Blue Runs Deep: Alumni Driving Social Impact Panel Discussion

Phillips Academy alumni and students from around the world gathered via Zoom to listen to the most recent installment of the “Blue Runs Deep” panel entitled: “Blue Runs Deep: Alumni Driving Social Impact.”

The Blue Runs Deep series, established in 2020 by the Student Alumni Representatives (STARs) group in collaboration with the Office of Alumni Engagement, aims to provide opportunities for alumni in various career fields to meet with and talk to current students. 

STARs hosted and facilitated a Q&A session that spotlighted panelists Hafsat Olaronke Abiola ’92, Soiya Gecaga ’92, Ai-Jen Poo ’92, and Vanessa Kerry ’95, each speaking about their social impact around the globe in their respective fields and their journey from Andover and beyond.

Naomi Mashburn, the Assistant Director of Class-Based Engagements in the Office of Alumni Engagement, elaborated on her hopes for the panel. Occurring once a term, the panel serves as an opportunity for students to be exposed to a variety of global changemakers by tapping into Andover’s vast alumni network.

“The intent of this panel was to highlight four alumni who are driving change across the globe in labor, education, healthcare, and climate activism… We are fortunate to have an alumni body of over 25,000 who excel, innovate, and succeed in so many diverse industries! Our greatest challenge is usually narrowing down the number of phenomenal panelists to fit within our one-hour program footprint,” wrote Mashburn in an email to The Phillipian

Mashburn continued, “The panels also offer our alumni a chance to learn from their classmates across differing decades, geographies, and backgrounds… We hope to offer [current] students an opportunity to learn from leaders in various industries who all share the same love of Andover.”

The main task of STARs is to connect alumni voices and engage them with the student body, including in the form of panels such as the Blue Runs Deep series. Anthony Diaz ’25, one of the STARs who volunteered to help facilitate the Q&A, highlighted it as a special opportunity to hear alumni perspectives on the school. 

“I particularly wanted to do this [Blue Runs Deep panel] because I thought it would be nice to hear from the alumni as well as see what their perspective was on the school,” said Diaz. 

Diaz further noted the opportunities of connecting to and learning from panelists with similar interests of his own. Diaz pointed towards his interest in sustainability as a special connection with Abiola, a human rights, climate change, and democracy activist who inspired him.

“For Ms. Abiola, who worked in sustainable development, I find her work pretty impressive and very close to me as someone who is a part of the sustainability clubs on campus. I thought that some of the words she was saying in her answers were speaking my mind a little bit. I was really appreciative of that… [I hope students take away] what the alumni were saying about the school and what it means to express with your voice and the power of your voice,” said Diaz.

Whitney Kanter ’24, a STAR who joined the Blue Runs Deep panel as an attendee, connected with the panelists’ stories of fighting against gender norms and the sacrifices they made to reach success. 

 “[The panelists all discussed] accountability and being uncomfortable and scared and persevering anyway. That is something across all of the disciplines each of them talked about, whether that was guys talking down to them or trying to resist a hierarchy or breaking away from a degree they were getting because they realized they were passionate about something else, and actually following what they were passionate about, sticking to their gut and doing what they actually want,” said Kanter. 

As a Senior, Kanter felt that hearing from alumni helped her think about life beyond Andover. Kanter highlighted the alumni panel’s embodiment of non sibi value in their careers as motivation for her to make the most out of her Andover education. 

“It’s a cool opportunity to get to hear about people who discovered something about Andover that pushed them to pursue a career with a focus on other people and the community, especially how actually embodying non sibi, staying curious in your classes and taking classes that make you excited to learn, not to put onto a resume, is actually really beneficial,” said Kanter.