Irene was born in the Philippines, though lived most of her life in Birmingham, England. She considers herself, "a third-culture kid". In 2014, she moved with her family to North Carolina. After high school she went to community college for two years where she was incredibly active around campus. Going to community college was a way for her to navigate the American school system and find a lower-cost pathway through higher education.. After community college, Irene transferred to Johns Hopkins Universitywhere she graduated in 2019 with a degree in sociology. Irene found she was interested in structures; specifically, in architecture and sociology. Sociology allowed her to analyze intangible structures that influence qualities of life.
It was important for her to be involved in her community so she completed a community impact internship that connected Hopkins students to local nonprofits. After her internship she found a job at Impact Hub that allowed her to stay in the city. She found that people here are authentic and spoke the truth. “I found that in this city I am surrounded by people who do that [spoke the truth] every day and you can see that reflected in the work that they do.” While growing up in different cultures she began to appreciate how multi-dimensional people are here. She found fellow students and co-workers who all had a vast variety of interests. Irene’s connections here have also taught her the importance of rest and rejuvenation, especially when engaged in community work. These are the kind of people that she is, and will always strive to be, surrounded by - that respect her values and expand her mind.
Due to COVID-19, her job has shifted to less focus on events and more energy on the communications side of the organization. Irene is now looking at how to provide a platform with space to connect people and allow collaboration. Being a large organization with many connections she feels that her network is very fortunate to have contacts across the city. Her focus has recently shifted to community members who have created innovations in light of COVID, but may not have the time to tell their story or share their passion. She writes about and elevates these people to bring attention to their work. For Irene a typical day involves emails, interviewing social entrepreneurs, writing articles and idea generating. Idea generating incorporates pulling together sources or important messages or articles to share with others.
While we are all scared of the ambiguity and the general state of the world right now - Irene is also excited by the new possibilities. She is a dreamer, a full-picture thinker that leaves room for her imagination to take over. Even when things come up unexpectedly, she follows them as her life continues to pivot.
Irene’s first year in the workforce has been catalyzing. While at Hopkins, she found the students to live in “a bubble” and wanted to take a chance to leave. d Her job at Impact Hub has helped her grow and shift her thinking. Irene said, “Education isn’t confined to prestigious schools or in a classroom – there are 110 million ways you can learn.” She says that she has learned so much through her work with Impact Hub because she is an experiential learner and finishes each day having learned something new.
If Irene could give advice to her college-self she’d say, “Continue trusting your gut and following your intuition.” After speaking with Irene, it is clear that she did just that. Irene says, “If you feel curious about something, explore that and see where it takes you.” This curiosity is what creates innovation.
You can connect with Irene on her LinkedIn profile here, as well as visit the Impact Hub's Medium page. Irene also shared her blog with us here, about being a first-generation immigrant. She also occasionally sells books with Greedy Reads
Transcribed and written by:
Ava Kemp, Student Ambassador
Goucher College 22'