An NSHSS Scholar’s Experience at MCON14

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Victoria Aysola, NSHSS Scholar and recipient of the MCON14 Travel Scholarship Award, pictured with Beth Pann, NSHSS Vice President, at MCON14 in the Chicago Museum of Art.

Nonprofit founders, entrepreneurs, consultants, fundraisers, and social media professionals. These are some of the types of motivated people I met at MCON14, an inspirational conference on the impact of millennials (those of us aged around 18-33) and how we create social change.

Earlier this summer, I flew to Chicago, armed with a box of business cards (thank you, Vistaprint!). After exploring Chicago’s amazing museums (and thoroughly indulging my fascination with dinosaurs at the Field Museum), I met NSHSS’s remarkable VP Beth Pann for MCON’s opening reception. From then on, throughout the conference, we met a vibrant variety of people getting their hands dirty on many different issues, from agricultural education to disaster preparedness.

The two days of sessions and panels at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art were inspirational, entertaining, and informative. Emerson Spartz, genius behind MuggleNet and other viral sites, described the social media habits of millennials so accurately I thought he’d seen my browser history. NASCAR driver Paulie Harraka discussed resources for social good and how he uses his racing as a platform for the issue of child abuse. Justin Herman, a millennial working for the General Services Administration, talked about the government’s budding social media strategy, such as through #AskFAFSA office hours.  Justin Rockefeller (yes, from that family) talked about impact investing fostered through his nonprofit the ImPact. The partnership between Allstate’s VP of Public Social Responsibility Vicky Dinges and children’s rights activist Craig Kielburger was encouraging, and they showed how enormous corporations can help nonprofits tackle social issues.

Entrepreneur Cabell Maddux won the Case Foundation’s Be Fearless Pitch It Competition, earning $2,000 for his platform for establishing scholarships, During a fireside chat, Jean Case herself, of AOL fame, shared her optimism about millennials and how they should embrace risk-taking. After all, as she put it, “entrepreneurs wear failures as badges.”

In short, make sure you don’t miss this year’s MCON15, which is streamed online ( or you can register to attend in person with fellow NSHSS members. The conference helped me as I search for my passion, and NSHSS made it possible for me to make those rediscovered passions tangible through my experience as a member. There’s something at MCON for everyone, whether you’re interested in humanities, STEM, or another field, and whether you’re interested in the private sector, public service, or the nonprofit world.