — to learn and grow. He said focusing on the “why” behind every task leads to meaningful contribution and long-term fulfillment.

Attendees created individualized purpose statements by identifying pleasurable activities, natural skills and the change they hope to bring to the world. Everyone shared their different talents and ideas with other group members.

Chai has crafted a purpose statement in a previous course at BU but said this time it made her dig into more specifics.

“For my leadership class, I said I wanted to be a positive influence,” Chai said. “For this one, I figured I wanted to be a positive influence for younger generations. This activity made me identify more clearly what my purpose could be.”

The second part of the workshop focused on how to communicate purpose effectively. Crouch directed an interactive activity that allowed participants to express their purpose in conversations, specifically in a job interview.

Students learned how to integrate their own stories into the purpose statement and tackled the recurrent question among employers: tell me about yourself.

“Communication is a gift to the other person,” Crouch said. “Most people think about that question as being about themselves, but really, it’s about the relationship that’s being built with the interviewer or whoever is asking the question.”

Radhakrishna Sanka, a doctorate student in the College of Engineering, said he attended Purpose Bootcamp to find common points between his vast array of interests.

“I have a framework now to keep reevaluating what my passions are and how they can all tie in together,” Sanka said.

Sanka said the group conversations gave him a sense of community, and hearing diverse ideas helped him refine his purpose statement.

After engaging in the day’s activities, he concluded that Purpose Bootcamp should be hosted as an annual event in the future.

“This is an active process that needs to be done, and it helps people find motivation to do things beyond campus and their academics,” he said.

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