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Notre Dame alumnus finds passion in service

| Monday, April 13, 2015

Azikiwe Chandler, a teacher at Veritas Prep Charter School in Springfield, Massachusetts and 1994 alum of Notre Dame, presented a talk on his search for his passion with his travels, his social justice work and his commitment to finding identity.

Chandler’s talk was hosted by Wabruda, an organization based on brotherhood amongst African Americans on Notre Dame’s campus, as their signature event “Black Man’s Think Tank.” The theme of the event was “finding your passion.”

“We talk about finding your passion, however, for me there were three passions: travel, community service and community development. These were the things I wanted to do, and I was figuring out how to tie these things together,” Chandler said.

Chandler outlined seven lessons in his presentation that were important to the process of discovering your passion. Chandler said these lesson included knowing and loving yourself, knowing what makes your soul smile, understanding for whom and what will you work for, listening to the universe, recognizing what you want and what will you sacrifice to get it, finding your tribe and keeping the faith.

Chandler said he derived his inspiration and vocation from his service work from the example of his parents. Chandler said his parents were heavily involved in their community in Charleston, South Carolina, and led several projects for the school and community residents.

“While I realized that I loved architecture, my responsibility is to go out and try to make the world a better place, and see how I can do that for African American men. I can’t be their father, and I can’t give them the mother and father that I had, but if I work with them and surround them with love and empower them and help them understand who they are and who they can be, I can do for them what my parents did for me,” Chandler said.

Chandler said he credits his parents with providing him the environment and influence to not only pursue his academic aspirations as an architect but also discover his vocation for service and community engagement. Chandler recalled his extensive work in AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and Habitat for Humanity as a manifestation of his love of service and experiential learning. Chandler served as a project director and team leader for AmeriCorps for five years and as a teacher and youth leadership initiative developer for Peace Corps.

Chandler said he graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in architecture in 1994, but decided his vocation laid in service and engagement after spending several years after graduation performing service initiatives in Central America.

“I realized that the last time I really was happy was when I was backpacking through Central America. I didn’t feel like I was doing worthwhile work because I was enjoying myself … so the universe was telling me “go on and try that again.”

Chandler also recalled how his love of travel helped him narrow and understand his passion more fully. Chandler, who has travelled to more than 30 countries in six continents, said his love of travel coincided with both his upbringing and his desire to engage more fully in relationships with others.

“All kinds of people say they want to make enough money to be able to travel, but for me, it wasn’t about making money and being able to travel two weeks out of the year, that to me wasn’t going to make a difference. I wanted to be somewhere for months at a time and be able to live with folks and have a conversation.”

Chandler encouraged audience members to surround themselves with individuals who shared and welcomed their passions and recognize the experiences indicating where vocation and passion are found.

“You have to surround yourself with people who have the same passion as you do,” he said. “ … find someone in the profession that you want to be in and talk to them, have them serve as a mentor, because that what’s going to make things better for you in the long run.”


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