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  • By: Woody Joseph,  University of Florida

Changing the Conversation in Atlanta

The NMC had the privilege of visiting the bustling city of Hotlanta(Atlanta), Georgia, or in our case windy, Chillanta, for a three-day trip in hopes of continuing to pave the path of our community’s mission, which is to stimulate an environment in which Millennials are perceived accurately and can fully utilize their voices in all spheres of influence.

To achieve this, the NMC usually engages key influencers in areas of government, business and general communities through roundtable discussions and Think Tank conversations.

Being my first trip with the community, I did not have any solid foundation to set my expectations on, so I had a mixture of emotions that ranged from excitement, nervousness, feelings of incompetency, and glimmers of hope. I also had reservations as to what would be expected from not only me but the community as a whole. By the end of the trip thankfully, my reservations proved to be unwarranted.

As I made my way back to the University of Florida, the university that I attend, I came to the conclusion that our time in Atlanta was one of the most enriching and eye-opening experiences that I have had as an undergraduate student and left energized and inspired to continue challenging myself and the standard of our society.

Below are the five takeaways I took from our trip:

1. A community like this is needed. With any movement, one needs a support system and collection of people who share the same vision to help sharpen one another and help bring that vision to fruition. I had the honor of being surrounded by not only people who all supported the same mission as I but also were some of the brightest, insatiably curious and tenacious (in a good way) people I have ever encountered. Not to boast, but the NMC members also happen to be one of the most refreshingly nice and welcoming groups of people to be around. Furthermore, the fact that we all come from different states, backgrounds and walks of life created a rich and diverse conversation around our unified vision.

2. Confronting stereotypes head-on is effective I believe that it is pretty clear that there are several stereotypes that follow the wake of a Millennial. We’re lazy, entitled, weak/sensitive and they all have the attention span of gnats, which may be the case for a few choice individuals but is definitely not the case for Millennials as a whole. Having conversations with executives from companies like Coca-Cola and AT&T allowed us to squelch these stereotypes because many of those characteristics cannot be attributed to the lot of us. Some of our members work several jobs/internships, are involved in many organizations on their campuses and even have many personal projects that they work on, all the while maintaining high GPAs. So being able to take a seat with senior executives to describe our experiences firsthand proved to be a step forward in the right direction, according to some of their responses.

3. Accountability and transparency are becoming a common theme. What I learned from the many conversations we had with company officials is that the public is demanding more of companies than ever before. Long gone are the days when companies could stand by the wayside, refusing to take positions on societal issues. Now companies are practically forced to undertake more CSR initiatives or risk losing public interest. Also, companies are shifting toward being more transparent with not only their clients/audiences but also with their employees to facilitate trust on all levels.

4. The power of feedback A key takeaway from my experience is the importance of feedback. Many people and organizations can get caught up in the fervor of their passions and ideals and can be blinded by their biases. In order to help run effective campaigns and initiatives, one has to receive and be open to critiques, be it positive or constructive criticism, to improve and help the ideas translate effectively into reality. In our case, we received a lot of positive feedback but one unexpected comment, in particular, stood out to me, which was, “You all aren’t inquisitive enough.” Initially abashed, I recovered from the sting of the comment and realized that it was valid and was a means to encourage us to be bolder with our curiosity and definitely spurred me on to improve my approach in future, similar encounters.

5. Atlanta has some interesting food spots You can’t visit a city without grabbing a bite to eat at some of the local spots, and as expected, Atlanta did not disappoint. From the Tuscan-inspired dishes of the Medici to the homecooked-southern-meal feel of Mary Mac’s Tea Room, there were enough selections to satisfy anyone’s palate. My personal favorite was Ray’s in the City, which is one of the hotspots in Atlanta from what I hear. For those who enjoy seafood as much as I do, Ray’s should be high on one’s Atlanta destination list. I was highly impressed with the elaborate presentations and the respectfully intense flavor of the dishes. Though it was an appetizer, I indulged mainly on the addictive fried calamari. I highly recommend a visit to Ray’s if you happen to be in Atlanta!

All in all, I left Atlanta invigorated to continue my work with the NMC and a spirit of anticipation of the many opportunities ahead to effect change in our communities, one city at a time.

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