May 19, 2024

‘The world needs stuff, and what are you going to do about it’ may have been a fitting byline for the second annual SPARK Conference held last Saturday in the Student Center. SPARK, a Wittenberg conference TEDx style, came to campus last year “out of conversations with students who indicated the need to hear from young alumni, faculty and staff about exploring and finding passions,” said Jon Duraj, associate dean of Student Success and Retention. The Wittenberg community was invited to journey through themes of vocation development, connectedness-identity development and intercultural awareness with three alumni/ faculty keynote speakers, selected by the student planning committee, the Office of Alumni Relations and the Office of Student Development — Amanda Barth (class of ’02); Rick Incorvati, professor of English; and Derrick Braziel (class of ’08).
Spark 2w“Seize every opportunity that you encounter,” Barth, once a nervous first-generation college student now director of admissions at the College of William and Mary MBA program, said. “I had to stand far out of my comfort zone to achieve that next step.”
Since becoming director of admissions she has been to over 50 countries and attributes some of her success there to “independent thinking and communication skills [she] learned at Witt.”
“Never underestimate the value of your liberal arts degree,” she said.
Madeline Dominique, a freshman, responded to Barth’s lecture; “It gave a real life application of liberal arts education and what was feasible.”
”Opportunities are plentiful if you create them and seize them,” Barth said.
Braziel, co-founder of Mortar, an organization out of Cincinnati working to build communities through entrepreneurship, had done just that. “The world changed because one man decided to do something,” he said, referencing Martin Luther during the Reformation, and Marting Luther King Jr.  In his direct and down-to-earth way, Braziel delineated to the motto: having light we pass it on to others. So how does one pass on the light?
“It’s going to be hard, but you cannot quit. You cannot give up,” Braziel said. Team work and the importance of others are integral to Braziel’s approach. We, according to Braziel, “limit ourselves from sharing ideas with people who look different than us . . . we cannot continue to act this way.”Spark 3w
Incorvati challenged students with the same urgency in his presentation “What’s Happening in the World Today?” Referencing Antonio Gramsci and William Blake, he encouraged students to know their moment in history, know themselves, connect to each other and respond with action. “We like to think and think and think and think,” Incorvati said.
“What’s the idea in your head that needs to be expressed because we’re going somewhere; we have an obligation,” Incorvati said.
SPARK seemed to ignite just that.
“I need to be more aware of what I am passionate about and not hesitate to take action,” said Grace Mullen, ‘19.
“They really gave us tools and a stepping stool to know how to go after our dreams,” said Jeremy Asiffo, ‘19.

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