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From Service Learning to Service Working

11.15.2013

“The best part of my job is I get to make a real difference in my community,” says 2009 High Point University graduate Dan Costello.

Costello is the volunteer coordinator at Microsoft in Silicon Valley. He works to ensure the company is making a positive impact on the global, national and local levels through philanthropy, volunteerism and analyzing human rights practices.

Being aware of his community and giving back are values Costello says he developed during his studies at HPU.

“I spent a lot of time volunteering around High Point and went on a number of the alternative break trips,” says Costello. “I think the opportunities HPU provided allowed me to join a lot of organizations and be impacted by them, so I learned how to impact people and how to be cognizant of the global picture.”

Costello graduated from HPU with a psychology major and minor in Spanish. He went on to teach English in Colombia and then went into sales, but he wanted more. He enrolled in the Coro Center for Civic Leadership’s Fellows Program in Public Affairs, opening him up to the growing field of corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, corporate philanthropy and volunteerism.

He believes his active involvement in HPU organizations helped to get him where he is today, particularly his involvement with the Student Government Association.

“During my time as SGA president, I learned three important lessons. I learned the power of arguing peacefully and with tactfulness. I was encouraged to delegate tasks to others, and learned to ask for help. Most importantly, I was humbled by making mistakes in a public forum amongst my peers. I learned to accept my responsibility for my mistakes and the criticism that came along with it.”

Costello also credits his success to faculty and staff who worked with him to ensure he was able to do it all. Two people in particular stand out for Costello – Dr. David Bergen, chair of human relations, sociology and nonprofit studies, and Gail Tuttle, vice president for student life.

“Dr. Bergen taught me to recognize my environment and the impact that my actions were having in the moment. I am eternally grateful to him for raising my awareness and increasing my empathy in order to adapt to varying situations,” says Costello. “Gail challenged me to be a better person and to live life to the fullest. She knew when to guide me and when to let me experience life on my own. I have great respect for Gail because she was tough as nails, but you could also cry on her shoulder. To this day I draw my ability to delegate effectively from my time watching and learning from Gail.”

With all of that experience, Costello now helps Microsoft employees find the perfect opportunities to make a difference in their community.

“We want to find that perfect balance of allowing the employee to feel fulfilled and not burdened by the work, and providing a valuable service to the nonprofits and deserving causes in our community,” says Costello. “One example is our partnership with We Teach Science (WTS). WTS is a tutoring and mentoring program that allows our employees to teach online from their workspace. Employees are helping students all over the world, without having an extra commute.”

Costello says if he could give one piece of advice to current students, it would be to utilize career and internship services early and often.

“Four years goes by quickly. Balance your fun, because that’s important too, with your education and making strategic connections that will help you in the future.”

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