Hounds with Purpose is a space for alumni to share their stories of purpose and vocational engagement beyond their years at Assumption. This blog is created by the Center for Purpose and Vocation and the Career Development and Internship Center (CDIC) to better connect students and alumni through experiential storytelling.
“Assumption University: The Catalyst of Finding Yourself”
By: Tracy Baldelli ’15
When you grow up in a small suburban town, surrounded by other small suburban towns, there isn’t much opportunity to reflect, dissect, and understand the world that you live in and have grown up in. It wasn’t until the first few weeks of my time at Assumption University that I truly realized the small sheltered world I had grown up in, what I brought with me from that world, and how truly grateful I was for where I had come and where I was headed on the hills of campus.
I quickly realized that my world had been extremely generous, and as I navigated my way through the classrooms, buildings, and sidewalks of campus, trying to choose my major and what I would do for the rest of my life (I still hate that question, by the way), I always had the thought in the back of my head that whatever it was, it had to be rooted in my realization that I have been given so much and that, because of that, I had a longing desire to give back, in whatever I would do.
I chose my major of Psychology solely because I had taken a few courses in my first year and figured it would be easy to complete the major since I had some courses under my belt. Mind you, I did enjoy the classes and material – don’t get me wrong! But, I was also certain that I would never go on to get a masters or PhD in the field or become a psychologist. That was hard; it’s hard to go against the wave that you see and that you’ve been told is the pathway. As much as I was intrigued and always inspired by my professors, I could never picture myself in their shoes. And for those that also continued their work outside the lecture halls, assisting folks in therapy, I also couldn’t picture myself doing that.
So, where did that leave me? Well, it left me back in knowing that whatever I did in my post-graduate career, it had to be about giving back. A natural extravert, I quickly became involved as a student and joined volunteer programs through the Reach Out Center and attended the START and Horizon retreats through Campus Ministry. While I volunteered in high school, I again never contemplated or thought much about the experiences. The programs I joined at Assumption, and the overarching themes of service, purpose, and vocation helped me shape my mindset and passion for giving back, in all that I do in my life. The retreats I participated in as an attendee and helped lead later in my time at Assumption, fueled my desires to give back, maintain a level of volunteering and service at all times in my life, and to be consistently happy, passionate, and content in my professional endeavors.
It wasn’t until my first internship that I realized how my studies at Assumption, where I had also added a minor in Philosophy (because why not?), could pave a pathway for a professional career that both fueled me and used my skills that I had learned in and out of the classroom. Just before I ventured to Rome, Italy to attend the newly built Assumption Rome Campus, I was an intern in the Office of Institutional Advancement on campus. I had the sincere pleasure of assisting with stewardship efforts; I was exposed first-hand to the generosity of alumni, those that had come before me, and friends of the University, and their commitment to see our Greyhound family succeed and continue. I worked with student scholarship recipients, connecting them to their donors and providing them an opportunity to write a note of gratitude that would be shared with the donor. Seeing this direct impact, and relationship grow, lit a spark in me. While this was only a semester-long internship for me, just prior to my escape to the Rome Campus, it is the foundation for which I have built my professional career.
I could write an entire other post about traveling and living at the Rome Campus for a semester – the one thing I will say about that experience is, if you have the chance to travel and get away, whether you’re escaping (which is somewhat of what I did) or you’re called to it, do it. You won’t regret your decision, no matter how you got to it in the first place. I will note that I saw Pope Francis become our new Pope, so that was a pretty cool unplanned piece of my time in Rome…
The other foundational piece that has fueled my professional career thus far and will continue to do so in the future is the moment I received an email from the Financial Aid office, the summer before my senior year, informing me that I had been the first recipient of the Neafsey Picard Family Endowed Scholarship that a family, with a strong Assumption connection, created in honor of their niece and daughter, Julianna C. Neafsey. My immediate reaction was to cry, which I did, for a few minutes. My tears were filled with gratitude and excitement. On one hand, I had a small weight lifted off my shoulder in terms of my student loans and repayment to Assumption in my post-graduate career, and on the other hand, someone chose ME to receive this prestigious, and first, scholarship.
Now, if we go back in time to remember my internship in the Office of Institutional Advancement, where I helped connect donors with their students, you can assume that I had a full circle moment when I read the extent of the email. Later that year, I was able to meet the family and hear more about their daughter, who she was, and what the scholarship meant to them. I learned more about their connection to the Assumption community and the contentment they were able to find, through their generosity, despite the tragedy they experienced when they lost Julianna. I have shared this story in job interviews before, because this experience really is the reason that I have pursued my passion of development and fundraising, serving as a recourse for folks to leave their legacy and make an impact in whatever way is meaningful to them. I will forever cherish my endowed scholarship support and the relationships I made and have maintained with the Neafsey Picard family.
Fast forward to present day (although, I do love going back to college and thinking I am still a student), I have the sincere pleasure of working for Worcester Polytechnic Institute as a Director of Development. In my role, I work with alumni and parents, connecting them to the community and finding ways for them to make a meaningful impact. I have been at WPI for over five years, in various roles, but I have always been grounded in my passion and purpose to give back and help others do the same. In my first role at WPI, I worked primarily with the student community, through their robust Senior Class Gift Program, and the young alumni population…the most important population to connect and keep engaged, in my opinion! I planned events, made connections, met former student leaders making an impact in the world through their professional work, and built a foundation for my professional career moving forward. I said “YES!” (with an explanation point, always) to every project and absorbed as much of WPI as I could.
My first few years at WPI were important and necessary, to build skills that would lead me to be successful in my career moving forward. But, as I expanded and learned more, I quickly realized that the area that I really wanted to pursue and would bring me the most joy was front-line fundraising. In this work, you work directly with donors, alumni, parents, and friends, building relationships and finding ways for them to connect and give back. I have been in this role for almost two years and it is exactly where I should be. As I heard back from folks I reached out to, had my first visits, and traveled around the NE area, connecting with alumni that hadn’t heard from WPI for quite some time, I very quickly was certain I made the right decision to move teams and take an opportunity that was presented to me. While this opportunity has honed in on my passion and purpose, it has also given me the chance to learn new skills, adapt in strategy, and become a better communicator and writer. I think that’s important – while you may know your purpose, vocation, or passion, remember that even if something is bringing you joy and fulfillment, it should still be challenging you and you should still be learning. If you have to pivot to find that right balance, that’s okay. When the balance is off, you’ll know! It’s okay to recognize that, be honest with yourself about it, communicate with your network or mentors about it, and find something that works better for you. Professionally, you tell a story and you are the owner of it – make sure it’s a good one.
When I was asked to write a blog post, I had absolutely no idea what to talk about. Funny how that’s changed, huh? But, my initial reaction is a constant in my life. I don’t always take the time to contemplate, dissect, understand, and make purpose from what I do day in and day out. This goes back to how I started this post – I didn’t know where I had come from and all that I had come to Assumption with because I hadn’t taken the time to digest it all. It’s so important to do this. While we all generally like to remain busy, productive, and engaging people in our personal and professional lives (some days more than others, for sure), we may not carve out the time we need to understand and take inventory of all that we do. Is everything you’re doing bringing you joy? Do you feel challenged and energized? Have you given yourself time to digest your experience, and perhaps the good and bad that you have learned? Is everything you’re doing fueling your passions and purpose? Do you know what your vocation is? Are you realizing that the activities you choose, outside of work, have a theme? It’s necessary and valuable to set aside time to be honest with yourself and make sure you’re fulfilled and on the path that YOU want to be on.
To consistently learn, you have to try new things. At the beginning of my career, I did just that. But, over time, you also realize that to be fulfilled and to be happy, you have to figure out WHAT and WHO are going to be part of your journey. Sure, when I was right out of Assumption and living in Worcester I joined every local organization and volunteered for all that I could get my hands on, but in the last two years, I have taken note of what really fuels me and brings me joy. It’s not easy to let go or say goodbye, but you have to do that for yourself. My purpose, vocation, and passion to give back and help others do the same needs to be rooted in activities and people that will continue to leave me feeling content at the end of the day.
I hope you’re able to be happy – in all and whatever you do, personally and professionally! Assumption was the catalyst for me to learn what I needed to about myself and who I am, to carry with me. I hope that it can do the same for you, too, in whatever way you’re fueled and passionate in this world.
By: Tracy Baldelli ’15
Edited by: Esteban Loustaunau & Sydney Huckabee