Around the Yard: Ben Bryant

Around the Yard: Ben Bryant

Ben Bryant
Men’s Soccer

Can you give a brief description of what you're doing and how you got involved?
I currently serve as the Director of Programs for a startup Educational Non-Profit called United 4 Social Change (U4SC). We have various internships, courses, and videos on topics such as Philosophy, Public Speaking, and Argumentative Writing. I've also been devoting the majority of my time most recently to a program that provides curricula and support resources for teachers. It's a lot of work, but I'm fortunate enough to be part of an excellent team that really support one another. I actually got involved with U4SC towards the end of the Spring when I met the CEO, Priten Shah, in section in one of my philosophy classes. We got paired up by our TF to do an assignment, and when we finished, we started talking, and I got to hear about U4SC for the first time. I followed up with him the next week and was offered a position as Priten's Special Assistant, which I served in for the majority of the summer. It was an incredible experience learning from Priten (who self-funds U4SC from the revenue he's made from his other VC and Consulting start-ups).

Does this work relate to your concentration at all, or was it something you were interested in doing as a side project?
This work started as a fortunate encounter that has somewhat shaped how I've been focusing my education this semester. I was lucky because pretty late into the spring, I didn't have a sense of what I wanted to be doing this past summer. I just knew that I wanted to have some decision-making authority. In hindsight, this was pretty demanding of me, but Harvard is an incredible place where you never know who you'll meet, and everything worked out. Throughout the summer, as I helped out at workshops and edited our Argumentative Writing Interns' work, I grew more interested in education. This fall, I'm taking a terrific Educational Justice class (Phil 177) with Regina Schouten that I probably would not be taking were it not for my experience this summer. I'm not sure if the topic of education is something I'd like to continue focusing on at Harvard, but it is definitely a topic I am passionate about. 

What is the most rewarding part of working with this group?
The most rewarding part of my time at U4SC was building a relationship with our executive team. My desk was straight across from Priten's (in our WeWork office space), so I was always asked my opinion on different issues. Our CFO and Priten's business partner, Kirk, was also a great guy who taught me a lot about how companies function. I had a uniquely fulfilling experience of getting to have my opinion considered while I was still learning the job on the fly. My positive experience is a true testament to the great leadership at U4SC. 

What has been one of the most challenging parts of this experience?
The most challenging part of working at U4SC has been the past several weeks since I've been back at school. I've been trying to navigate classes, soccer, and work, while still maintaining a good balance in my social life. It's been a stressful few weeks, but my bosses are very supportive and understanding. This experience has also pushed me to reexamine how I spend my time and how I can get my work done more efficiently. Last year, for example, I never really did work on the bus to and from games, but I've had to maximize those spaces of time this year. So, while meeting some deadlines have been a little stressful, I feel like I've picked up some good work habits.

How do you think your work will help these students in the future?
U4SC's mission is to give today's students the argumentative writing and public speaking skills needed to become tomorrow's civic leaders. So, in short, I hope all the students I worked with continue strengthening their writing and speaking skills to apply in their various communities. What we really tried to get across throughout the summer was that "community" could be as small as a classroom and as big as the country. Being able to write and speak well is a platform that can elevate your words to no bounds. A lot of our students resonated with this idea, so I hope they apply what they've learned and also help others along the way. 

Is this something (or something like it) you want to continue doing post-grad?
I'm not yet sure if this is along the lines of something I'd like to do after school. I think it is incredibly valuable work, and I've thoroughly enjoyed my experience, but I don't yet have a strong sense of what I want to do. I think it doesn't hurt to try out several different jobs until that right fit presents itself. I do know, however, that I'll at least be working at U4SC throughout the school year. We're launching a Scholars 4 Social Change one-day workshop at Harvard in the spring, so stay tuned!