The Passion to Make a Difference

By: Keith Bouchard ’14

“What we must remember is that almost all of us can step out and make a difference,” says Erin O’Brien ’05. Whether at work in orphanages in India or teaching children in Mexico, O’Brien has made it her life’s goal to better the world before she leaves it. She attributes this passion to her time at Plymouth State University, a place on which she fondly reminisces.

“In many ways, life at PSU tutored me in what to expect in ‘real’ life,” recalls O’Brien. “Throughout my studies, many professors opened my eyes to real social situations that were taking place.”

O'Brien and her students in Chennai, India

After returning from a study abroad experience in Australia, O’Brien enrolled in an environmental planning course with Professor Steve Whitman, whom she credits as helping her to grow during her senior year. “Rather than just learning about environmental problems and growing discouraged, Professor Whitman showed practical solutions, and how we can be the change that the whole world needs.”

In another course, Perspectives of Multimedia, O’Brien was introduced to the magnitude of ecumenical oppression. She says of this period in her life: “My studies stirred up a lot of passion, and a basic, yet deep understanding of the fundamental problems man faces.” After graduating with a degree in communications, O’Brien dedicated herself to empowering others to create change.

O’Brien has followed through on her aspirations, having now visited more than 20 countries in her efforts to explore the diversity of the world. She is currently involved with mission work in India, where she’s conceived of the idea to build a school for those unable to afford a basic education.

Planting the seeds for change has become one of O’Brien’s strategies for altering the global paradigm on genocide and violence. Most importantly, she wants to teach others the skills to prosper at their own initiative.

“The best way to make a difference is to get people passionate,” says O’Brien. “I believe and have seen that passion breeds passion … This is how the world changes.”