Volunteer Spotlight: Vivian Wu

Feb. 12, 2018

By Kana Prasertchoang

Vivian Wu and members of Enactus at University FestVivian Wu is out to make a difference in the Binghamton community by applying what she learns in the classroom to community service opportunities in the real world. As a junior, majoring in accounting and management information systems, Wu was able to find volunteer work that coincided with her major by taking the first step to reach out to the Scleroderma Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports individuals with the autoimmune disease.

Wu did not know what to expect by expressing interest in the middle of the semester, but knew she wanted to connect with nonprofit organizations. The Scleroderma Foundation was not initially looking for volunteers, but were enthusiastic about the help. Wu was tasked with reviewing the foundation's donor database and removing duplicates to create a more accurate contact list and compile the correct information to send to national headquarters.

"What was cool was that they let me have a volunteer opportunity that aligned with my major where I got to work with databases, which is what I do with information systems." says Wu. "They told me, 'We want to make sure your experience here is something that you can take with you, and you can learn from.'"

After volunteering with the organization, Wu reached out to the CCE to help the Scleroderma Foundation develop a long-term plan to reach out to Binghamton University students for volunteer opportunities and internships.

She says this experience provided her with an opportunity for professional development that she could take with her for the future. "I got to work on a real-life project, where I could see how I would apply my skills in the real world. Not only do I get to interact with someone who is my higher-up and learn how to work in a team setting, I was able to really apply what I was learning."

Wu is also involved on campus as president of Enactus, a club that works to bridge business and community involvement. She loves how the club encourages students to branch out beyond the campus and interact with the community, getting to know the area. Through Enactus, she is working on a community development project with the Many Hands Food Cooperative to establish a full-service grocery cooperative in the north side of Binghamton.

"Binghamton is suffering from food insecurity and poverty," Wu explains. "The north side has the worst conditions and is actually considered a food desert, which is a term that the USDA defines as an area that lacks access to a full-service grocery store. So it's a food desert because there's so much food insecurity, and there's also a high poverty rate. With Many Hands, we are trying to propose a unique grocery store solution. We want it to be on the cooperative model, so residents will own the cooperative."

Utilizing what she learns in her accounting and business classes, Wu provides a business mindset to spearhead the initiative. She helps review funding to develop a secure financial plan for the project. Through applying to grants, the Many Hands Food Cooperative has raised $35,000 to support their project.

"It's been really cool because I get to have meetings with really important people, like the city or university departments, and talk to them about this project and say, 'Hey, this is a project we're working on - would you be interested in helping out or would you be interested in supporting through a donation?' It's been really cool because I've also been giving presentations at the Koffman Incubator. It's just been such an amazing learning experience."