Alumni August: Meet Bjorn!

For the second year in a row, ONE Campus is bringing back “Alumni August.” This post features Seton Hall University Campus Leader Bjorn Schwarzenbach. (Follow Bjorn on Twitter @BSchwarzenbach.) Bjorn’s looking back at his time with ONE at Seton Hall:

Where did you go to school, where are you now, and what are you up to?

I went to Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, graduating with a degree in International Relations. After graduating from Seton Hall, I did a traineeship in digital communications and public diplomacy at the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York and am now back in Chicago where I grew up. I’m currently working for a Swiss-American manufacturing company.

Can you tell us a little more about your current role?

Having interned and worked for my current company part-time in high school and college, I’m now a communications and project associate. I manage the company’s trade show booths, day-to-day marketing, new business development strategies, and handle some political affairs for the firm. In addition, I’m now in the midst of building an apprenticeship program between the company and the Department of Labor in order to develop skilled employees.

What drew you to campaign with ONE?

My first interaction with ONE was actually meeting the Seton Hall chapter out on the green during my freshman orientation. Besides meeting super friendly activists that day, I really liked how the organization focused on advocacy campaigns for better development policies and how ONE works to engage with policymakers and elected officials to fight extreme poverty. One of my earliest introductions to ONE was the hilarious and thought-provoking “The F Word” clip to refocus attention on the 2011 famine crisis in the Horn of Africa.

What was your favorite memory from your time volunteering as a ONE member?

Of course, I always really enjoyed meeting other ONE volunteers and Campus Leaders at the Power Summits in Washington and had great experiences lobbying members of Congress and their staff on the Hill. One of my favorite memories volunteering with ONE was when I got the opportunity to be a part of the 2015 World AIDS Day Concert with ONE and (RED) where the audience wrote messages to the White House to keep the strong U.S. budget commitments to the Global Fund. Any time ONE volunteers get together, you notice all the energy and passion for making a difference!

What advice do you have for someone who is just getting involved with ONE?

Have fun and ask questions! The best advice I got as a freshman was to have fun and get involved with the organization as much as I wanted to. ONE is filled with great volunteers and staff that are all super passionate about advocacy and come from a variety of backgrounds. When you want to make an even bigger difference on campus, go ahead and reach out to as many professors and students organizations on your campus as possible. I found that when we involved our professors and other student groups at Seton Hall with the various campus campaigns, I got more out of my coursework and received even more responsive actions.

What skills are you using now in your current role that you learned from being a ONE volunteer?

Every day I’m using soft skills that I learned while being a ONE volunteer. Effective communication and project management are some key skills I still use today. In addition, learning to work well with other types of personalities is always a good skill. Being able to manage multiple projects and deadlines at the same time, leading consistent messages, coordinating teams of chapter members, and being an effective leader are all important things you learn while volunteering with ONE. These all require you to come up with an action plan for each intended goal as quick as possible.

You also learn a lot about yourself when you set-up events, organize petition drop-offs, submit LTEs, put together campus-wide campaigns, and manage executive boards. Especially when you do this alongside college classes, jobs, and a social life.

If you could have dinner with any activist, who would it be and why?

I would really enjoy having dinner with Archbishop Desmond Tutu to hear his own words on working against the Apartheid system in South Africa and his current work on fighting conflict around the world. I think a lot can be learned from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Tutu founded which sought to heal the effects of Apartheid. I haven’t gotten around to it yet but I really want to read his latest book, The Book of Joy.

Any final thoughts for future Campus Leaders?

Be confident in your skill at being a ONE Campus Leader! You have some great resources available along with a whole host of former volunteers either on your campus or at other ONE chapters that have had similar experiences in building an effective team. Also, remember that every action on your campus makes a difference. Be sure to think about the larger picture: the role you and your chapter play in affecting change and helping to end extreme poverty.

Want to become a Campus Leader like Bjorn? Apply here.

Were you or someone you know a Campus Leader in the past? Are you eager to share a story or moment? Connect with ONE Campus at [email protected].