Courtney Spence on How Aspirations Change As Career Matures

In Chapter 4 of 19 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive Courtney Spence answers "How Are Your Aspirations Change As Your Experience Grows?"  After 12 years building a program, she finds an urgency to do more to tell the stories of progress that will educate students, life non-profits, and transform communities in need.  Through the process, she builds confidence, reaffirms her conviction to her cause, and gathers experiences and skills to elevate organizational aims further.  Courtney Spence returns to Capture Your Flag for her Year 3 interview.  As Founder and Executive Director, Spence leads non-profit Students of the World to empower college students to use film, photography, and journalism to tell stories of global issues and the organizations working to address them.  Spence graduated with a BA in History from Duke University.


Erik Michielsen: How are your aspirations changing as your experience grows?

Courtney Spence: My aspirations are changing drastically. And I think what has happened for me is the blinders were lifted a bit and I recognized that when – as we start to really cultivate, you know, our vision and what we believe in and as I was alluding to earlier like being able to articulate not what we do but what we believe in made me realize that we could be doing so much more. And when we really believe that we wanna change the dialogue from problems to progress, when we really believe that the greatest contribution that the millennial generation can give right now is through media and communications and we believe and know that there are non-profits and causes who desperately need their stories told, and we live in a society that needs to hear those stories, then all of a sudden, we realized we got a big job to go do.

I love the program that we have run to date, but, man, we gotta do more. And there is an urgency to that drive, and there’s this real knowledge that we have something to give the world that the world needs. And there’s no ego in that, it’s just we have a concept and we’ve been in this space and we’ve done a lot of the hard work and really kept our head down when we did that work, and all of a sudden, it’s like I looked up and I was like, but, you know, there are so many more stories that need to be told, there are so many more students that wanna get involved in this kind of work, there are so many 20-something and 30-something individuals that wanna give their time and their talents, and they just don’t necessarily have that outlet or know how, so as I am maturing as an individual, I think I’m also gaining more confidence in the kind of work that I can go do.

Quite honestly, when I was given an opportunity to give a TED talk, I was pretty shocked, I was like, wow, I mean, do I – what am I gonna talk about? And not to say that I’m an expert by any means, but I’ve started to recognize that I’m not 22 any longer, I’m 32, I’ve been doing this Students of the World gig for 12 years, that’s a long time. I don’t think that I really understood how long of a time that was, you know, I think in a lot of ways, I had been thinking as if I was a 23, 24-year-old that was just starting out in this endeavor but I’m not. And our organization is not, and our organization has matured. And we now stand on a foundation of a dozen years of really hard work and there is knowledge and there is understanding and there is compassion that comes from that. And so we’re gonna use that and go do something even bigger than I had dreamed we could ever do. So, it’s changing.